Goodwell Nzou is a doctoral student in molecular sciences at Wake Forest University — he also happens to be from Zimbabwe, and has offered his grounded perspective to unhinged Americans who freaked out over the death of Cecil the lion.
“In Zimbabwe, we don’t cry for lions,” is the title of Nzou’s New York Time’s op-ed on Wednesday and the underlying theme of the piece that Cecil mania in a whole different perspective.
Nzou explained his first reaction to the death of Cecil was one of relief and found the vengeful protest over Cecil’s death confounding.
“My excitement was doused when I realized that the lion killer was being painted as the villain. I faced the starkest cultural contradiction I’d experienced during my five years studying in the United States.”
Did all those Americans signing petitions understand that lions actually kill people? That all the talk about Cecil being “beloved” or a “local favorite” was media hype?
Did Jimmy Kimmel choke up because Cecil was murdered or because he confused him with Simba from “The Lion King?”
Nzou recounted life in his Zimbabwe village where lions weren’t beloved “or granted affectionate nicknames.” Insead, he said, they were “objects of terror.”
Fear of lion attacks wreaked havoc, he wrote, and one lion in particular “sucked the life” out of his village.
“When the lion was finally killed, no one cared whether its murderer was a local person or a white trophy hunter, whether it was poached or killed legally. We danced and sang about the vanquishing of the fearsome beast and our escape from serious harm.”
Nzou made it clear that Zimbabweans hold wild animals in high regard, but their respect for the majestic creatures is rooted in reality.
The American tendency to romanticize animals that have been given actual names and to jump onto a hashtag train has turned an ordinary situation… into what seems to my Zimbabwean eyes, an absurdist circus.
We Zimbabweans are left shaking our heads, wondering why Americans care more about African animals than about African people.
And please, don’t offer me condolences about Cecil unless you’re also willing to offer me condolences for villagers killed or left hungry by his brethren, by political violence, or by hunger.
Animal rights activists, who tend to walk the left side of the street politically, should take a lesson.
Sometimes, real lions kill people.
And sometimes, Africans don’t mourn them.
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