#CecilTheLion: how did Zimbabwe take advantage?

Whether you are a fan of lions or not, whether you like hunting or not, whether you are into conservation or not, whether you love or hate Zimbabwe, a discussion that you more than likely came across or maybe got involved in yourself was that of Cecil The Lion.

If you don’t already know, Cecil was according to many, a much-loved lion that once roamed the plains of Hwange National Park. He was in an unfortunate turn of events hunted by American dentist, Walter Palmer. When news of the killing came to light it caused a huge uproar from a countless number of people and organisations across the world and it also became the story of the moment on many of the major new networks.

That amount of coverage on the death of Cecil made it one of the top stories of 2015. Towards the end of last year, Parsely, a leading digital analytics solution provider, released data on the top stories of the year and how people discovered them namely via search (e.g. Google & Yahoo) or social (Facebook & Twitter). According to their numbers, Cecil was one of the top stories and it had a search to social traffic ratio of 73% meaning that it gained a lot of traction via social media.


Google also released data on the most popular searches throughout 2015. One of the spikes on the timeline in August 2015 was Cecil. This shows that purely from a search perspective it was a popular topic.

In the heat of the debate, people had wide and varying opinions on how they felt about the incident. For those directly involved such as the hunter, the guides and the authorities, there was some finger pointing and he said she said. At the end of the day, there really wasn’t a solid end result bar arresting a couple of local operators and tightening restrictions on hunting. In hind sight, the whole saga may have been a wasted opportunity with what it could have brought.

Whilst all of this was going on, what could have happened is that someone could have taken a step back, analysed the situation and seen how to use it to our advantage.

Some research shows that even though hunting (which in itself is a form of tourism – as controversial as it may be) brings in a considerable amount of revenue. However, it is not the number one tourism revenue generator. Ecotourism comes out on top with the revenue generated from it far surpassing that of hunting.

Till he met his demise, Cecil had been studied in great detail by WildCRU. With this direct link to lion conservation efforts, maybe a story around a ‘conservation’ or ‘ecotourism’ theme could have been crafted to shed a positive light on tourism in Zimbabwe.

With hunting, conservation, tourism and other associated activities already in the spotlight, maybe an organisation, a group of individuals, tour operators, a government department or a joint effort between some of the aforementioned for that matter could have drawn up a marketing strategy. This marketing strategy could have been aimed at getting out a message to say that yes, a lion had met its unfortunate demise; that this is not what we are all about; outlining what we are about and what is on offer as far as ecotourism goes and maybe even enticing potential ecotourists with discounted travel packages.

The above is not the be all and end all of what could have been done to spin the incident around and use it for positive gain. There are always lessons to be learnt from such events. Part of that would involve taking some time to sit back and understand what went wrong and what can be done to fix it and to end up with a favourable outcome for all.

There is a lot of negativity out there in the world and at the end of the day, it is up to us to choose how we respond to it. That response could be a negative one which could only make things worse or we could choose to address the situation and work towards a positive outcome. Let this be the year that you turn negatives into positives.

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One Response to #CecilTheLion: how did Zimbabwe take advantage?

  1. Charles Ray January 18, 2016 at 4:26 am #

    The bottom line on this, unfortunately, is that Zimbabwe doesn’t seem to have really taken advantage of the publicity generated by this tragic act to get its act together.

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