Zimbabwe president blames citizens for failing to protect Cecil the lion

PIC BY BRENT STAPELKAMP / CATERS NEWS - Cecil the lion taken a couple of weeks before he was illegally murdered.

Cecil the lion was killed July 1. Photo: Brent Stapelkamp/Caters News

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe spoke about the killing of Cecil the lion for the first time Monday, in a speech in which he blamed citizens for allowing the famous animal to be killed by an American trophy hunter.

"Even Cecil the lion is yours. He's DEAD," Mugabe said in his annual Heroes Day speech. "But he was yours to protect, and you failed to protect him."

Mugabe also complained about foreign "vandals" and their exploitation of Zimbabwe’s natural resources, such as wild animals that lure wealthy big-game hunters from around the world.

The Cecil portion of the speech was uploaded to YouTube on Tuesday by My Africa.

Cecil, a longtime favorite among visitors to Hwange National Park, was lured out of the park with an animal carcass and killed by Walter Palmer, a Minnesota dentist.


A hunting ban imposed in the area near where Cecil was killed has since been lifted. Photo: African Bush Camps

The poaching incident sparked international outrage, and eventually led to a ban on hunting in the vicinity where Cecil was killed.

However, that ban was lifted after only 10 days, and it seems as though Cecil's death may not–as many had hoped–result in much positive change where it pertains to trophy hunting in Zimbabwe.

Hunting generates millions in revenue each year, after all, and some of the money is used for conservation.

Also, social issues and other serious problems are more important to most Zimbabweans.

The Washington Post reports that Mugabe once referred to big-game hunting as "a sin," but adds that critics have contended that the president benefits from hunting revenue that ends up in the hands of landowners with ties to Mugabe's party.

It may also be worth noting that last February, during Mugabe's 91st birthday, as reported by the Guardian, the presidential feast included elephant and lion meat. So it remains unclear whether any significant change is going to occur.

Zimbabwe authorities, meanwhile, are still trying to persuade the U.S. to extradite Palmer to face trial for the poaching of Cecil, but that's not likely to happen.

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