“Like father, like son” is a commonly used phrase of endearment within families. But, this phrase is one that no one ever wanted to hear in relation to the beloved father-son team of lions, Cecil and Xanda, who were killed by trophy hunters within two years of each other.
The world was in an uproar when Cecil, a 13-year old lion in Zimbabwe was killed by an American hunter in 2015. Walter James Palmer, a 55-year old dentist from Minnesota, US reportedly paid $65,000 to shoot and kill Cecil with a bow and arrow. Residing in Hwange National Park, Cecil was a favorite of the locals and was known for his enjoyment of human contact. Palmer was charged with partcipating in an illegal hunt, but charges were later dropped by the Zimbabwean court.
For some background on Cecil and what happened in Palmer’s case, check out this video:
This year, Cecil’s son, Xanda, has suffered the same fate as his father. The six-year-old lion was killed just outside of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, not far from where Cecil was killed just two years earlier.
Xanda was part of a research study run by Oxford University researchers. Andrew Loveridge from the Department of Zoology at Oxford University and his team are responsible for monitoring the movement of the lions within the national park. Loveridge admits that “Xanda and his pride were spending a lot of time out of the park in the last six months, but there is not much we can do about that”.
Xanda’s death was discovered when a professional hunter, Richard Cooke, returned the electronic collar that was used to monitor Xanda’s movements in the area. The identity of the shooter has not yet been revealed.
Despite the fact that the death of Xanda is spurring outrage from animal lovers worldwide, in the eyes of Zimbabwean law, the hunting and killing of Xanda were completely legal.
The Laws of Lion Hunting in Zimbabwe
In the Parks and Wildlife Act of 1975, hunting wildlife within a national park is prohibited unless otherwise authorized. Hunting outside of the park is not prohibited, but hunters are expected to obtain a permit and follow the terms of the permit. Male lions are able to be hunted, while females are not, but the age of that lion is under consideration. While the lions are protected within the national park, they are not protected if they wander outside of the boundaries. This is exactly what happened in the case of Xanda the lion, who had roamed further than the safety of the park.
When a non-resident of Zimbabwe attempts to hunt, that person must be accompanied by a professional hunter, whose role is to supervise and control the hunter and issue a notice of intention to the authorities. In this case of Xanda, the professional hunter was Richard Cooke, who took measures to make the hunt legal.
The Effect of Trophy Hunting on the Lion Population
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species and Endangered and Threatened, African lions are listed as Vulnerable, and populations have declined 43% over the past 21 years.
Despite the obvious impact of hunting on the wildlife population, hunters continue to entertain themselves through trophy hunting. Between the years of 2005-2014, a whopping number of 1.26 million wildlife trophies were imported to the United States by US-based hunters. 5,600 of those trophies were African lions.
When looked at from a wide angle, the hunting and killing of African lions for entertainment purposes have a large negative effect on the wildlife population. Looking at it from a smaller scale, the death of one single lion can cause a tidal wave of events within the pride.
What a Male Lion’s Death Does to His Pride
Xanda, who was in the prime of his life, has left behind a pride of 3 females and seven cubs. Dr. Luke Hunter, president and chief conservation officer of global big cat conservation group Panthera, tells us that the consequence can be dire for his pride.
“The role of the male lion in lion society is really to provide security.”
Male lions protect their pride, keeping them safe from aggressive males that want to take over the group. If another male does take over, the first thing that he does is kill the existing cubs in order to make room for his own offspring.
So, not only will the killing of Xanda affect the vulnerable African lion population, but it will also significantly alter the fate of the lion’s descendants.
Despite the fact that Xanda and Cecil’s death was deemed legal in the eyes of the Zimbabwe court, there is still the question of ethics. Is it right to kill these beautiful, complex creatures for sport? Or is this a case of man killing the “king of the jungle” in order to feel superior? These vulnerable animals deserve to be treated like more than something that we mount on the wall, and this case leads us to question our own hunting practices across the globe.
. Peta Thornycroft. (July 20, 2017). Exclusive: Cecil the Lion’s Xanda Killed by Trophy Hunter. Retrieved on September 13, 2017 from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/07/20/cecil-lions-son-xanda-killed-trophy-hunter-nearhwange-national/
 Hilary Hanson. Trophy Hunter Kills Cecil the Lion’s Son Outside National Park. (July 20, 2017). Retrieved on September 13, 2017 from http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/entry/cecil-lion-brother-killed-xanda_us_5970c584e4b062ea5f90336b
 Hanibal Goitom. (August 4, 2014). FALQ’s: Laws Related to Hunting Lions in Zimbabwe. Retrieved on September 13, 2017 from http://extwprlegs1.fao.org/docs/pdf/zim8942.pdf
 The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.(2016). Panthera Leo. Retrieved on September 13, 2017 from http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/15951/0
 The Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International. (February 16, 2017). Trophy Hunting by the Numbers. Retrieved on September 13, 2017 from http://www.hsi.org/assets/pdfs/report_trophy_hunting_by_the.pdf