By: Susan Portnoy
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 on this press release or your own high-five photo or video on social media and tag five friends with #5forBigCats. Then donate here:https://donate.nationalgeographic.org/5forbigcats (or in the U.S., text “FIVE” to 50555) to give $5 to National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative.”