Cecil the Lion was illegally shot by an American hunter, but he’s not the only animal in danger from trophy-hunting tourism. (Photo: Andy Loveridge/Wildlife Conservation Research Unit via AP)
I admit it. When I read the account of Cecil the lion’s untimely and insidious demise, I wanted to find Walt Palmer, and those who enabled him, and scratch their eyes out.
I wanted to scream when I read that they had baited him so they could lure Cecil out of a protected reserve and on to private property where Palmer shot him with a bow and arrow. I wanted to cry when I thought of that magnificent creature wounded and in pain for 40 hours while the men tracked him down and gleefully ended his life with bullet.
Yet I am buoyed by the fact that people around the world have taken this tragedy to heart and have raised their collective hands in outrage. I empathize with the hateful feelings that are being flung at Palmer online and elsewhere, but I wish everyone would stop now and use all those powerful emotions for more a productive end.
You see Cecil isn’t alone. He’s just more famous.
Every day lions are killed in Africa. Lions that deserve our respect and protection. Poachers, conflicts with local villagers, canned hunting, and trophy hunters have helped bring the total population down to a mere 30,000. (According to National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative, in 1940 that number was over 450,000.)
So hate Walt Palmer for what he’s done if you must, but it’s over. Cecil is gone. Let’s focus on all the lions that need our help and maybe, in the end, Cecil’s death will have some meaning.
There are many ways you can help, including supporting the following organizations and World Lion Day, which returns for its third year on August 10. World Lion Day is the first global campaign to celebrate the importance of these cats worldwide, and its timing this year couldn’t be more perfect. You can get involved with efforts to save lions and other big cats via the following campaigns:
National Geographic’s #5forBigCats: Give $5. Save Big Cats.
“Lions and other big cats need a lot more than that if they’re going to avoid going extinct in the wild, but it’s easier than you think to help them out. Share the image below or your own high-five photo or video on social media and tag five friends with #5forBigCats. Then donate here (or in the U.S., text “FIVE” to 50555) to give $5 to National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative.”
Share this image to help raise awareness of National Geographic’s campaign to save lions and other big cats. (Photo: Beverly Joubert)
World Conservation Research Unit (The team that monitored Cecil)
At the WildCRU, in the Recanati-Kaplan Centre at Oxford, we are studying lions in various parts of Africa to uncover the science that will inform and underpin their conservation. This is urgent, because lion numbers are precariously low, estimated at fewer than 30,000 across the continent and we have evidence that there are actually fewer. We have worked on the lions of Hwange National Park, with the support and collaboration of the excellent Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. Our goal is to understand the threats that lions face, and to use cutting-edge science to underpin solutions to those threats. Donations can be made here.
Living with Lions
Living with Lions is a conservation research group of seven scientists and 34 Maasai warriors working in non-protected areas of Kenya to save the remaining wild lions and other predators outside National Parks. Make a donation here.
Panthera – Project Leonardo
Panthera has brought together the world’s leading wild cat experts to direct and implement effective conservation strategies for the world’s largest and most endangered cats: lions, cheetahs, leopards, tigers, jaguars and snow leopards. Their approach to wild cat conservation is rooted in science and based upon decades of first hand field experience. For African lions Panthera envisions populations recovering to more than 30,000 individuals across at least 20 key lion conservation landscapes. Panthera are leaders in range-wide program to protect critical habitats and core populations connected by genetic and biological corridors, mitigating the threats of habitat loss and conversion, human-lion conflict, bushmeat poaching and excessive trophy hunting. For more information and how to support Panthera visit www.panthera.org
Mara Naboisho Lion Project
Situated in the Mara Naboisho Conservancy of Kenya, the MNLP are undertaking vital research on the resident lion population in this joint conservancy. Kenya’s lions are dwindling by about 100 animals every year due primarily to human-lion conflict. The Mara Naboisho is focused on stakeholders and local communities working together to share benefits from nature based tourism which in turn contributes to wildlife conservation. Understanding and monitoring how these incentives are effecting the lion population is important for creating sound lion-conservation management plans. For more information and how to support this program visit www.mnlp.org.
The Masai Mara’s famous Scar. (Photo: Susan Portnoy/Insatiable Traveler)
Lion Guardians have a unique approach that relies on and preserves the cultural traditions of pastoralist communities while at the same time actively engaging warriors in protecting lions rather than killing them. Lion Guardians monitor lion movements, warn pastoralists when lions are in the area, recover lost livestock, reinforce protective fencing and intervene to stop lion hunting parties, resulting in reduced livestock and losses and therefore the need to retaliate. More than 40 warriors are employed as Lion Guardians covering over 4,000 square kilometers of key wildlife habitat in Kenya’s Amboseli ecosystem, as well as the Ruaha landscape of Tanzania. Lion killing in the Lion Guardians’ areas has been nearly eliminated and the Amboseli lion population is now growing, making this important ecosystem one of the few areas in Africa where lion numbers are on the rise. For more information and how to support this program visit www.lionguardians.org.
Ruaha Carnivore Project
The Ruaha Carnivore Project, part of Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), aims to help develop effective conservation strategies for large carnivores in Tanzania’s remote Ruaha landscape. The area supports around 10% of Africa’s lions making it an extremely important conservation area however the population has been understudied. The project is working to gather baseline data on population numbers and ecology whilst working alongside local communities to reduce human-carnivore conflict. For more information and how to support this program visit www.ruahacarnivoreproject.com and www.houstonzoo.org/lionssp/projects/ruaha-carnivore-project.
Two sweet females that were rolling with joy to be reunited after a long night (Photo: Susan Portnoy/Insatiable Traveler)
Desert Lion Conservation Project
Namibia supports a unique population of desert-adapted lions that survive in the harsh Namib Desert. The “Desert” lion is a prominent feature in Namibia and is highly valued, both aesthetically and financially, by the growing tourism industry. The Desert Lion Conservation project was started in 1998 with the aim to collect sound ecological data, address human-lion conflicts, and to develop a conservation strategy. Applied research and sound scientific data on lion movements and dispersal, and the ecological mechanisms that regulate the population are fundamental to this process. For more information and how to support this program visit www.desertlion.info and contact email@example.com
LionAid is a charity with a difference. Based in the UK, they are working to create much needed conservation awareness surrounding the lion. They are actively urging the UK government and EU to ban the importation of lion trophies in a bid to reduce lion trophy hunting in Africa. They have approached the IUCN imploring them to list those lion populations of west and central Africa as ‘regionally endangered’ and are also working to have the lion listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Species to bring about further recognition of the species and protection. For more information and how to support this program visit www.lionaid.org.
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