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Cecil’s shooting raises major issues

Cecil, the lion killed illegally in Zimbabwe by an American dentist, will not have died in vain if what happened to him draws attention to the threat of extinction of his kind.

But the government of Zimbabwe, where Cecil was killed, is doing all it can to divert attention from the real problem.

Zibabwean authorities want Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer extradited to their country to face charges in Cecil’s death. Recently, they added they want another American, a Pennsylvania man they claim also killed a lion illegally a few months ago.

But Palmer has said he believed his “hunt” – in which, by the way, Cecil did not stand a chance – was legal. He merely followed his guides’ instructions, Palmer says. In all likelihood, the Pennsylvania man will have the same story.

Big game hunting means big money for some governments in Africa, as well as for “guides” whose business practices are more than a bit shady. Often such hunts are in preserves, with animals raised for the purpose and confined in relatively small areas until they are killed.

Long before Cecil died, conservationists pointed out Zimbabwe and some other African countries are contributing to dramatic decreases in the populations of some animals, including big cats, elephants and rhinoceros. If Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe -guilty of repressing his own people – is allowed to blame the problem on a few Americans, it will only grow worse.

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