By now I’m sure you’ve heard the outcry over the killing of beloved African lion, Cecil by Dr. Walter J. Palmer. (If not catch up here)
Gruesome, tragic, unethical, haunting. There doesn’t seem to be enough words in the English dictionary to truly capture the circumstances surrounding Cecil’s death. What happened to that poor majestic creature, you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy (well some are wishing it upon Palmer).
Unfortunately, while digging through the internet to get the best facts for this post, I came across an image of what Cecil’s body would have looked like beheaded and skinned. Whether it was actually Cecil is debatable, but that’s truly beside the point. It’s one thing to read the words, but it’s another entirely to see it in front of you (I will not link to it. You can’t unsee that).
After that I couldn’t keep working. I needed a break. I needed some air. I just can’t imagine what the rangers who actually found the body must have felt - devastation, grief, the need to vomit. I felt all of those things just sitting on the opposite side of a computer screen.
I grew up on The Lion King. In fact, my cat is named Simba (above). Reading this news was like smacking my childhood in the face. All of a sudden, I was 6 again watching Mufasa die, except this time I couldn’t get Mom to fast-forward.
From news outlets, to social media, to Jimmy Kimmel, the world was consumed by this disturbing loss (and it truly was disturbing), but the underlying fact of the matter is, this sort of thing happens all the time. While the details are unique, the death of an animal in danger of extinction is not.
In fact, while the world reeled over the loss of Cecil, five of Kenya’s endangered elephants were poached in Tsavo West National Park for their ivory tusks, reported The Washington Post. The article goes on to cite another incident in Congo earlier this year, where thirty elephants were killed in the span of 15 days. Thirty!
Also, we can’t overlook the eerie similarities that Cecil’s story has to another trophy hunting story that broke about this same time last year. I’m referring to Kendall Jones, the young Texas cheerleader who posted pictures of herself on social media, boldly smiling next to the bodies of the rare animals she shot down including a lion, an elephant, and a rhino.
As with many trophy hunters (such as Teddy Roosevelt actually), Kendall claims she is a conservationist, that her hunting helps raise money for the local community, creates jobs, helps local conservation efforts, and that it keeps populations in check. Apparently, this isn’t a completely asinine argument (although it seems like it), because both the World Wildlife Federation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service support regulated trophy hunting, saying that it can “strongly contribute to the enhancement of the survival of the species”. But even with those big names backing up that statement, I can’t help but question there must be a better way.
Trophy hunters are willing to pay top dollar for their experiences, right? So, if these poor countries and the local conservation foundations can get that money elsewhere then they wouldn’t need to turn to such extremes.
That’s where the National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative & the International Anti-Poaching Foundation come in.
Fortunately, my employer, The Mountain, agreed with me. This was terrible, and we needed to help. The Mountain has always had environmental conservation at its core, but over the last year or so, they’ve been contributing more and more to causes with animals in mind. A portion of proceeds from The Smithsonian Collection goes to their educational mission for “the increase and diffusion of knowledge”, which includes the work of the National Zoological Park, and a portion of proceeds from the Russo Rescue Collection goes to Best Friends Animal Society to help homeless pets.
Today, The Mountain will donate $500 to both National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative and the International Anti-Poaching Foundation. Cecil’s death was horrific, but it shed light on issues that had been put on the media back-burner for awhile. Big cats are in danger every day from being wiped off this planet. We don't want to see that happen, which is why we chose to donate to a cause that puts their conservation first. Cecil's death will not be in vain if we all can come together and learn from it.
Poaching doesn't just affect lions though. This incident is part of a greater affliction, and we couldn't just treat a symptom while ignoring the sickness. That's why we also donated to IAPF, who focuses on preventing poachers from targeting high risk endangered species.
In addition to the initial $500 we’re asking our followers on social media to also engage in the conservation conversation by spreading knowledge and sharing our post.
For every like/share/retweet of our post on Facebook or Twitter, we’ll donate another $.25 up to $1000 to National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative and the International Anti-Poaching Foundation.*
We want #JusticeForCecil and justice for all other endangered species, so future children will have a chance to see their very own Lion King one day.
Keep on the look out for more conservation efforts from The Mountain. It wont stop here.
*As of 8/10 we will be donating $.50 per like/share/retweet in honor of World Lion Day and World Elephant Day
AND if you're really on board, you can actually join The Green Army, the International Anti-Poaching Foundations Direct Action group on the frontline of conservation.