Follow the money as the airwaves are a buzz with the story of Cecil the Lion.
Google ‘Cecil the lion‘ and you’ll get over 18 million results!
With all the reactions online to this tragic event we decided to ask one of our volunteers to summarize what happened. Besides writing the following Sam’s emotional response is rather typical, “I feel so gutted about him”
With CNN interviewing trophy hunters and with them spouting all sorts of justifications about money going to conservation we must not lose sight of the real facts. After all, if they were really serious about donating to wildlife conservation, why don’t they simply donate the money? There truly is no sense in killing the biggest and the best from a long term preservation point of view.
The Story About Cecil the Lion
In July 2015, one of Zimbabwe’s most beloved lions, Cecil, was lured out of the game reserve where he was shot and wounded with an arrow from a crossbow. He was tracked and, approximately two days later, he was killed with a rifle. He was then skinned and his head was removed. When his headless skeleton was found by park investigators, his tracking collar was missing.
Since 2008, Cecil had been closely studied by researchers at the University of Oxford in order to research the decline in Africa’s lion population and to better understand the threats facing the lion. The university’s Wildlife Conservation Unit said that Cecil’s killing would likely have a domino effect as his adult brothers and cubs would probably be killed by other male lions seeking dominance in the community.
Unfortunately, Cecil is only one of the many lions who are hunted for trophies every day. The Born Free Foundation estimates that between 30% and 50% of Africa’s lion population has been wiped out over the course of the last two decades. In 2009, a study by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature estimated that trophy hunters kill around 600 lions a year. Given that there are only about 30,000 lions remaining, that’s 2% of the population. Imagine how we’d react if someone were killing 2% of the human population every year!
Last October, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to list the African lion as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, a move that would also establish guidelines for permitting the importing of lion trophies. To date, the proposal is still being considered, while lions are being killed by trophy hunters with enough money to pay the desperate Zimbabwean locals for guiding them to their prey.
In response, a group of Democratic senators have introduced legislation aimed at curbing trophy hunting. The Senate legislation would extend existing restrictions on the import and export of officially listed endangered species to animals that are being considered for inclusion under the Endangered Species Act–like lions. Fittingly, the legislation is called the Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large Animal Trophies Act – or the CECIL Act. After all, if we are trying to decide whether or not a species is endangered enough to be on the endangered species list, should we be killing more of them in the meantime?
In addition, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Delta, American, United, and other airlines have pledged not to carry big-game trophies on any of their flights.
That’s a start.
Many people have been outraged that people are so sad about a lion’s death when there are humans dying all around the world, some from warfare, others from starvation, some by being in the wrong place at the wrong time (not unlike Cecil). Humans are complex creatures. We can mourn both the starving children and the killing of an endangered lion simultaneously, and we should. After all, as Mahatma Ghandi famously said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by how its animals are treated.”
Cecil’s killing is certainly not the first time an African lion has died for “sport.” But the global outrage it has generated shows how increasing sensitivities about wild animals, the growing menace of poaching and international trade in animal parts, and social media have intersected to create an international cause for action.
It’s about time.
Contributed by Nikela Volunteer Sam Ruckman
Quite possibly some of the last footage taken of Cecil the lion alive. Thanks Pamela Robbinson for sharing it on YouTube.
Helping out is easy
100% of your charitable donation goes to help save wild lions