Caitlyn Jenner, Pope Francis, Stephen Curry, and Donald Trump have all been pretty influential in 2016. But none of these homo sapiens with self-promoting Twitter accounts were quite so critically impressive as Cecil the dead Zimbabwean lion was this past year.
Time magazine's humor columnist Joel Stein apparently thought the lion's clout was so great that he ranked Cecil first in his list of 100 Most Influential Animals of 2016.
Cecil was just minding his own damn business when Minnesota dentist-trophy hunter Walter Palmer popped him, skinned him, and carried away his head as a souvenir.
Palmer said he had no idea who Cecil was, but this particular lion's reputation as king of the Hwange National Park made sure that his fans and advocates from around the world made life a living hell for the Bloomington dentist on his behalf.
Palmer had to go into hiding while furious animal rights activists sent him death threats, occupied his offices, and trashed his home. While Palmer may never live down the brutal trial by media, the world of big-game trophy hunting was forever changed. Airlines banned the transport of lion trophies, and both France and Britain said they wouldn't be welcome within their borders. In public opinion, hunting big game for sport has become decidedly uncool.
"The TIME 100 seems to stick to living humans, and TIME 100 Animals totally gets the logic in that, because it’s awkward to invite dead people to the TIME 100 party–but the publisher isn’t letting us throw one, possibly because of postparty cleanup costs," Stein wrote.
"So our top influencer is Cecil, the African lion killed by that Minnesota dentist who prompted international outrage over big-game hunting and then a teeny bit of outrage over people making death threats against Minnesota dentists."