Cecil the lion's violent death earlier this month has ignited a storm of protests, petitions and public outrage. But perhaps the most important thing it's done is start a conversation about the role that we as humans should play in our environment.
Here are some of the most important lessons to be learned from the folks who devote their lives to the preservation of nature. Their words show us that it's time to rethink the way we view the hunters and the hunted.
1. Hunting culture needs to change.
"As troubling as it is, the rarer these trophy hunted animals become, the more hunters are willing to pay to kill them. So long as a value continues to be placed on these animals, where they are worth more dead than alive, the future of majestic creatures like elephants, lions, tigers and rhinos will remain in grave jeopardy," Jeff Flocken, Director for the International Fund For Animal Welfare, said in a statement.
2. One hunt can threaten multiple generations of animals.
"By targeting the biggest and best animals, trophy hunters do damage to populations and gene pools that is far greater than the loss of a single individual. The adult male lions targeted by trophy hunters are key individuals that otherwise would live long, full lives, protecting their mates and cubs and contributing their genes to future generations," Paula Kahumbu, CEO of Wildlife Direct, and environmental reporter Andrew Halliday write for The Guardian.
3. African ecosystems are in grave danger.
"Here's the scoop about lions. They're in a lot more trouble than people think they are. To know that something as powerful and as symbolic as Cecil can die so tragically, it just shows what a slippery slope we're on when it comes to protecting the rest of Africa's amazing species of wildlife," biologist and TV personality Jeff Corwin tells NBC.
4. There is something to be learned by Cecil's death.
"The number of lions in Africa may now be as few as 25,000 – down by 50% in the last thirty years. Cecil's tragic and meaningless destruction may just be the catalyst we need to take action to end lion trophy hunting and, instead, devote all our energies to conserving a species which, perhaps more than any other, represents the wild soul of Africa,” Born Free President Will Travers said in a statement.
5. It's time to make tangible changes.
"There is no doubt at all in my mind that Africa without hunting will be better off, and that the US Fish and Wildlife and State Department should sign into law a ban on all importation of big cat trophies and lions should be given full protection under the CITES listings," says Dereck Joubert, National Geographic filmmaker and explorer-in-residence.
This clip from The Last Lions, a 2011 nature documentary Dereck filmed with his wife Beverly, gives a glimpse at the next generation of lions that are at risk if illegal poaching continues.
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