Cecil the Lion’s son Xanda has met the same fate as his father, dying at the hands of a trophy hunter.
The Lions of Hwange National Park Facebook group announced on Thursday that Xanda was shot on a trophy hunt led by Zimbabwean hunter Richard Cooke.
Xanda, a young father, was just over six years old when his life was taken.
Cooke was also part of the hunt that killed Xanda’s brother in 2015 according to the Facebook group.
Like his father, Xanda was wearing a GPS tracking collar as he was part of a study that aims to learn more about lions. At this rate, there won’t be any left soon so we should gather as much information as possible.
According to The Guardian, the trophy hunting of lions has tripled to 1,500 a year in the last decade and 90% of the overall population has disappeared in the last century.
Andrew Loveridge from the Department of Zoology at Oxford University was the one who fitted the GPS collar to Xanda. His comments may surprise you.
“Richard Cooke is one of the ‘good’ guys,” Loveridge told The Telegraph. “He is ethical and he returned the collar and communicated what had happened. His hunt was legal and Xanda was over 6 years old so it is all within the stipulated regulations.”
Before you grab your pitchfork, we need to consider the wider implications of trophy hunting.
The basic argument goes like this: trophy hunter permits are sold at an extremely high price and that money is in turn used for conserving the endangered animals. The real danger isn’t trophy hunters, it’s loss of habitat and poachers (so also humans).
It’s a cruel bargain – give us one and we will try to save 50 – but from a purely economic standpoint, it makes cold-hearted sense.
According to the University of Washington’s Conservation, there is some evidence for this approach working. In 2005, a study evaluating the legalisation of white rhinoceros hunting in South Africa led to a population increase of the species. We have to ask if the means justify the ends.
The study did include an important caveat: that trophy hunts should be focused on older non-breeding males or younger males that have already bred, such as Xanda.
National Geographic estimates that there were around 450,000 lions in the wild in the 1940s and today there may be as few as 20,000. At Hwange National Park, there are around 550.
The death of Cecil two years ago led to public outcry and massive media attention. Since Cecil’s death a number of countries have modified their trophy-hunting laws, major airlines have banned lion trophies and the debate around this kind of hunting has intensified.