How Zimbabwe’s Cecil The Lion broke Social Media and became a Global Sensation

Cecil The Lion became a global sensation after trending on social media and rose to global stardom. He becomes the first feline to join celebrities who broke the internet and he didn’t do anything outrageous to get the attention.

Cecil at Hwange National Park

Cecil at Hwange National Park

Zimbabwe is no stranger to media coverage for a whole slew of reasons but nothing of this scope or nature.  No one ever imagined or envisaged that a huge feline would, through his death, shine the spotlight on the tiny southern African country.

Exactly a week ago today, the world woke up to news of an iconic Zimbabwe lion named Cecil, brutally killed by Walter James Palmer, an American dentist.  It sparked global outrage. People took to the internet and other social media platforms to condemn the action and vent their anger and disgust over the “poaching” and presumed “illegal killing”.

Cecil before he was brutally killed by American dentist, Walter James Palmer. Picture Credit: Paula French

Cecil before he was brutally killed by American dentist, Walter James Palmer.
Picture Credit: Paula French

Social Media Claws Come Out!

As Cecil’s story hit every media outlet, social media erupted and the internet went into overdrive.  The hashtag #CecilTheLion started trending on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other platforms.  The story became a global sensation, angered many and unleashed a tsunami of global outrage.

Social media claws came out!  Those not satisfied with venting on Facebook or Twitter soon found Palmer’s dental practice, Google and Yelp pages.  There, they unleashed a barrage of vitriolic attacks, enough to destroy his business. An online petition demanding justice for Cecil was initiated, instantly garnering tens of thousands of signatures within minutes.

Fast forward a week later, Cecil’s story still has a strong foothold in mainstream media. Cecil The Lion is a global star, still dominates social media and is the World’s Most Popular Lion.

No one could have predicted the magnitude of global outrage over the lion’s death. His name has become the rallying point and galvanizing force of a global movement longing to be heard.

From Tragic Beginning To Tragic End

Ever since his story broke, everyone wants to know about the Zimbabwean lion. The story of Cecil is that of tragedy all round.  Although he grew to become a popular tourist magnet at Hwange National Park where he was born, his existence had been one of struggle and survival.

Sources within the Park paint a sad story of alienation and rejection by his pride as a young cub, all because of his unusual black mane, thus beginning a life as a lonely outcast.

Unwanted, alone and rejected, Cecil would wander in the Savannah plains of Zimbabwe wilderness, fighting for survival until he came across another lone wanderer, Jericho.

Brotherhood: Cecil (down) and Jericho (standing) were inseparable. This was the last known photo taken in May 2015 before his was brutally killed. Picture Credit: Brent Stapelkamp

Brotherhood: Cecil and Jericho (standing) were inseparable in this last known photo taken in May before he was killed.  Picture Credit: Brent Stapelkamp

The two bonded and formed a strong brotherhood.  They remained inseparable until the night when he was lured out of the Park with bait, cross bowed and left to suffer for 40 hours. He was then shot in the head, decapitated and skinned; his carcass left at the mercy of the cruel wilderness.

Palmer’s actions have been considered morally reprehensible by all standards, even within the hunting community.   Cecil did not survive the harsh conditions of nature only to have his life ended in a protracted and painful ordeal. 

Deadly Encounter, Rigged Game

Prior to July 28 2015, Cecil was internationally unknown except to tourists who frequent Hwange National Park and some Zimbabweans.  Cecil trusted people, probably a costly mistake that would later end his life.

Walter Palmer (L) pictured here posing with another one of his kills before illegally killing Cecil (not pictured). Source:Facebook

Walter Palmer (L) pictured here posing with another one of his kills before illegally killing Cecil (not pictured)

No matter how one looks at the fateful encounter, it was by no means a fair game. Any chance for survival diminished the moment the rules of the game were rigged. By denying Cecil a “fair chance of a chase”, his fate was sealed. As the debate continues, Cecil’s killing has exposed that one’s ignorance of the law should not be an excuse for subverting it or deliberately engaging in illegal activity. That fact will be a consolation to Cecil’s supporters in knowing that  Walter Palmer, will forever be known as the “poacher” and “killer” of Cecil The Lion in a rigged game where rules did not apply.

Global Outrage

Talk of modern day social media mob justice!  A tsunami of global outrage that immediately followed the publication of the story is of an unprecedented nature.  Palmer has gone underground as the hunter has become the hunted.  His whereabouts remain a mystery.

BLOOMINGTON, MN - JULY 29: Protesters outside Dr. Walter Palmer's River Bluff Dental Clinic. Adam Bettcher/Getty Images/AFP

BLOOMINGTON, MN – JULY 29: Protesters outside Dr. Walter Palmer’s River Bluff Dental Clinic. Adam Bettcher/Getty Images/AFP

Evidently, social media justice appears to be swift, cruel and unforgiving.  Palmer’s business is destroyed and his practice remains closed.  Even his hiding has failed to stop angry hordes of Cecil supporters from landing on his doorstep with pitchforks and torches baying for blood.

If it were possible to mount a human head on a wall, Palmer’s would undoubtedly be a consolation to the unforgiving angry Cecil lovers. 

Cecil’s Legacy?

Cecil before he was killed. He was the favourite of photographers and videographers alike.

Cecil before he was killed. He was the favourite of photographers and videographers alike.

As nature would have it, from tragedy evolves hope and inspiration.  Cecil the Lion may be dead, but he lives on as the catalyst for change and reform. His death is also forcing us to have the uncomfortable conversation which has been deemed long overdue.

Another hashtag, #JusticeForCecil has empowered people to speak out against all sorts of perceived animal cruelty and injustices, including poaching and illegal hunting.  These are the twin evils that threaten wildlife and endangered species. For now, it appears to be working

With another case emerging from Zimbabwe of a second American doctor involved in yet another “illegal killing” of a lion in April, one can simply surmise that Cecil’s death has achieved something positive.  It is shining a spotlight on illicit wildlife trade and the parallel industry which Zimbabwe has struggled with for decades.

Maybe, the global spotlight is what is required to finally reform the industry and clean up house to remove all those who subvert local laws.

Whatever Cecil’s legacy will be, at least one thing is certain, things will never be the same ever! Zimbabwe’s Cecil has become the catalyst for the much needed reform within the hunting industry, both at local and international levels.

Cecil The Lion might not be Kim Kardashian, but he did break the internet anyway!

RIP Big cat!


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