The Springwatch host and campaigner narrates Cecil: The Lion King, which kicks off Nat Geo’s Big Cat Week next month. Cecil, aged 13, was the subject of an Oxford University research programme when an American big game hunter felled him in Zimbabwe in 2015. Packham is now re-igniting his campaign to ban the imports to the UK of hunting trophies, and has asked the Royals for support, insisting they can be “valuable ambassadors”.
“Like many other people I was angry about what happened to Cecil,” said Packham.
“I was astonished that an animal that was part of a scientific study was killed in this way.
“For many people it was extremely shocking.”
In 2016 Prince William revealed he was in favour of trophy hunting in some circumstances, saying “there is a place for commercial hunting in Africa as there is around the world”.
Asked about the Royal Family’s position on the issue, Packham replied: “We’ve all changed our behaviours during our lifetimes, it’s about growing up.
“We change our minds as things change around us. I think we have to see the Royal Family going through a similar process. When they do things such as helping to remove the stigma of mental health, or helping disabled veterans, that’s been phenomenal.
“When it comes to the environment, they, like the rest of us, are in a learning process, and we have to encourage them to do that, celebrate the things they get right, and point out the things they get wrong, so they can continue to make progress. They can be valuable ambassadors.
“We have to encourage them to continue on that journey. What I would say to the Royal Family – keep learning, keep taking advice, keep updating your ideas, keep modernising and every message you send out will continue to make a difference. That can only be a good thing.”
And he said the legacy of Cecil endures: “He has become an iconic figure in the conversation about trophy hunting.”
Asked if the trophy hunters had a point that hunting fees fund conservation, he replied: “It’s a complex argument. In some instances, the money from hunting can feed back into the health of the human and animal population, but against that argument is the simple ethical one of what they’re doing as a trophy hunter.
“We’re about to watch programmes about beautifully important animals under threat because of habitat and climate change.
“So how do we justify – on top of all of that – the deliberate killing of these animals, surely just for self-gratification. It just doesn’t add up.
“In some countries now trophy hunting is not as popular with young people.
“It is an ageing pursuit because this age group are now better informed and don’t want to do it.
“They understand it’s a dangerous anachronism.
“We don’t have much time. We’re making a last stand for some of these species. We need legislation now. We need to stop it.”
● Chris narrates Cecil: The Lion King, as part of Nat Geo Wild’s Big Cat Week from February 1
Published at Sun, 17 Jan 2021 08:50:00 +0000