Cecil the Lion vs the Dentist Hunter — whither humanity?

The Hippocratic oath requires a new physician to swear, by a number of healing gods, to uphold specific ethical standards. The oldest binding documents in history, the Oath written by Hippocrates is still held sacred by physicians: to treat the ill to the best of one’s ability, to preserve a patient’s privacy, to teach the secrets of medicine to the next generation, and so on.

In the light of the murder of Cecil the Lion, the oath ought to extend and include animal cruelty as well to ensure no rich doctor ever gets away with killing another animal. Although hunters come from all walks of life, the fact that an individual affiliated with the medical profession hunted an animal makes it even more disgusting.

The heartless dentist (I pity his patients) who runs his practice in Minnesota has gone into hiding after the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force charity earlier this week identified him as the slayer of Cecil, a 13-year-old protected lion who drew visitors to Hwange national park and was part of an Oxford University research project.

Palmer, who reportedly paid $50,000 for the hunt earlier this month, faces poaching charges along with Theo Bronkhorst, his guide, and Honest Ndlovu, a local landowner. A court in Victoria Falls released both Zimbabweans on $1,000 bail each on Wednesday. They face up to 10 years in jail.

The cruel ‘hunt’ is even more horrifying when one gets the details. The seventeen-year-old animal was lured from his reserve with a bait, after which the dentist pierced him with an arrow. The trio tracked the wounded animal for 40 hours before shooting him dead, skinning and beheading him.

Figures as varied as Newt Gingrich, Jimmy Kimmel, Jane Goodall, Lennox Lewis and Neil Gaiman have joined a global outcry. Online, some people have called for Palmer to suffer the same fate as Cecil. Commentators have said the dentist deserves no empathy for now finding himself at the center of a storm.

“He looks more a victim than a conspirator. I can see how it would be possible to think you’re on a legitimate hunt and then get into this mess.” The likelihood of being caught for killing Cecil, who wore a GPS collar, suggested blunder, not intent, Tichner, a board member of California Houndsmen for Conservation, said.

He defended the hunter in an interview with the Guardian on Wednesday, saying Palmer had a legitimate hunting permit but appeared to have been led astray by the guides.

Some conservationists cautioned against overreaction. Jane Smart, global director of International Union for Conservation of Nature’s biodiversity conservation group, said trophy hunting can be a good conservation tool when handled properly and regulated.

“Unregulated sport hunting and trophy hunting is a real factor in the decline of the lion and we are concerned about that. But we are also concerned about the relationship between people and lions. We need to provide that incentive to the local community so they can help conserve the area for their own benefit.”


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