One More Article About Cecil the Lion…or, Why Conservation Matters.

Cecil the lion at Hwange National Park in 2010. Flickr.
Taken by “Daughter#3 “
CC BY-SA 2.0)

There has been much said about the tragic fate of the lion Cecil, killed recently by an American dentist. There has been public outrage on social media and calls for the dentist/hunter to be extradited. There have been numerous discussions likening the killing to factory farming, eating meat, the #blacklivesmatter movement, and several others. There have been articles asking why those angry about Cecil aren’t angry about these other issues, as though people are only capable of being upset about one topic at a time.

But I have not seen a great abundance of questioning or discussion as to how Cecil’s death is a symptom of the ongoing troubles animal conservation face. This is strange to me, because conservation is the core of the issue, and yet it’s the topic being brought up the least.

There are a few articles and a few bits of discussion being brought up as to current state of endangered-species conservation. But I had to seek these out, and they were not nearly as prominent as the generalized outrage, death threats, and finger pointing of hypocrisy and the rebuttal. While I can understand some of these reactions, they don’t result in anything more than people being angry.

It’s easy to be outraged, it’s harder to effect change.
Let’s talk about how we can prevent a similar tragedy from happening again. Let’s talk about the importance of conservation and education. Let’s talk about real solutions that help both the animals and humans.

Cecil’s story is unfortunately not unique. He’s getting a lot of attention because he was a well-known and particularly charismatic creature. Meanwhile, every other day of the year, conservationist organizations have to beg and plead to get people to care about and act on the multiple threats that all endangered species face.
This is not to say that people shouldn’t be upset about Cecil’s fate, nor that they shouldn’t speak about it.

But while the outrage is understandable, the outrage comes too late. Cecil’s death could have been prevented.

Cecil was kept on Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. The park is protected land, and Cecil also had a tracking collar. It’s speculated the hunter and his guides lured the lion away from the protected land with bait. National parks use park rangers to patrol the parks, prevent and protect against poachers. The National Park relies on the Government, local tourism and assistance from Conservation organizations for funding, and Government funding has been scarce as the country is dealing with a number of troubles. National Parks, not just in Africa but around the world, including the U.S., often suffer from lack of funding. The immediate needs of the parks come first, so hiring tends to get put the bottom of this list. So would this have happened has the park been able to employ more rangers and protection for the animals? Possibly not.
It’s not as though the need for funding, outreach, and education on these matters is new. I see daily calls for funding, legal action, and improved public education and outreach on conservation websites and forums.
So it is all the more frustrating, from a conservationist’s point of view, to see such rapid, vehement response to one death in particular, when there are hundreds of similar deaths due to illegal sport hunting and poaching around the globe every day. Deaths that might have been prevented if people participated more actively in conservation efforts.
But frustration, much like rage, in itself doesn’t amount to much.
So to make better use of my frustrated energy, I say this: if Cecil’s death bothered you, channel that anger and energy into avenues that promote the change that is needed to prevent more unnecessary deaths.

Legal action is one of the best ways we can protect endangered species. Read up on the efforts and needs of organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund, Defenders of Wildlife, the Wildlife Conservation Society, or the African Wildlife Society.

If you want to do something to help lions specifically, look into the efforts of the Lion Guardians, Panthera: Project Leonardo, or the Ruaha Carnivore Project. There is also the African Parks organization, a non-profit responsible for the rehabilitation and long-term management of African national parks. (Links provided at bottom of post.)

Read about what they’re doing, and how they need support. Sometimes, the best thing that can be done is to write a letter to a senator or legislator. Be knowledgeable and up to date on current efforts and issues. Knowledge is power and all that. 😉
If you can, donate. So many others need protection. Help prevent Cecil’s death from being a complete loss. Direct the energy of your anger to more effective measures to prevent future losses.

World Wildlife Fund:

Defenders of Wildlife:

Wildlife Conservation Society:

African Wildlife Society:

Lion Guardians:

Panthera: Project Leonardo:

Ruaha Carnivore Project:

African Parks: