Jimmy Kimmel Gets Weepy Over Cecil the Lion, Urges Wildlife Conservation Efforts
Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue is typically packed with lighthearted jokes about celebrities, but on Tuesday night’s show, the Jimmy Kimmel Live! host took aim at a Minnesota dentist who was relatively unknown until the day before. Walter Palmer, the American hunter who admitted to killing Cecil, Zimbabwe’s most famous lion, has been forced to go into hiding and shutter his dental practice after receiving death threats on social media.
If the Internet outrage sounds excessive, just listen to Kimmel describe the lion’s slaughter, beheading, and skinning in graphic detail. “The arrow didn’t kill the lion, so they tracked him, and 40 hours later, shot him with a gun, skinned him, and took the head and left the body there,” Kimmel said in a rare somber delivery, pausing to choke back tears toward the end of his monologue.
The hunting death of a lion isn’t just what Kimmel calls a “disgusting tragedy.” It also has a “cascading effect” on the cat’s family members, according to the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University, the group that had been tracking Cecil since 2008. It found that when a male lion is killed, it may result in the overthrow and death of other adult male members of his weakened pride and the infanticide of cubs. Africa’s lion population is in steep decline, with an estimated 30,000 living in the wild compared with about 200,000 a century ago, according to the conservation group Panthera.
In a statement issued to the press on Tuesday, Palmer said he had no idea that the lion he “took” was a local favorite and a prominent research subject. But Kimmel isn’t buying it. “First of all, stop saying you took the lion. You take aspirin. You killed the lion—you didn’t take it.”
But the witch hunt against Palmer won’t do much good, Kimmel said, directing his viewers instead to make a donation to the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, which plans to study how Cecil’s death will affect his surviving family members.