Dispute over plan to erect Cecil the lion memorial statue

An initiative to build a life-sized statue to remember Cecil the poached lion is erupting in controversy.

The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force says it has already collected about $35,000 (U.S.) for the steel artwork, commissioned to veteran sculpture, John Binda of Bird’s for Africa, but it is still looking for more donations. The creation would be erected at the entrance to Hwange National Park, which is where Cecil was lured away from by a trophy hunting party including American dentist Walter Palmer.

“The statue will be magnificent and hand made with love,” the conservation group headed by Johnny Rodrigues posted on Facebook. “…Cecil’s memory will live on forever through this statue of a truly incredible beast that didn’t deserve to die and suffer at the hands of lawless, murdering thugs.”

The group is planning to display names of donors on a plaque and will share videos of the sculpture as it’s being made. The final cost is unknown.

But there’s a backlash online about the best way to remember Cecil – and send trophy hunters a message.

Celia Åhlin wrote on the conservation group’s Facebook page: “We were hoping for justice (which failed), not another trophy made out of human hands. I am sick of trophies. Raise money to feed your people. Everything is going wrong.”

Wayne Viljoen echoed that sentiment: “Why don’t you collect the $35000 and put it towards anti poaching efforts rather then the statue.”

And, Carina Åsell added, “If it can prevent more killing it is maybe worth it? But a statue?”

The conservation group said nobody is being forced to support the idea, but insisted it’s worthwhile.

“There are many people out there who do support it. We do understand the reality of the situation too..how else do you create awareness and try and stop sport hunting? A statue will remind people about how devastating hunting is and how we must all stand up and stop this from happening to all animals. We are trying to make a difference.”

And, for animal lovers such as Hope Romanuski, that’s precisely the point. “Hopefully the statue of Cecil will serve as a memorial to him, and will be a constant reminder to people of the devastation poachers cause!” she wrote. “The more awareness the better!!!”

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Photos Bryon Orford/YouTube

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Recovering newspaper reporter.

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