HARARE, Zimbabwe – While the death of a protected lion in Zimbabwe has caused outrage in the United States – much of it centered on the Minnesota dentist who killed the animal – most in Zimbabwe expressed a degree of bafflement over the concern.
The discovery that Cecil, the star of Zimbabwe national park, had been lured out and killed by American bow hunter Walter James Palmer has resulted in online anger and protests at his dental clinic.
Outside Zimbabwe’s environmental and activist circles, however, the reaction has been muted.
“It’s so cruel, but I don’t understand the whole fuss; there are so many pressing issues in Zimbabwe – we have water shortages, no electricity and no jobs – yet people are making noise about a lion?” said Eunice Vhunise, a Harare resident.
An economic meltdown over the past few years has closed many companies and left two-thirds of the population working in the informal economy while battling acute water and electricity shortages.
Most people questioned in downtown Harare hadn’t actually heard about the lion and said they were too busy trying to make a living to care about it.
One resident, however, noted the lions were needed to bring in tourism and Palmer should be fined, with the money going toward animal conservation.
“It’s very sad that the American chose to travel all the way to kill our animals,” Clinton Manyuchi said.
Zimbabwe authorities have not announced any charges against Palmer, only saying they want to speak with him, and the U.S. embassy was not aware of any extradition requests.
Edward Grace, deputy chief of law enforcement for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, reiterated Thursday that his agency is investigating circumstances surrounding Cecil’s killing.
“That investigation will take us wherever the facts lead,” Grace said. “At this point in time, however, multiple efforts to contact Dr. Walter Palmer have been unsuccessful. We ask that Dr. Palmer or his representative contact us immediately.”
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