Cecil: our thoughts, our beliefs, our hopes

Cecil via WildCRUTrophy hunting, modern conservation, compassion, and the very future of advocacy have all been in the spotlight this week, following the now infamous slaughter of Cecil the lion.

Cecil was one of the protected lions of the Zimbabwe park system, made famous by the scientists tracking him at Oxford’s WildCRU. But a guide, a landowner and an American trophy hunter ended the majestic cat’s life early last week – sending the world into debate and dissent on every issue related to the environment and wildlife advocacy imaginable.

Many critics – primarily those who support trophy hunting – have noted that Cecil’s single life is not worth the noise generated over his death, and that the money brought into the community by the trophy hunter is of greater value.

But what has inspired – and upset – so many is that Cecil was more than a lion. He was a symbol of the freedom and strength of the vital predators of ecosystems. He was a symbol of hope for a future where we respect and cherish our wild neighbours. He was representative of the greatness we all hope to find in ourselves. And suddenly, that was taken away from us all.

A lot of people have struggled with this loss – even though we didn’t know Cecil, we knew who he was and what he meant. We’ve encouraged many of our supporters to listen to Dr. Heidi Perryman’s extensive interview on Defender Radio, in which she discussed the struggles advocates face – and how many of them can be managed.

Listen to Episode 145: The Emotional Lives of Advocates

Others have asked what can be done, now that Cecil is gone. And the answer is a lot bigger than you may initially expect.

Internationally

  • You can donate directly to WildCRU, the research organization out of Oxford University that was following the lives of Cecil and his pride. Visit their website to find out more.
  • You can thank major US airlines for creating new policies that ban the transport of wildlife trophies, such as Delta, United and American – and ask others to follow suit.
  • Learn more about organizations like Panthera, who are doing research to protect big cats species around the world – and right here at home (hear from them on this week’s Defender Radio podcast).

Nationally

  • Write a letter to your Member of Parliament to tell them you oppose trophy hunting (and trapping) and that wildlife-related issues will be important to you at the polls this fall.
  • Investigate organizations who claim to be conservation-based to find out if they support hunting and trapping – and let them know what conservation means to you.
  • Become a member of The Fur-Bearers and help us speak for the animals and provide real, long-term solutions to end conflict and the use of traps in our communities.

Locally

  • Work with your local conservation authority or naturalists’ group to protect local species at risk.
  • Volunteer with your local SPCA or Humane Society – little cats need help, too.
  • Host a fundraiser for your favourite wildlife-related non-profit with a viewing party of your favourite animal movie/documentary, potluck dinner, or any other idea that brings people together.

We will always remember Cecil, and we will always mourn his loss. But we will do so by making the world a better place for his brethren in ecosystems faraway and right at home. Thank you, Cecil, for all you brought us. We hope we can live up to it all.

Photo via WildCRU


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