Wednesday, 12 August 2015

A Disney view of the jungle

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When we were first married we built a home on a 200 acre farm our meat company owned in Norfolk Road. I decided to assume the role of laird of the manor and to do this I needed to buy a rifle and go hunting. Rifle as in a 22 calibre model commonly known as a “pea” rifle, and hunting as in rabbits. The back of the farm bounded the Waingawa River where there were rabbits galore.

Mr Harold King, notable gunsmith from King and Henry, sold me a brand new rifle at a modest cost and I proceeded to the riverbed site and took aim at my first wild animal. It wasn’t difficult; there were plenty to choose from and my first shot hit the target, but didn’t kill it; it was now writhing in agony in front of me. I knew what I had to do, but hated having to do it. I put the front end of the barrel between the rabbit’s pleading eyes and fired the fatal shot. I discovered there and then that I could never be a hunter; I was a wuss.

There is a certain amount of irony in the fact that due to the career I was born into, over the next thirty or so years I was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of sheep, cattle-beasts and pigs, but couldn’t bear the thought of actually killing an animal myself.

So you will have concluded by now that I wouldn’t have had much sympathy for the American dentist who paid $US50,000 to go to Zimbabwe and shoot a majestic lion and then find himself hounded by the vociferous and sometimes ghastly sections of humanity who flood the new phenomenon known as the social media.

But there are always two sides to every story, and sometimes only one side gets told.

A Zimbabwean named Goodwell Nzou, writing to the New York Times, had this to say: “Did all those Americans signing petitions understand that lions actually kill people? That all the talk about Cecil being “loved” or a “local favourite” was all media hype? Did they choke up because Cecil was murdered or because they confused him with Simba from the Lion King?

“In my village in Zimbabwe, surrounded by wildlife conservation areas, no lion has ever been beloved, or given an affectionate nickname. They are objects of terror.”

He went on: “Recently a 14 year-old boy in a village not far from mine wasn’t so lucky. Sleeping in his family’s fields, as villagers do to protect their crops from hippos, buffalo and elephants that trample them, he was mauled by a lion and died.”

Americans tend to romanticise animals by giving them actual names and then hastily join a hashtag train and turn an ordinary situation - and there were nearly a thousand lions legally killed over a decade by wealthy foreigners who paid serious money to prove their questionable prowess - into to what seems to Zimbabwean eyes to be a maniacal media maelstrom.

Nzou concluded, “We Zimbabweans are left shaking our heads, wondering why Americans care more about African animals than about African people.”

How things change. At the dawn of time if you killed a lion and could fix peoples teeth you would be the king of everything.

“I like animals as much as the next guy, but if I’m hungry, I’ll eat a panda sandwich.” – Howard Stern


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