Ever since trophy hunter Walter Palmer killed Zimbabwe's Cecil the lion, people around the globe have virtually attacked the American dentist, with social media users flooding his Yelp and Facebook pages with angry reviews and PETA going so far as to call for his death. But as understandable as the public fury around the animal's death has been, Cecil is one lion and Palmer is one hunter, and neither of them have existed in a vacuum. This is symptomatic of a larger system that allows trophy hunting to continue, and as a result, Cecil the lion's death needs to change hunting policies in order to prevent future incidents like this.
Conservationists have long been calling for the U.S. government to ban imports of animals killed as a result of trophy hunting, with numerous animal advocacy organizations petitioning the Fish and Wildlife Service to add the African lion to its list of endangered and threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act. Although the African lion is globally recognized as vulnerable and has been experiencing a steady population decline, it is still legal to import lion trophies into America because the USFWS does not yet recognize the species as threatened. But many politicians, foundations, and corporations have been stepping up to the plate and making important changes in the aftermath of Cecil's death to combat the severe consequences of trophy hunting; here are just a few.
1. Delta Airlines Bans Animal Trophy Shipments
On Monday, Delta Airlines announced that it would "ban shipment of all lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo trophies worldwide as freight." In a statement on its website, Delta explained that prior to this ban, it had been strictly complying with government regulations on protected species, and that from this point on, it will "review acceptance policies of other hunting trophies" to possibly expand its list of now banned trophy animals.
2. Four Democratic Senators To Propose CECIL Act
On Friday, Democratic Sens. Bob Menendez, Cory Booker, Richard Blumenthal, and Ben Cardin announced they will introduce a bill in Cecil's name — the Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large (CECIL) Animal Trophies Act — "to amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to extend the import- and export-related provision of that Act to species proposed for listing as threatened or endangered under that Act." As it stands now, the USFWS often takes a year or more to finalize a species' status, and while the agency proposed last fall that African lions be added to its list of threatened or endangered species, this has not yet been implemented, which means the importation of African lion trophies is still legal. In a statement, Menendez expressed the necessity of such an amendment to the Endangered Species Act.
Cecil's death was a preventable tragedy that highlights the need to extend the protections of the Endangered Species Act. When we have enough concern about the future of a species to propose it for listing, we should not be killing it for sport.
3. Born Free USA Joins Coalition To Petition USFWS
Animal advocacy nonprofit Born Free USA released a statement in the aftermath of Cecil's death that urged people to write to the USFWS, asking the agency to finalize the African lion's designation as "threatened." Born Free's statement explicitly condemned trophy hunting, explaining that trophy import restrictions are vital because "hunters willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a lion or other large game hunt may be more reluctant in the future if they are unable to take the 'trophies' home."
Evidently, there are more productive calls for change other than demanding that Palmer be killed. In tackling the problem of trophy hunting, it is necessary to attack the root of the problem — the policies in place that allow it to continue — and not just individual symptoms.
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