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Dentist Off Hook: Killing of Cecil the Lion Fuels Rejection of Trophy Hunting

An American dentist won't be prosecuted in Zimbabwe for killing Cecil the lion, but a poll indicates that outrage over the incident is prompting two-thirds of U.S. voters to reject trophy hunting, including against mountain lions in Utah. Courtesy: HSUS
An American dentist won't be prosecuted in Zimbabwe for killing Cecil the lion, but a poll indicates that outrage over the incident is prompting two-thirds of U.S. voters to reject trophy hunting, including against mountain lions in Utah. Courtesy: HSUS
October 14, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY - Officials in Zimbabwe have decided that an American dentist did not break the law when he killed a lion known as Cecil, but a new poll indicates the lion's death is having strong repercussions among American voters.

The poll shows Americans are turning thumbs down on trophy hunting by a two-to-one margin. Sixty-four percent of U.S. voters polled told the Humane Society of the United States that they also oppose trophy hunting in the United States.

Kirk Robinson, executive director of the Western Wildlife Conservancy, said large carnivores such as mountain lions and bears are prime targets in Utah for trophy hunters.

"Killing animals primarily for their trophy value, I think, is an abhorrent practice," he said, "It's especially bad in the case of large carnivores; because if you kill a mountain lion, people aren't going to eat it. They will have it mounted and display it somewhere."

Robinson said he is not against hunting in general, and it is going to take a groundswell of public action for a prolonged period of time to rein in trophy hunting because regulators tend to back those hunters.

Teresa Teleky, director of wildlife for Humane Society International says the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe was a major factor in raising both awareness and concern about the trophy hunting issue in Utah and the nation.

"African lions, polar bears, African elephants -- every child in America knows and loves these animals, and to think that Americans are the number one hunters of these animals and are bringing in all these body parts and trophies, I think it really hit a note of disgust among Americans," she said, "and I do think that played into these findings."

Two-thirds of Americans in the poll support listing African lions under the Endangered Species Act and 64 percent support placing restrictions on trophy hunting of native animals such as bobcats and mountain lions.

The survey was conducted Sept. 23-24 by Remington Research Group on behalf of the HSUS. The sample size was 3,668 and the margin of error is plus or minus 2.2 percent.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - UT