Hwange National Park in north western Zimbabwe, once the royal hunting grounds to the Ndebele warrior-king Mzilikazi in the early 19th century, has captured the world’s attention after Cecil the lion was shot dead this month.
An agonizing death by bow, an arrow lodged in his body for 40 excruciating hours before he was mercifully gunned down at the hands of a professional hunter and his American client. An iconic beast that headed one of the two ‘super prides’ in the country’s largest national Park, was under surveillance by Oxford University’s WILDCRU project. Located too late by the GPS collar around his neck already beheaded and skinned, shortly after 27 baby elephants were exported from the same park to China. Wildlife pathetically exploited as a mere commodity rather than being awarded its status as a national heritage.
It is with a heavy heart that many Zimbabweans read news like this, once again hitting international headlines for all the wrong reasons. Perhaps it is time we consider an African life without these animals, a bush devoid of a heartbeat. To venture further into the wild only to discover a land as barren as an empty womb. If these extraordinary mammals were to disappear what would we experience but the sound of a thousand birds? Their incessant chatter becoming nothing more than a mockery of our very existence. A melancholic song for a broken heart.
These fellow earthlings, chronically limited in their numbers, take center stage around the globe in a concerted and desperate attempt to save them. Hundreds upon thousands of determined and single minded individuals pull together the chords of our hearts strumming awareness in a frenzied rhythm to save the planet and her off spring. Yet, the opposite occurs. The death toll rises. The lonely concerto abandoned by its orchestra.
Cecil is becoming something of an Aslan, the Christ like sacrifice. His name unlike that of C.S. Lewis’s inspiration means ‘Blind’. Butchered by cold-blooded brutes, blinded by liquid arrogance, they mistook the meaning of pride to be ‘a feeling of deep pleasure derived from one’s own achievements’ for the ‘group of lions forming a social unit’.
Will Cecil inspire us to have blind faith in ‘assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen’? Will he spearhead a new wave of belief in the protection of all creatures threatened by their very beauty and usefulness to man? Will ancient beliefs in ‘miracle’ cures cease to exist? How do we drive this wheel of ignorance into a new age of consciousness where no animal suffers at the hands of the empowered?
Like the Sphinx can we too embody the wisdom and virtue of the beast conquering our age old battle with greed and bring to mind the irreplaceable, unrepeatable miracle of life.