After Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer shot and killed Cecil the lion, a tourist favorite who was being tracked as part of conservation research in Zimbabwe, outrage erupted over Americans' trophy hunting of endangered species. But the unfortunate truth is that this isn't a new occurrence. Several American tourists have hit the headlines for trophy hunting throughout the last year, and this incident has only caused uproar because Cecil was a particularly well-known lion. If we actually want to end trophy hunting for sport and bragging rights, then we need to be consistent with our outrage, and help causes that actually support wildlife conservation.
Some big-game hunters claim that their hunts support local conservation efforts because they're paying a ton of money for the hunt. For example, Palmer paid at least $50,000 to two local guides to hunt Cecil, according to CNN. Palmer didn't claim that this money was supposed to go back to local communities, but some big-game hunting organizations do say this, with little to no proof of the "good" the money does for conservation.
Further, other trophy hunters, like Texas cheerleader Kendall Jones, claim that they're doing local communities some good by controlling leopard populations that destroy the local villages' cattle. This seems like a decent idea in theory, but there are also photos of Jones with dead elephants, zebras, and lions, which often only live in protected parks and don't kill cattle very often. Rather than be fooled by any of these ridiculous claims to conservation, you could support actual conservation organizations that are doing research or using money to maintain national parks. Here are four great ways to support wildlife conservation in Cecil's name that don't include trophy hunting.
Supporting wildlife doesn't have to be all money and no fun. If you're looking for an exotic and ethical vacation, book a conservation safari. There are a number of organizations, such as the Safari and Conservation Company, that employ locals, support the blind and disabled, care for the sick, and help protect against poaching.
Volunteer At A National Park
If you want to get your hands dirty, then check out organizations like Wildlife ACT, which employ volunteers in the Seychelles, South Africa, and Malawi, and is supported by the World Wildlife Foundation. The trips are relatively inexpensive compared to the price of a safari, and you get real, hands-on experience with wildlife and wildlife experts. If you want to do something to honor Cecil and lions, generally, then check out National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative or Panthera's Project Leonardo. If you're someone who likes to see your impact, then this is a great option.
Support The International Fund For Animal Welfare
The IFAW works to protect threatened and endangered species in 40 countries, according to Tree Hugger. Right now, they're working to push the U.S. government to list African lions as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. This would have a big impact on trophy hunting for them and hunters' abilities to bring home their heads or skins. LionAid is another organization that is urging both the U.K. government and the EU to ban the import of lion trophies in an effort to stop big-game trophy hunting.
Buy A Quirky Sloth T-Shirt Or An Eco-Friendly Watch
If you're a shopper, then you can support wildlife conservation by purchasing something cute from the World Wildlife Foundation. They have tote bags with cute animals on them, teacups, animal-themed Jenga, pajama pants, and scarves. Who wouldn't want a sloth T-shirt?
Images: Getty Images (4); World Wildlife Foundation