What Drives Trophy Hunters Like Walter Palmer?

When this week began, chances are high that you have never heard of Cecil the Lion, the beloved big cat of the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. But until now, you have heard of his death. Walter Palmer, a dentist in Minnesota, paid about $ 55,000 for the (illegal) privilege of lion hunting – although, after two days of watching Cecil, it was not a big hunt: Palmer and his drivers used the bait attract the 13-year-old lion half a mile out of the park's protected area. There, Palmer shot the animal with a bow and arrow, causing a serious wound that would lead to the death of the animal. New York Times reports that Palmer had planned to raise Cecil's head when he returned to his home.

Palmer has since regretted the assassination of Cecil, arguing in a statement to the Star-Tribune on Tuesday not realizing that what he had done was not legal or that Cecil was a famous and beloved lion or that the animal was the subject of an ongoing research project with Oxford University. But his words suggest that if Cecil was not famous, Palmer would not lose anything. She is, moreover, a member of Safari Club International, a non-profit organization of "hunter rights". the Safari Club website has a list of 43 Palmer killings, which include, among other things, a polar bear.

The question then is why? What encourages Palmer and other trophy hunters, as they say, to fly thousands of miles and spend tens of thousands of dollars, all for the sake of an animal like Cecil? The answer is complex, but to a large extent it can be seen as a demonstration of strength and prestige, says Amy Fitzgerald, a sociologist at Windsor University.

In 2003, Michigan State Fitzgerald and Linda Kalof published research in the sociology journal Visual studies in which he analyzed 792 "hero shots" – the photo after the death of the hunter and the hunter – published in 14 popular hunting magazines. Most of the shots, Fitzgerald recalls, seemed to be ordered to show the hunter's domination over the animal. "The hunter tends to be depicted above standing or sitting above the animals, clearly demonstrating the power of power that was going on there," said Fitzgerald. In the overwhelming majority of photographs he and Kaloff examined, the animal had been cleansed, the blood had been cleansed, and the wounds were carefully hidden from his face, making the animal look almost alive – as if somebody had told this giant wild creature. "It seems that, with the big animals, they were putting them as if they were alive as a way to confirm the contest that had gone – that it was a great animal that had to retire," said Fitzgerald.

Photo courtesy of our Science

A demonstration of power through domination over the animal kingdom is, of course, nothing new. "This is something that dates back to antiquity, when the kings had fake hunts with captured lions who were just released to turn from a chariot by the waiting king," Kalof said in an e-mail message to our science. These words were made in front of an audience, which was a way of publicly expressing and validating the king's power, Kalof added, adding that "today's trophy hunting is similarly a sign of power and control by wealthy men." , what Kalof describes sounds similar to today's so-called "canned hunting," which takes place in a closed area, in order to increase the likelihood that a wealthy – and often American – tourist will die. (Famous fans of canned hunting include the two sons of Donald Trump, Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.)

Michael Gurven, an anthropologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, is studying the hunter-gatherer breeds in the Amazon and notes that both in hunting cultures are necessary for survival and in those that are not, skill certainly attracts attention, for very different reasons. "There is the element of apparent consumption," said Grüben. "I'm studying people who are chasing food because they have no choice. And here is someone who pays $ 50,000 – who, as an annual income that would be well above the poverty line – has the opportunity to put himself in the danger of losing a lion.

Another huge part of the draw for trophy hunters, of course, is the emotion or the element of danger. But in Palmer's special case, this is also linked to the element of wealth, Gurven said. "When you pay $ 55,000 for something, it's probably a sign that – if it's not necessarily illegal, surely the animal you're hunting is rare," said Gurven. "If you think of the danger of real hunting – sure, the animal itself is dangerous." But at least with Cecil, lion's acquaintance with his people probably made an easy target, Louis Muller, president of the Zimbabwe Union's professional hunters and drivers, said Telegraph. "But its possible illegality – I think it makes it dangerous for another reason," Gruev said. "How do you smuggle the head or what is going to get back to the US? To take the animal's head to the wall is another strength signal." (Of course, there are many trophies hunters who follow the sport they love legally – it's not talking about Here, this is the special case of the lion and the dentist.)

The trophies hunters that they often advocate are that killing animals is an unlikely act of charity and that huge volumes of tourists' money help finance conservation efforts. Cecil's death reiterated the debate on this argument, but some important major organizations have previously supported, including the World Wildlife Fund. On a Palmer 2009 profile in New York Times, the curator of a bow hunting club called Pope and New explains that, yes, part of the draw is the "personal achievement" factor. But there's another piece in it, Glen Hisey explained. "It's a way of honoring this animal forever," he said Times. In a different way, it is a way to sink into nature in a way that modern life does not always allow. As found by the conservator and author Aldo Leopold (as reported in the magazine Montana Outdoors), "The poets sing and the hunters weigh the mountains mainly for one and the same reason – the emotion in beauty." The critics write and the hunters overtake their play for one and the same reason – to reduce the beauty of possession.

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This article originally appeared at nymag.com