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LD560 -Ethics in Leadership

Question

Answered

Analysis

Walter Palmer paid $55,000 to hunt a lion. He went to Zimbabwe for the sole purpose to hunt and trophy a lion head. He later learned he had killed Cecil, a collared and monitored iconic lion from a nearby national park. His tour guides had lured the lion out of the park grounds. Outrage quickly spread when people learned what had happened. Palmer replied, “I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study, until the end of the hunt. I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.” 

Animal rights activists were taking issue with the killing, and Zimbabweans were puzzled because wildlife is food or a threat. Government officials considered charges to extradite Palmer, but later dropped the charges because they did not want to hurt the professional hunting business since it is a huge revenue generator in Africa. 

Zimbabweans and other Africans usually welcome the wildlife killings because the wildlife is a threat to their lives. However, in other countries the act is seen as brutal and unnecessary killing.

Discussion 

1.Why do you think the death of Cecil the lion sparked so much outrage on social media?

2.Has there been too much concern about this lion and not enough concern for the people of Zimbabwe?

3.Do you think trophy hunts are ethical? Do they help or threaten wildlife conservation?

4.What cultural values are in conflict in this situation? How do you account for the differences between how Westerners and Zimbabweans responded to this event?

5.How can international authorities protect African wildlife while meeting the needs and honoring the values of local residents?

Case Study 11.2: The Dentist as Lion Killer

Walter Palmer is not your ordinary dentist. Instead of playing golf to relax, Palmer kills large game animals using only a bow and arrow. His trophies include an elk, a bear, a leopard, a bison, and, most recently, one of the world’s most famous lions.

Palmer paid $55,000 to hunt a lion in Zimbabwe. According to reports, Palmer’s Zimbabwean guides lured a large black-mane male out of a national park (where it was protected) onto private land by tying a dead animal to the side of a vehicle. Palmer then shot the lion with his bow, but it survived. After two days of tracking, a professional hunter finished thekill. Palmer took the head and skin, leaving the rest of the carcass to rot.

Word soon spread that Palmer had killed Cecil, an iconic lion who was a favorite of park visitors and locals. Cecil was part of an ongoing lion study by Oxford university researchers and he was equipped with a GPS collar at the time of his death.

Soon the dentist-hunter became hunted himself. Angry activists took to social media to attack Palmer and to shut down his website. Protestors picketed his dental office in suburban Minneapolis Minnesota and set up a makeshift memorial of plush toys and flowers for Cecil the lion on the doorstep. Vandals wrote “lion killer” on his Florida vacation home. Government officials in Zimbabwe threatened to extradite him to face charges and they jailed his hunter for poaching and the landowner for allowing an illegal hunt on his farm. Palmer—who was forced into hiding for several weeks—apologized for killing Cecil, stating,

I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study, until the end of the hunt. I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.1

Professional hunts are big business in Africa, bringing in badly needed cash—$200 million at last count—to local economies in Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and elsewhere. (Worries about hurting the hunting business stopped Zimbabwean officials from following through on their threats to charge Palmer.) These trophy hunts are controversial. Some wildlife experts defend them, referring to them as “conservation hunts.” They argue that the hunting business provides a financial incentive for protecting wildlife and funds conservation programs. According to one Zimbabwean ecologist, if hunting were banned, locals would poison lions, eliminating them from everywhere but reserves. He concludes: “Even though hunting may seem unpalatable to a lot of people around the world, it is actually very, very necessary.”2

Animal rights advocates take issue with killing threatened animals in order to save them. In the words of one official at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, “If you pay to take a human life and give to humanitarian causes, it does not make you a humanitarian. And paying money to kill one of the last iconic animals on earth does not make you a conservationist.”3 Hunters sometimes encroach onto protected land to take animals, and hunting fees may not go toward conservation efforts or benefit local black residents.

Zimbabweans are puzzled by all the attention focused on Cecil’s death. To them, wildlife is food or a threat. In an op-ed piece appearing in The New York Times, Wake Forest doctoral student Goodwell Nzou recounts how lions menaced his village, mauling his uncle and killing a young boy. He was happy when he heard that a lion had been killed, until he learned how many Americans responded: “My excitement was doused when I realized that the lion killer was being painted as the villain. I faced the starkest cultural contradiction I’d experienced during my five years studying in the United States.”4 Nzou and his fellow countrymen wonder why Americans don’t pay more attention to the plight of humans. “We Zimbabweans are left shaking our heads,” he reports, “wondering why Americans care more about African animals than about African people.”5 And there is plenty of human misery in Zimbabwe. Eighty percent of the population is unemployed, and in 2008, inflation reached 500 billion percent. Zimbabweans’ life expectancy is fifty-two years. Out of a population of 15 million, 1.7 million residents between the ages of fifteen and forty-nine are infected with AIDS, and there are a half-million AIDS orphans. One observer summed up conditions in the country this way: “Compared to many of the human residents of Zimbabwe, Cecil the lion had a pretty good life.”6

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service promised an investigation of Palmer’s hunt, and officials considered adding the African lion to the list of endangered animals. The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution addressing illegal hunting and animal trafficking. In the meantime, trophy hunts continue as the populations of lions, elephants, rhinos, and other species continue to shrink.

Discussion Probes

1.Why do you think the death of Cecil the lion sparked so much outrage on social media?

2.Has there been too much concern about this lion and not enough concern for the people of Zimbabwe?

3.Do you think trophy hunts are ethical? Do they help or threaten wildlife conservation?

4.What cultural values are in conflict in this situation? How do you account for the differences between how Westerners and Zimbabweans responded to this event?

5.How can international authorities protect African wildlife while meeting the needs and honoring the values of local residents?

LD560 -Ethics in Leadership

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