Wildlife conservation and community volunteer projects and internships worldwide

Cecil the lion

Environment & Wildlife

Cecil the Lion and the Power of Activism

September 7th 2015

Tagged: Canned Hunting, Ethical Volunteering, South Africa

Everyone knows by now the story about the African lion, Cecil, who was hunted and killed by an American trophy hunter in the Zimbabwean Hwange National Park. The whole world turned their anger and outrage towards the American dentist, Walter Palmer, who had to flee his home and go in hiding. It is not the first time that the public has turned their anger towards game hunters. I recall the case with the 19-year old Texan, Kendall Jones, who received much attention last year for pictures next to the wild animals she had killed. However, I do not recall her actions suffering the same consequences as in the case with Palmer; so what was the difference? Essentially, it was because Cecil was an important lion and tourist attraction for Zimbabwe, and thus his loss to the national park has been felt. He was killed illegally and was not among the thousands of lions that one can experience in South Africa, which are bred to be killed by game hunters – and here lies the tragedy. So many lions are bred for the sole purpose of being “hunted” by wealthy trophy hunters, yet it is mainly when a well-known, and so to speak, important lion is killed that the world pays attention.

Fortunately, a new organisation has made it their mission to change the canned hunting industry. They recently launched their first documentary and exposé on the canned hunting industry in South Africa, named ‘Blood Lions’, lifting the curtain on what the canned hunting industry is actually about. The documentary is gradually making its way around the world, and has received much attention and applaud – so don’t miss your chance to see it, and follow them on Blood Lions to see when it will make it your way.

Fewer than 20,000 lions remain in the wild, which is a huge decline from the around 450,000 lions in 1940. Governments, hunters and even some ‘conservationists’ often use the reasoning that breeding lions for hunting is saving the wild lion population. I just wonder why anyone needs to hunt and kill lions in the first place. To me it is clear that trophy hunting is legal, because it is a money machine for governments and a small number of people owning these types of ranches. Little – if even any – of the money earned through canned hunting ever benefits conservation or the local populations. Actually, most research shows that wildlife is worth much more alive to the African economies than dead.

The dental office of Walter Palmer has returned to business, and he will likely never face any legal consequences for illegally killing Cecil in Zimbabwe. Despite of this, a new and larger movement has seen the light of day. One can only speculate why Cecil became THE case, which set the ground on fire and made the world open its eyes to this issue. However, I know that a large reason is due the people – like us – who every day makes an effort in trying to protect and conserve the wildlife we have left.

On social movements, journalist Alexander White recently wrote: “Whether the printing press, telegrams and telephones, handbills, fax machines or more recently text messages, email and Twitter […] Taking online action offline isn’t easy, but the entire reason for engaging with activism online is to work at having a real-world impact, even if only a small one.” A wildlife movement has most definitely been around for a while, yet trophy hunting has finally come to everyone’s attention. So let us honour the life and memory of Cecil by using the momentum his death has created. Clearly, the majority of people around the world are against the hunting of these magnificent animals, so let us keep the pressure on the people that can make the change. Support and join the local organisations, movements and projects that daily work to protect the world’s wildlife – become an advocate!

The Cecil campaign managed to have a great one, so join the herd!

By WorkingAbroad Blog Writer Charlotte Laursen

Photo from Wikimedia

To find out more about Canned Hunting, please visit our page on Ethical Volunteering with Wildlife page.

About the Author

WorkingAbroad Projects

Blog articles about our volunteer projects, the wider world and from volunteers in the field are shared here for everyone to get inspired and learn more about wildlife conservation topics, volunteering abroad and much more.