I am a Zimbabwean by nationality. I am a lion by totem. The lion identifies me and links me to my rich ancestry.
It is certainly heartbreaking that after being shot by a crossbow, Cecil the Lion - undoubtedly Africa's most famous lion today - had to trudge through the wild dripping blood, only to be trailed by bloodthirsty human beings who finished him off with high-powered rifles. Once again, Zimbabwe where Cecil had lived for the past 13 years wowing animal lovers made it into the global news headlines but maybe, just maybe - all is not in vain and changes will be made to protect the country's flora and fauna.
Zimbabweans - particularly the Shona people who make up the majority of the country's population - use different types of animals as clan identity. It shows that we have deep cultural links with the environment, with our wildlife even though we can't afford exorbitant amounts to go on game drives. We identify with our animals of the wild, so at a highly subconscious level, it's a fallacy to say Zimbabweans don't care about animals.
While there's a general impression that Zimbabweans are dismissing the death of Cecil the Lion in lieu of more pressing, man made socio-economic problems, upon serious reflection I'm through depressed and disgusted by the wanton killing of Zimbabwe's wild animals. What Cecil has managed to do in his death is to highlight the fact that the demise of our country is affecting not only human beings but animals as well.
The lion is one of the most revered animals in Zimbabwe endeared with portent spiritual capabilities. It has had special cultural significance for the Shona speaking people of Zimbabwe since time immemorial. The lion is referred to as mhondoro or royal spirit. According to Mutupo.com, The use of totems identifies the different clans that historically made up the ancient civilisations of the dynasties that ruled the Shona people from the ancient past.
For me, the lion is is an object that serves as the symbol of family, clan and community. I could never imagine myself killing a lion even if I had all the money in the world. It's taboo. It's my totem for goodness sake. I find it utterly disgusting that some deep pocketed American guy had the guts to part with his filthy month to kill an animal that is an essential definer of who I am.
If Zimbabweans are not careful, they'll end up with totems that can only be identified in the abstract. Much as we think we should stand up and fight for human rights, we must also be riled by the unnecessary decimation of our wildlife.
The larger picture of Cecil's death is that Zimbabwe's flora and fauna is being depleted while ordinary Zimbabweans sit and look as they have always done to major human made problems afflicting their country. It's both funny and paradoxical that we have to wait for foreigners to express disgust at a dastardly act committed with our environs.
It is wrong to intentionally and unnecessarily exploit, harm, or kill animals unless one has adequate justification. Period. Animal lives matter too and hunting them for personal aggrandizement is repulsive and barbaric. That's not over-complicated. That in no way diminishes the fact that Zimbabweans have been a long-suffering lot due political and socio-economic management.
Apart from the fact that I feel strongly the lion should be protected because it is my totem, I also feel strongly that Zimbabwe has a global responsibility to protect this beautiful species. Otherwise the depletion of Zimbabwe's flora and fauna will be an epic tragedy that will deny my children a right to their identity.