October 13, 2015

Why be outraged over Cecil, but not the leopard?

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A few months ago, a lucky cameraman in the Kruger National Park caught the action as a leopard attacked a ranger.

Watching the video today still tightens my diaphragm in frustration and annoyance. In it, a leopard spotted in the bush suddenly disappears, only to reappear below the safari guide's window, where it proceeds to 'clamp' its jaws on the man's arm. With 'no way' of getting the leopard to release its grip, the man reverses his car. The incensed leopard won't give up, however, and chases the vehicle for some way.

Infuriatingly, one of the commentators behind the person filming the incident says, 'He's got to drive over it. Drive over it!' The ranger drives over the leopard and another driver decides to 'rescue' the safari guide by also driving over the animal. The leopard loses its passion and limps away from the scene.

This video makes my gut burn. Not only is the poor animal in his own territory surrounded by cars on every side but everyone thinks that it is perfectly acceptable to ride over it. It is a wild animal - why could no one keep their distance and respect it? It was later discovered that the leopard was in a poor condition, likely having been attacked by another leopard seen in the area, so it was obviously in pain.

Meanwhile, the way I see it, the guide really had no choice but to drive forward over the leopard and perhaps it wasn't even his intention to do so, but his way both forward and backward was blocked by convoys of vehicles. This proliferation of vehicles is a scary thing for me. SANParks has even said that visitors are under the impression they're going to a zoo when they drive through the Kruger, but they are not. Warnings abound that people should not keep their windows open when on safari because wild animals are unpredictable. Personally I would have been afraid that the safari guide did not back away when the leopard was initially seen so close to the car. You know, since the safari vehicle has no windows. But then I suppose he couldn't move.

It brings to mind another incident that went viral recently: that of a Kudu being taken by lions right in the middle of the road near Kruger's Orpen Gate, surrounded by the wonderful sight of cars and cars and cars. The Kudu is seen bursting through the bush and is clearly shocked by the car it almost runs into. It begs the question, had the car not been there, would the Kudu have made it to safety?

So after all this, there was no uproar about the leopard being euthanised, or indeed any other wild animal who was feeling threatened in their territory. The safari guide was cleared of all blame (This is not to say he was to blame - it is our society that puts value on lives).

But then, around the same time, the uproar over the killing of Cecil the Lion was stupendous in comparison! What made the situation different? Oh, Cecil is a national Zimbabwean treasure, was part of a study, and was lured by 'disgusting hunter' Walter Palmer (who has since been freed of any blame in killing Cecil). And he didn't attack a human.

So that is the determining factor in discovering whether an animal deserves death or not: whether or not it attacked man. Oh, and if someone paid to do it (Palmer paid around $54,000 to kill a lion).

And every time I hear that a wild animal has been euthanised for attacking a human, I cringe. Because it is we who have encroached on their habitat, we who have locked them behind fences to claim land for cattle and whatever else, we who continue to sell off bits and pieces of their homes for eco-estates and lodges and yet cry we love the wild, we who murder them when there are too many, we who are so populous everyone cannot be happily fed. Where is the justice in that?

And don't even get me started on canned lion hunting, or the game slaughtering festival, sorry, 'driven hunt', that took place on September 7, 2015.

{Image credit: By Daughter#3 (Cecil) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons}

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