Animal lovers are still reeling from the news that Cecil the lion was shot earlier this month, and many are scouring the net for ways to help the Zimbabwe park that he called home. The 13-year-old lion was a favorite at the Hwange National Park, until he was lured out and shot by big-game trophy hunters on July 1. The individual responsible has been identified as Walter Palmer, an American dentist who paid $55,000 to hunt the lion.
According to Palmer, he did not realize that Cecil was a local favorite, and he insists that, to his knowledge, all aspects of the hunt were perfectly legal. But according to local authorities, Cecil was allegedly lured out of the park at night, shot, and then tracked for 40 hours before finally being killed. Authorities say his GPS collar was then removed, as well as his head and skin.
Not only was Cecil protected and part of a study, but hunting park animals is also strictly prohibited. And the permits Palmer's obtained were sketchy at best. Although Palmer says he hasn't yet been contacted, Zimbabwe officials are investigating the man who led the hunt, as well as the individual who owned the land that Cecil was shot on.
For those who are against big-game hunting, news of Cecil's loss is heartbreaking. But none are affected by the death as much as the Hwange National Park, who not only lost one of their animals, but a sizable tourist draw. Cecil was extremely friendly and considered to have enjoyed human interaction. During park tours, he would often walk next to the cars and exhibit friendly behavior. In addition, Cecil had a large pride, with numerous lionesses and 24 cubs, all of whom will likely be killed when a new male takes over.
So how can you help the Hwange National Park, as well as get justice for Cecil? We've got a few ideas.
Sign A Petition
There are a few petitions circulating about Cecil, and one of them focuses on asking the Zimbabwe government to press charges against Palmer and his hunting companions. Another has an even higher goal, asking the Zimbabwe government to stop issuing hunting permits for endangered animals altogether. The latter petition has over 120,000 signatures from all over the world and is picking up steam rapidly.
Raise Awareness And Donate
While private hunting companies bring in big money, national parks in Zimbabwe are entirely self-sufficient, and have to rely on tourism to fund their research and conservation practices. Part of this funding used to come from big-game trophy hunters, but the government has currently placed bans on hunters taking their prizes home with them, which has put a hamper on that business. So the parks need a means of funding that doesn't come at the expense of the animals.
Though the Zimbabwe National Parks site doesn't appear to have a readily available "donate" section, I'm sure that a friendly email inquiring about how to earmark some money for local lions would receive a very warm response. If you want to take it a step further, be sure to check out the International Anti-Poaching Foundation, which works to raise awareness and enact legislature around illegal hunting and the slaughter of protected animals.
Hug Your Animal
Unfortunately, this won't do much to get justice for Cecil. But it will make you feel better, at least.