It should really come as no shock that the Zimbabwean government announced on Monday that they would no longer seek extradition of Walter J. Palmer for the illegal killing of Cecil the Lion on July 2nd; nor attempt prosecution of the alleged act of poaching. If anything, the biggest surprise is that it took this long for them to make this decision.
LionAid was quoted as saying…we are “disappointed but not at all surprised that Zimbabwe eventually decided to decline prosecution of Walter Palmer. After all, Walter Palmer was only one of many hundreds of trophy hunters before him who hunted at the thin edge of the law. If Zimbabwe had decided to prosecute Walter Palmer it would have established a procedure by which future Walter Palmers could be prosecuted. That would not benefit Zimbabwe’s hunting operator income streams.”
Of course, it is worth noting that had Zimbabwe not dropped these charges, the U.S. Department of Justice was still not obligated to honor the Zimbabwean government. And despite the efforts of millions of petitioners to pressure the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and the Department of Justice to seek justice for Cecil, many never believed this would actually happen.
The current extradition treaty between the United States and Zimbabwe went into effect in 2000. However in the 15 years since, there still has not been a single American sent to Zimbabwe to face charges. And LionAid makes a strong point. Would you want to test extradition and prosecute for an act that would negatively impact future hunting revenues? Profiteering should not be the guiding principle in this issue, but in today’s world, that is often the sole consideration of governments and businesses. It is why this world is in the condition it is today, but more on that lengthy subject at a later time.
What one must remember is that Zimbabwe is not exactly the poster child of honest government. And even if they did pursue prosecution, the U.S. government might deny the extradition request, out of fear and concern that Dr. Palmer would not receive due process. Of course, public opinion would yield little sympathy for Dr. Palmer, and many have had a view-point of an eye for an eye to avenge Cecil’s death. And believe me, I have no sympathy for the man either. However, if anyone has ever watched the program “Locked Up Abroad”, they would certainly respect and appreciate the fact that the U.S. government would vet the rights of American citizens; and to ensure that if extradition did occur, there would be some guarantee of due process.
Of course, Palmer may not completely escape without consequence. Although Zimbabwe will no longer pursue extradition, he can still be charged and convicted by the United States Department of Justice for violation of The Lacey Act; which makes it illegal “to import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce … any fish or wildlife taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of any law or regulation of any State or in violation of any foreign law.”
The primary intent of the Lacey Act is to prevent protected species from being imported into the U.S. However, wildlife expert Eric Freyfogle indicated that he could still be prosecuted regardless of whether the remains of Cecil were imported.
“It is enough, to satisfy the ‘purchase’ requirement, that he hire guides, outfitters or other local services or purchase a hunting license of permit and that this happen in ‘interstate commerce’ (meaning simply that he crossed national borders or communicated across national borders..”
That said, Lewis and Clark Professor Daniel Rohlfe believes that he would have to bring part of the lion into the US to get prosecuted under the Lacey Act. “The Lacey Act provides for both civil and criminal sanctions for trafficking in illegal wildlife (importing parts of this lion would constitute trafficking),” Rohlfe said. “However, as an element of the offense, the hunter would have to bring or attempt to bring a part of the lion into the US. So if he’s smart, the dentist will show up at US Customs with nothing but apologies.”
So, perhaps this does not quell the feelings of anger and outrage that many still have regarding Cecil’s death. They still want vindication and revenge and justice to be served. For that reason, I offer you Exhibit A.
The photograph on the left is one of Dr. Palmer, obviously taken in his dental office and prior to the Cecil controversy erupted. The photograph on the right is a recent photo that was posted with the Zimbabwean announcement. Dr. Palmer is apparently 55-years old. However, would you not agree that the man on the left looks dramatically older than the man on the right, by at least 20 years? I’m not going to mince words. The man looks bad. So for anyone to suggest he is walking away from this tragedy completely unscathed, he isn’t. And, if you believe there is such a thing, it looks karma has a little say so here.
I have emphasized all along that regardless of the legal action or inaction in Palmer’s case, his life has changed, and not for the better. Aside from the stress that has clearly impacted his health, here is a man who for the rest of his life, will be looking over his shoulder. Not necessarily fearful that someone might take ‘eye for an eye’ literally, although there are probably some people out there that given the opportunity, might consider it.
Everywhere he goes…to his dental office, to the gas station, to the grocery store, to a restaurant or shopping, he will be fearful that someone will recognize his picture and blurt out “Murderer” or maybe they will announce his anatomical shortcomings to anyone within ear shot. His business will be impacted because every patient now knows that each dollar earned is a dollar designated for the next Cecil trophy. He may even find a lack of allies within the hunting community, as his story has exposed much of what that industry has worked hard to keep below the radar.
Safari Club International revoked his membership. Will they give it back? Perhaps, but they likely feel greater wrath from the general public than they do now. So, it is very possible that they will distance him from their organization, for fear of more negative publicity.
Most people hope to leave this earth with a positive legacy. They hope to be viewed by others as someone who has made a positive contribution to this world; someone who left the world in better condition than when they entered the world. It may not matter to him; but any positive contributions he has made in his life will now be dwarfed by Cecil, and the two of them will forever be linked. William and Clark… Bonnie and Clyde…Thelma and Louise…Palmer and Cecil. Five years from now say the word Walter Palmer and people will instantly conjure up Cecil’s name. His name is mud and it is unlikely that will ever change.
Karma is the spiritual principle of cause and effect where intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that individual (effect), and when something does something bad, we always like to say that karma will have its revenge. And we often say that because we have no confidence in the justice system to be just and fair; or we say it about a cruel, inhumane or act that is deemed unethical or immoral, but not illegal.
I believe in karma, but perhaps not the same way others believe in karma. Each of us is composed of energy. Every living being and even every material object is composed of energy. When we promote positivity, compassion and love, we project a positive energy. When we promote anger and hate, we project negative energy. My view of karma might be better defined as fitting within the framework of the Law of Attraction…simply meaning that we attract everything into our lives…positive and negative, good and bad.
So, a life evolving around illegal and or unethical behaviors will attract like-minded individuals; and will also project that same negative energy into the universe, and thus, attracting more negative energy in return. We’ve heard it many times before: ‘You reap what you sow’. And even the golden rule of ‘Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Done Unto You’ applies the same metaphoric definition of the Law of Attraction. I believe that Dr. Palmer will ultimately reap what he sows, as with the rest of us.
I certainly believe that the general public’s outrage and response Dr. Palmer’s killing of Cecil is proof of the universe at work. Call it karma if you will. However, the universe may have a definition of justice that might not necessarily fit within the narrative as to how you view justice, or how I view justice. Yet at the end of the say, we may observe that justice indeed has been served, regardless of the method in which it was dished out.
And a final thought. I originally described Cecil as the agent of change, and this decision by Zimbabwe not to pursue criminal action has not changed this view at all. Cecil’s death was a tragic event…but not anymore tragic than any other African lion that paid the ultimate price to a hunter with an over-sized ego.
Cecil brought ‘center of the stage’ attention to an activity that those participants would have preferred to remain largely invisible to the world. Dr. Palmer is just a small pawn in a much larger game, and he should be treated as such. Originally, I felt that anger toward him that everyone else did. But in time, I realized that this that anger could be directed at something much larger…something more far-reaching.
Cecil’s story expanded news of the lion’s plight beyond the animal welfare groups into the mainstream. Only 20,000 lions remain in the wild; and most people now know about canned hunting and lion farms. This is not the time to become discouraged and frustrated and conclude that because Zimbabwe will not attempt to extradite Dr. Palmer, this is just the sad end of Cecil’s story. It isn’t.
Cecil’s tragedy is Chapter 1. The failure to prosecute is Chapter 2. We have many chapters still yet to experience. Those chapters include the passage of the CECIL Act, passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act, and passage of the Rare Cats and Canids Act. They include the ultimate goals to stop trophy hunting practices…particularly of those animals on the threatened and endangered species list; and definitely a stop on canned hunting practices. They include solidifying and protecting the Endangered Species Act; and beyond just animal welfare, a hope that this might lead to a greater compassion in society. Perhaps you might say that this final goal is unrealistic and too lofty, but I will still choose to believe this. After all, karma is watching.