“I love watching the way lions live. The only way the king lion loses his crown is by somebody physically defeating him.” … Ray Lewis

by RONA MANN / Photos by Brent Staplekamp

The details must be spared. They need to be spared. Because there already has been enough senseless horror, and a recounting really does no good.

Cecil-the-Lion-Brent-Staplekamp-Cecil-taking-the-air-(revised)Suffice to say, most people will recall the senseless “murder” of Cecil the Lion in 2015 by a small man with a big gun and an even bigger bank account…big enough to bribe a worker in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park to illegally lure Cecil out of a neighboring farm, putting him in open range just long enough for this dentist from Minnesota to kill him for nothing more than trophy sport. It should never have happened. Cecil and the other lions in his pride should have been completely safe, since there was no lion hunting allowed in the national park in 2015 as penalty for the killing of underage cats the year previous. Cecil should have been safe, but he fell victim to an experienced big game hunter who chose not to play by the rules, and in the end received no penalty for his actions.

The outrage this incident caused was felt round the world as every news agency throughout the globe carried the heinous story of blood for sport. Perhaps no one felt this loss greater than Brent Stapelkamp, renowned lion researcher who has worked for nine years on Oxford University’s Hwange Lion Research Project studying every phase of lion behavior and knew Cecil intimately. A 38 year old native of Zimbabwe, Stapelkamp has devoted his life to the conservation of lions and the communities who live alongside them in the wild.

Working with the WildCru’s Hwange Lion Research project within the 5,657 square mile national park, Brent’s primary roles were those of mitigating conflict between lions and other livestock while also tracking, collaring, and studying the lions themselves. Stapelkamp’s photos of Cecil and his pride have appeared in National Geographic and on CNN, the BBC, and on media throughout the world.

And now you can meet this very special individual; for on Saturday, July 23rd Six Summit Gallery in Ivoryton will be both honored and thrilled to host Brent Stapelkamp in person as he gives a lecture on his life’s work and juries a fine art show of selected entries, in addition to exhibiting 20 of his world famous photographs. And of course there will be images of Cecil in this collection since Brent was the last person to capture photographs of the 13 year old lion little more than a month before his death.

Cecil-the-Lion-Brent-Staplekamp-Cecil-and-his-lionessThe program will begin at Six Summit Gallery at 6:30PM with admission by ticket only. Brent Stapelkamp will speak about his lifetime body of work followed by a question and answer session, a wine and cheese reception, and will conclude with a juried fine art show, as the gallery continues to promote its anti-poaching, pro-wildlife campaign through the expression of fine art.

Interviewing Stapelkamp recently via the internet from his home in Zimbabwe, one realizes quite quickly that this is a humble man, thoroughly dedicated to his life and his work, which to him are completely interchangeable. He is all about human wildlife coexistence…it is what fuels him daily to go out into the bush, what he believes, and to which he has dedicated not only his life’s work, but his life in total.

Born in Zimbabwe to native parents, he was raised and attended school in the capital city of Harare. At 17 Stapelkamp left home and headed out into the bush where he says, “I have known that’s where I belong since.” A statement like that makes one wonder what his parents may have thought of this career choice, or if they ever tried to deter him.

“They knew this is what I’d eventually do. I have a twin brother, Travis, who is a computer whiz. The family knew all long that we’d follow our hearts.” And follow his heart and mind he  did, as prior to his years in the UK he worked at a safari guide in the Hwange.

Before immersing himself in the the lion project, Brent lived in the UK where he studied wildlife management. He met his wife Lauri in the United States “when we both worked at a summer camp in upstate New York. She followed me to Zimbabwe and has shared and built our adventure together. We now have a seven year old son, Oliver and live in a house that Laurie built by hand.We have been allocated land by our local chief and are committed to this place where we work towards human wildlife coexistence.”

Stapelkamp just recently left the lion project to embark upon his own venture with Lauri. “We now wake up, and I light a fire to brew the coffee. After breakfast we walk the dogs which is interesting because we see lion tracks some mornings near our home. We are about to start a community project that promotes cattle herders in a way that both uplifts them and ultimately  saves lions.” So it appears that with Brent Stapelkamp it is still all about the lions.

Donate to the WildCRU Cecil Fund

Donate to the Oxford University “WIldCRU Cecil Fund”

As someone who had photographed Cecil many times over a period of years; and was, in fact, the last human to photograph him before he was senselessly killed, one wonders if Cecil somehow “knew” Brent. The answer was characteristic of the man. “It would be foolish to think that Cecil or any other lion recognizes me, but I do feel a deep sense of understanding when I am with them. I mean that I understand them.”

To reserve tickets for this very special event contact Six Summit Gallery at: (860) 581-8332
6 Summit Street, across from the Ivoryton Playhouse
e-mail: [email protected]  Seating is very limited, so reserve today!


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