The brutal killing of Cecil the Lion made headlines all over the world. Cecil’s death seemed to wake people up to a problem that didn’t begin on the 1st of July 2015.
The reality is that in large parts of Africa, far from being cherished as symbols of the continent’s great heritage and wildlife, lions are being killed in their thousands, often just to be displayed on the walls of wealthy hunters, mostly from the United States and Europe.
In 1980, there were more than 75,000 wild lions roaming the African continent, today it is estimated that fewer than 20,000 survive. In fact, lions are believed to have totally disappeared from 16 African countries where they once roamed.
While hunters and hunting organisations often claim that trophy hunting is actually needed for conservation purposes and is a vital part of the economy in the countries in which it takes place, benefits for local communities are often minimal at best, and this startling fall in the number of wild lions disproves the argument made by hunters that trophy hunting actually aids conservation. Furthermore, the canned hunting industry in South Africa, where the majority of lion trophies are exported from, has exponentially increased the number of lions killed each year whilst wild lion populations across Africa have continued to decrease. Despite this, it is still sadly legal in many countries.
Canned lion hunting, which accounts for a large majority of the lion trophies being exported out of Africa, sees “hunting tourists” travelling to South Africa every year to pay for the “privilege” of killing lions within an enclosed space—where the animals have no chance of survival. Many of these hunters are inexperienced and lack the skills to kill with their first shot, often leading to a long and painful death for their victim.
While it may seem like there is no hope, the death of Cecil the Lion in 2015 at the hands of an American hunter brought trophy hunting firmly into the public eye and led to widespread condemnation. Cecil’s death, together with the increased media exposure of canned lion hunting in South Africa, inspired a global movement.
In early 2016, FOUR PAWS marched to Downing Street alongside like-minded individuals and organisations calling upon the UK Government to ban lion trophy imports into the United Kingdom, something which has happened in several other European countries already. I was part of a delegation that delivered a letter to the then Prime Minister asking him to act before it was too late.
Now, in spite of the recent political uncertainty following the EU referendum in the UK, FOUR PAWS, and the powerful coalition of charities of which it is a part, continues to put pressure upon the UK government and EU environment ministers to vote for an end to the commercial trade in African lions. As such, the coalition has called upon those ministers and other officials to support the highest level of protection for lions at the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
Furthermore, our petition against canned lion hunting has reached nearly 300,000 signatures worldwide and was recently handed into the South African Government.
Add your voice to the petition here: www.cannedhunting.com
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brian da Cal is Country Manager at FOUR PAWS UK, an animal welfare organisation that strives for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. For several years, FOUR PAWS has been campaigning for a ban of canned lion hunting, a form of trophy hunting in which lions are bred in captivity and then shot in an enclosed space to ensure a guaranteed kill. Find out more: http://action.four-paws.org.uk/