As 200 African lions face death by culling, where are the anguished cries from the Cecil the lion crowd who are largely responsible for the situation?
Everyone knows the story of last year's Cecil the lion drama. With a cast that included an old African lion with a cute name, a dentist (hereafter referred to as The Dentist, because the guy has been through enough), various supporting actors (guides, park officials, lawyers and so on), Cecil the lion was a headliner for months.
But the real star of the show was the mob of hundreds of thousands of keyboard warriors, millions even, who we might refer to as the "I Am Cecil" crowd. If we only had a dollar for every gross and pathetic cry of "Death to the Dentist!" or "Your spirit will always be with us Cecil!" uttered by the I Am Cecil crowd, we surely would have raised more funding for African wildlife conservation than all animal rights advocates put together have ever contributed to the cause.
The story of Cecil the lion showed us a few things:
One, that technology truly has made the 21st century into a global community. Hundreds of thousands of people were energized and latched onto a cause in the blink of an eye. They responded to the Cecil story almost as a single organism with their outrage and social media ranting. The force of their number influenced media coverage, government policy, corporate business and even the economies of some countries, unfortunately in a negative rather than positive way.
Two, knowledge, reason, intelligence, common sense, civilized behavior - all of those intellectual traits that allegedly separate humans from other creatures - are irrelevant, or at least subservient to how many people make decisions and invest themselves in issues. That is to say, they don't need to actually know anything substantive about an issue to rally behind it. They simply need to feel an emotion. Like the angry lynch mob in an old movie western, the ignorant rabble need only the force of their numbers to exact their misguided vengeance on whoever dares question with their rage.
Three, ignorant mob rule - and mob rule is almost always ignorant - often has consequences unforeseen by the mob and unwelcome by everyone involved. That has never been more glaringly evident than in the current revelation by the Bubye Valley Conservancy of Zimbabwe, the country of origin where Cecil the lion was killed, that they are on the verge of killing 200 lions in a mass culling project. The culling is the result of what the New Zealand Herald is calling "the Cecil effect".
In a nutshell, the Cecil effect describes situations like that in Zimbabwe, where the pressure and negativity that were heaped upon The Dentist has resulted in a significant reduction of hunters willing to face the abusive onslaught of the I Am Cecil crowd. There are other factors involved, such as airline bans on transporting African big game trophies, but they all come back to the activism of the I Am Cecil social justice warriors.
With dwindling hunter numbers so too follow dwindling hunter dollars, which are vital to funding wildlife conservation and management programs. Zimbabwe also responded to the pressure by enacting a somewhat confusing mix of enforced hunting bans followed by lifted bans in certain areas of the country.
The end result of all this is that there develops a shortage of conservation funds, which in turn results in a shortage of resources to effectively manage conservation programs. This weakened economic situation adversely affects wildlife, as well as local communities.
The loss in both funding and hunters to remove surplus animals leads to unchecked lion population growth. Those exploding populations ultimately decimate the herd animals that lion prey upon, until starvation and disease become the norm for the big cats. Incidents of poaching also increase as there are reduced funds with which to combat that ugly business.
The Dentist reportedly paid at least $50,000 for the chance to bag a lion in Zimbabwe. Apply that amount to the 200 lions on death row there. 200 lions at a minimum $50,000 per, equates to $10-million. That's a ten with six zeros. $10,000,000 that could fund African lion and wildlife conservation, help local communities, prevent poaching, and improve habitat. That's the kind of resources hunters bring into the equation. But to the I Am Cecil crowd, it is funding they reject as tainted and unworthy, to the detriment of 200 Zimbabwe lions and who knows how many more down the road.
All of this because anti-hunting, animal rights zealots want to preserve every single lion, and they are able to effectively put a stop to the very activity - hunting - that helps ensure that the species survives. They would save a Cecil but lose the entire species - or, in this specific instance, 200 other lions - in the process.
The almost certain killing of the 200 lions can be laid directly at the feet of every single person who used social media or any other outlet to call for an end to trophy hunting in Africa, screamed for the head (both literally and figuratively) of The Dentist, or supported boycotts for companies and airlines associated with African big game hunting safaris. The impending deaths of these 200 lions can be blamed directly on those keyboard activists and celebrities who were part of the Shame the Dentist/Shame Trophy Hunters crowd.
That means you, Ricky Gervais, along with all of the other Hollywood "heroes" who put their names to petitions, held signs reading "I am Cecil" or tweeted their outrage and sadness over a lion they hadn't even heard of until the day before, from a country they likely couldn't locate in the correct hemisphere. Gervais and his fellow tastemakers urged a vast army of useful idiots to accomplish precisely what they wanted to accomplish: A virtual ban on trophy hunting, and the resulting cessation of effective human management of wildlife.
Unfortunately, and predictably by those of us who understand how wildlife conservation actually works, their agenda has backfired in what Sporting Classics Daily has called "a bitterly ironic move" as "the country that banned lion hunting after 'Cecil' the lion's death may have to cull 200 surplus lions". SCD also correctly describes the culling as "a disservice to the country's economy, hunters, and the animals themselves".
During the height of the "Cecil the Lion" crusade, animal rights extremists arguably held the future of lions in their hands. Now, because of their misguided actions, we have this recent result of their agenda: 200 lions are soon to be killed, because they have to be killed, lest the entire lion population at Bubye Conservancy, as well as many other wildlife populations in the park, be in jeopardy.
The notion that nature can and will take care of itself is a truism that anti-hunting, anti-wildlife management advocates often declare. However, nature often chooses to take care of itself in ways that we may not feel happy about at all. Nature has used extinction as a management tool far more than humans have ever been responsible for. I doubt any of us would be okay with the extinction of lions.
The world waits to see what, if anything, animal rights activists will do to save the 200 lions on the cull list. After all, they're the ones responsible for this situation. They cried with holier-than-thou outrage and vengeance when they were on the Cecil bandwagon, ultimately receiving the retreat of the trophy hunters they incorrectly blamed for dwindling lion populations. Where are their cries of shame and contrition now?
Will they continue to push for human non-intervention in wildlife management, ultimately dooming the very wildlife they profess to want to save? Will they hold placards reading "I am Cecil" this time around as well?
Would it not be better for lions if they instead held signs that read "We were wrong". They may not like hunting, but the longterm health of wildlife demands it.
Read more about why and how trophy hunting is important to save Africa's endangered wildlife below.