Hwange National Park is a stunning location for a safari holiday, but since the story broke of US Dentist, Walter Palmer, killing Zimbabwe’s most famous Lion Cecil, the park has received more than its fair share of bad publicity.
We visited Hwange in March this year, and while we didn’t see a great deal of game during our stay (rainy season), we did see plenty of animal conservation teams at work throughout the park, such as the Oxford University Research Unit WildCRU, so there is clearly a lot being done to protect Zimbabwe’s wildlife.
During our safari experience in Hwange National Park, our game ranger explained that the protected game reserve in which we were staying ran parallel to one of Zimbabwe’s largest hunting concessions, and that the two sides were separated by a train track.
The train track is rarely used and there are no fences, wires or barriers to stop the wild animals crossing from one side to the other, or indeed, to stop hunters following their prey into protected areas. It would have been so easy for Palmer and his accomplices to entice Cecil over the train track with bait, that this poor Lion never stood a chance.
With the help of our ranger and a researcher who just happened to be in the park at the same time as us, we managed to spot a ‘large male lion’ who was resting peacefully underneath a large tree. Completely oblivious to our presence, this mighty creature didn’t provide us with any photo opportunities, but just seeing him in his natural habitat was more than enough for us. Was it Cecil? Sadly, we’ll never know, but the thought that anyone could harm such a majestic animal for fun is beyond comprehension.
It is easy to blame the National Park, a corrupt government, and the unscrupulous morals of Palmers accomplices, but at the end of the day, it is he who paid a staggering $55,000 to murder an innocent animal – and if Cecil hadn’t been wearing a collar, he would have just become another trophy…