Unless you’ve been living under a log or have recently emerged from an extended stay in the backcountry, you’ve probably heard about Cecil the Lion. For those of you who don’t know the story, it goes like this: A dentist from Minnesota with a penchant for killing enormous animals that he has no interesting in eating flew to Zimbabwe, hired some guides, lured a lion out of a protected area, and shot it with a bow. The lion hung on for another 40 hours until it was killed with a shotgun.
That sounds pretty awful, right? It sounds even more awful when you learn that this wasn’t just any lion, but Cecil, a beloved resident of Hwange National Park and long-time study subject of researchers at Oxford University. Basically, this dentist tangled with a feline celebrity.
I am fairly pro-hunting. I am not a hunter but I am also not a vegetarian. I think that responsible hunting in accordance with the law is probably the best way for humans to get the meat that they love to eat, myself included. I get that sometimes animal populations have to be thinned for ecological reasons. I understand that sometimes an individual has to be culled because of it’s threat to humans (as unfair as that seems). This was none of those situations.
Hunting an animal that you’ll never eat just so you can pose with it’s carcass and hang it’s skin on your wall? It’s atrocious. And the smug grin on your face in the picture of you with the beautiful animal that you slaughtered for fun? It makes you look like an jerk. A big, dumb, wealthy jerk. And it’s not like this is the first trophy hunt that this guy has been on. He’s also shot a rhino and a leopard, among more traditional big game. The pictures of his kills are all over the internet. The dentist claims to not have known that the lion he shot was Cecil but, in all honesty, I’m not sure that I care. This kind of hunting is disgusting. Period.
Proponents of trophy hunts will argue that they bring valuable dollars into Africa, helping the economy and boosting local conservation efforts. In many cases, animals like lions are actually bred specifically to be hunted. The dollars earned from these so-called “canned” hunts are supposed to go to protecting the wildlife that is actually wild. There may be some truth to this but I can’t get around the idea that there is something very wrong with killing a large animal for the pure pleasure of it. Let’s not pretend that the people who are spending $50,000 (or more) to shoot a large carnivore are doing it out of the kindness of their hearts and their interest in conservation.
I will climb down from my soapbox now and tell you that the good news, if there is any, is that there are things you can do to make this situation better. It may be too late for Cecil, but maybe his death can help prevent other lions (and other critters) from being killed for the sole purpose of finding their way onto someone’s wall. Let’s put all this outrage to good use and do something about this situation.
Here’s what you can do:
Donate to WildCRU: The Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University that had been studying Cecil since 2008. The folks at WildCRU are working hard to promote conservation of lions all across Africa and, as you can imagine, their mission is not cheap. Your donation to WildCRU will help them do this important work that will help protect more lions in the future.
Write to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Lion populations in Africa may be dangerously low, but the United States government does not recognize lions as a threatened or endangered species. If lions were to be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. would ban the import of pelts from trophy hunts, diminishing people’s interests in these types of hunts.
Donate to the African Wildlife Foundation: Lions aren’t the only animals that suffer from both the legal and illegal killing of wildlife in Africa. Rhinos, elephants, and other animals are also susceptible to poaching by various people for various reasons. The AWF works hard to stop the illegal poaching of all of these animals.
A lot of people are outraged about Cecil’s death but outrage without action is useless. If you are angry about what happened, please consider doing something about it.
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