Like the rest of the sane world, I was sad and angry to hear about the death of Cecil the Lion, an iconic male cat living in the Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. Cecil was shot by trophy hunter Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minneapolis who paid $50,000 for the privilege, a sum which undoubtedly could have saved a lot of aggro and just paid for penis enlargement. Canned hunting itself is a tragic hobby where wealthy white men pay gamekeepers to bring an animal into range while they lay poised with a rifle. A hearty challenge for all brave hunters, undoubtedly, yet Cecil’s kill was particularly well-deserved.
As he was in a protected national park, he was legally unable to be killed for conservation purposes (spoil sports). Palmer and his assistant therefore tied a hunk of meat to their vehicle and lured Cecil to an area half a kilometre away from the park boundary, before shooting him with a bow and arrow (romantic). Alas, the shot was not sharp and it took a further forty hours for Cecil to die, wandering wounded across the plains before Palmer’s gang tracked him down and shot him dead with a gun. He was then skinned and beheaded, his remains abandoned on the park border.
I’m not going to waste space talking about how abhorrent this man is (who has previous convictions of illegal hunting), plus hundreds of others like him and the entire industry of canned hunting. While many argue it funds conservation efforts and helps overpopulated parks, the fact is that lions are classed as IUCN ‘Vulnerable’, their numbers decreased by 50% over the last thirty years. Why have we reached the point where we are culling wild lions and elephants in national parks, but populations are diminishing throughout the rest of Africa?
It’s a relief to see how much anger this killing has generated across social media; it shows that people care about our wild creatures, and do not believe the plebs and the wealthy should follow different rules. However, writing a Facebook status or smashing out an angry tweet is fairly pointless. Yes, it’s important for this story to spread across the globe and get people’s attention, but when the initial wrath it stirs has died down – what then? Many people will forget the story, their newsfeeds taken over by a new calamity that deserves another 140 characters of fury.
If you care about the death of this lion and you want to stop it from happening again, there’s something much more productive you can do. I’m a member of the Born Free Foundation, a fantastic organisation dedicated to protecting wildlife in their natural habitats. Yesterday they released this update on Cecil’s killing, and what they are trying to do about it. They have been campaigning to list the African lion as ‘Endangered’ under the US Endangered Species Act, which would stop trophy hunters like Walter Palmer bringing his carcasses back home, and would hopefully discourage them from doing it. Why hunt a lion if you can’t snigger at it with your chums over a cigar?
So what can we do?
1. The US branch of Born Free are urging people to write to the US Fish and Wildlife Service to list the lion as endangered and stop all trophy imports.
2. You can also donate to their Big Cat campaign here, which will directly help towards cage rescues, sanctuary upkeep, major conservation projects and fighting trophy hunting.
4. Know your facts so you can fight ignorance with knowledge. This report shows that trophy hunting makes a minimal contribution to national incomes, reinforcing the call for photographic safaris and ecotourism that make a greater contribution to the African economy without killing lions.
If everybody channeled as much energy into charities as they did social media, we wouldn’t need to worry about millionaires and corrupt authorities destroying our precious wildlife. Please take action & let’s hope Cecil’s death won’t be in vain.