It has been two years since beloved Zimbabwean lion Cecil was tragically killed by an American dentist. The killing brought a viral wave of anger against the dentist and also shined a light on the troubling and growing trend of trophy hunting. Sadly, Cecil is in the news again after a similar death for his son, six-year-old Xanda. Pride male Xanda was in his prime and had already fathered several of his own cubs when he was killed. One scientist described him as “one of these gorgeous Kalahari lions, with a big mane, big body, beautiful condition – a very, very lovely animal.” Scientists fitted the lion with a GPS tracking collar the same year of Cecil’s death. It was a lack of activity on the collar that first alerted of his likely death. Xanda was killed not far from where his father died, just outside the protected confines of Hwange National Park. Because Xanda was on land that wasn’t protected, game hunters with the right permits were legally permitted to kill him.
Legal or not, animal welfare groups around the world are strongly condemning the killing. Masha Kalinina of Humane Society International responded by saying that Xanda’s death “just goes to show that trophy hunters have learned nothing from the international outcry that followed Cecil’s death.” She went on to talk about how the study of lions like Xanda is integral to Zimbabwe’s conservation efforts. Africa faces a conservation crisis, with as few as 20,000 lions left in the wild. So far, we don’t know the name of the hunter who killed Xanda. CNN reports that the legal and properly registered hunt was led by a known professional hunter and the client was a Spanish national who paid a lot of money for the hunt. Because it was a legal kill, there is almost no chance that the hunter will be charged. U.S. hunter Walter Palmer was not charged for killing Cecil, but the public outcry did make his life miserable. Both his home and his business were repeatedly targeted by protesters. His family also reportedly received threats.
Those on the ground in Africa doing good work in conservation will continue trying to stem the tide of wildlife deaths. Unfortunately, they face some major challenges. There is a huge area of land to cover. Plus, trophy hunting is often legal and it is a big money business that is hard to compete with. Will one of Xanda’s sons be the next magnificent animal lost to trophy hunting? Will lions soon be an endangered species?