Chances are that if you’re scratching your head as to why it feels like the entire U.S. nation is mourning a lion that died over 7000 miles away, you’re not the only one. At the top of the month (July 1), American dentist Walter Palmer hunted and killed the 13-year-old Zimbabwean lion. The tagged cat was a noted attraction in the country’s Hwange National Park before his death.
As evidenced by the GoFundMe’s, image projections on the Empire State Building and Jimmy Kimmel’s tears, strong feelings of anger and sadness stemming from the slaying have resonated in America, and some Zimbabweans are wondering why. Especially doctoral student, Goodwell Nzou, who penned an op-ed for the New York Times with his own set of questions.
“Did all those Americans signing petitions understand that lions actually kill people?” he asked in the article. “That all the talk about Cecil being ‘beloved’ or a ‘local favorite’ was media hype? Did Jimmy Kimmel choke up because Cecil was murdered or because he confused him with Simba from The Lion King?”
He went at length to explain that lions in his village aren’t something loved and mourned over, but the cause for terror and fear for the safety of loved ones. When a lion is killed, no one looks to paint the killer as a villain like America has done to Palmer. Many Zimbabweans, in his honest opinion, are rather unbothered by the whole ordeal.
In the latter portion of his piece, Nzou expressed his frustration with America’s overkill sympathy towards a country and an animal they have no real bond with instead of worrying about their own:
The American tendency to romanticize animals that have been given actual names and to jump onto a hashtag train has turned an ordinary situation — there were 800 lions legally killed over a decade by well-heeled foreigners who shelled out serious money to prove their prowess — into what seems to my Zimbabwean eyes an absurdist circus.
PETA is calling for the hunter to be hanged. Zimbabwean politicians are accusing the United States of staging Cecil’s killing as a “ploy” to make our country look bad. And Americans who can’t find Zimbabwe on a map are applauding the nation’s demand for the extradition of the dentist, unaware that a baby elephant was reportedly slaughtered for our president’s most recent birthday banquet.
We Zimbabweans are left shaking our heads, wondering why Americans care more about African animals than about African people.
Do you agree with Nzou’s views? Read the piece in its entirety here.