A tribute to Cecil
Having worked as a guide, one way or another, for close on forty years now I can look back on the great animal characters I have come across. Memories of great lions, leopards and cheetahs fill my thoughts and my photographic library is full of their images. Perhaps the greatest of all of these was a magnificent male lion, incongruously called Cecil, who I was able to see often over the last five years. Few sights say “Africa” more strongly than that of a big male lion and Cecil was certainly that lion. My pictures tell the story of this amazing lion - confronting buffalo, gently playing with his cubs or just posing perfectly as though for the cover of a glossy magazine.
When I first came across him at Back Pans near Linkwasha in 2010 he was mating with a lioness in the pride and several others had cubs. This was his territory and he held it alone. For the first few years I saw him whenever I was in Hwange – perfect in every way and almost unscarred. Then two new and younger males moved into the area and even at his great size, two against one always wins. Once he lost the area I thought I would never see him again but he re-invented himself and linked up with a younger lone male called Jericho and they settled in the area of Ngweshla. I saw him mating near Makalolo in 2014 and cubs were born in January though I have not seen him this year.
He was killed on a commercial hunt in early July by a bowhunter. It is unlikely his death was quick, but whichever way it was he deserved to die naturally and not at the hands of hunters. For too long trophy hunters have claimed that what they do has a conservation ethic. I put it to you that the practice of shooting any animal in their prime has nothing to do with conservation and everything to do with money, however the Professional Hunting fraternity try to package it.
Killing big male lions year after year never gives the prides time to settle and raise their cubs. Prides need at least three settled years to achieve this. Friends Dereck and Beverly Joubert have told me that before the practice was stopped in Botswana only sub adult male lions were seen in the Linyanti hunting area for over seven years while they were filming there.
The lions of Africa are in decline and the loss of such a perfect specimen as Cecil is yet another nail in the coffin. His greatest value to Hwange and the country was simply being alive. He will be sorely missed by all who were lucky enough to see him or know him as we did.
by Mike Myers, Wilderness Safaris