As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Some of us would rather dedicate our lives to being the voice of the voiceless; in this case a lion. I spend some of my days signing petitions, donating to organisations like The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Air Shepherd who are undertaking actions in geographical areas where I may never travel to.
I also spend time writing blogs, creating posters, and posting stories focused on animal rights issues to help raise awareness across social media. I’m sure my friends get tired of my posts some days. However, I find that it’s also important to use your “soapbox” wisely and spend less time criticising others for the attention they give to something they deem important to them. It take all kinds of people to make the world a better place.
By now I’m sure you’ve all heard the selfish and senseless killing of Zimbabwe’s (if not the world’s) most popular lion, Cecil at the hands of a dentist from Minnesota, U.S. of A. A dentist!! A man of science. An “educated” man. He paid the “grand” sum of $50,000 to kill an innocent animal who was one of the biggest attractions in wildlife reserves and worth millions to the local tourism industry. Ahh yes! A wildlife reserve was where Cecil and his pride spent their days hunting, raising their cubs, and fending off the challenge of other male lions who crossed his territory for a total of 13 years.
On July 1st, Cecil was slaughtered after being baited by Dentist Walter J. Palmer who claimed he had no idea the lion was collared and protected under law. A spotlight was turned on him and then Palmer fired a bow and arrow that initially injured the lion. After tracking Cecil for a total of 40 hours (almost two freakin’ days!), he was found and finally shot and killed with a rifle. Man is not and has never been “superior” to other animals, as that superiority is quickly diminished if we were weaponless and face-to-face with a lion. We were meant to be stewards of this planet.
Primatologist and quite possibly the world’s most famous Conservationist, Jane Goodall released a statement today on Cecil’s murder that read, “I was shocked and outraged to hear the story of Cecil, Zimbabwe’s much loved lion. Not only is it incomprehensible to me that anyone would want to kill an endangered animal (fewer than 20,000 wild lions in Africa today)…”. The entire world has come out in full support of Cecil and some, like Talk Show Host Jimmy Kimmel put into words what so many of us have been thinking. You can watch that video below.
“We were meant to be stewards of this planet.”
Cecil was being studied by the Oxford University who monitored his movements and activities with a GPS collar. Had he not been wearing that collar, no one would’ve found out who took his life and all in the name of what trophy hunters like to tag as “sport”. I watch sports all the time on TV, it never ends in a beheading and anyone getting skinned. To date, the authorities in Zimbabwe have only brought charges to two men involved in this incident, the safari operator and a local farmer. With the release of an arrow with the intent to kill, we were all denied the opportunity of being able to see this magnificent big cat in all his glory.
What some people fail to recognise is the grim reality that face endangered lions in Africa when it comes down to being driven to extinction be trophy and canned hunts, poaching, habitat fragmentation, and conflict with locals over livestock. As the estimates stand, there are 20,000 to 32,000 lions left throughout the continent. Cecil’s story will end with his cubs being killed or driven from the pride by the lion next in the hierarchy, Jericho. It’s the circle of life in the wild as Jericho will try to have the lionesses carry on his own bloodline. On the flip-side, with Cecil’s death and Jericho as the lone adult male lion in the pride, he could also be killed by another group of adult male lions who sense weakness. In that instance, both Cecil’s and Jericho’s cubs could be killed, further exacerbating the decline of these majestic big cats.
“Killing one dominant male lion is the equivalent of killing generations’ worth of lions. All three men deserve to go to prison for a very long time.”
To bring about real change in stopping trophy hunting will involve changing in laws, enforcement, mindsets, cultures and traditions, and creating real employment opportunities for poor families like those throughout African countries like Zimbabwe. Only when people have financial independence will they shift their thinking from surviving for the day to embracing long-term practices that promote sustainability. Governments will need to promote responsible tourism and prosecute those who continue to break their laws. It’s not too late to do all we can across social media and in our daily lives to help be leaders and revolutionaries. Every great movement started with ONE person who gave respect to ALL beings.