One year ago, this week, traditional news and social media went wild after the story of the killing of a lion in Africa. American hunter, Walter Palmer and his crew were said to have lured the lion out of its protected area so they could track and kill it “legally”. Blurring the lines between legal and illegal and sparking international outrage, the Cecil story has had one of the biggest responses to a wildlife incident in recent history.
The African lion is an endangered species, with populations dropping 40 percent over the last two decades and only an estimated 20,000 lions remain in the wild. However, in the last decade, at least 11,000 lions were reported as trophies in the hunting trade. With the declining number of animals remaining, combined with the legal hunting trade, and the possible increase of lion bones being used medicinally in Asia and Africa, animal welfare groups are rightfully concerned.
The solution, at least to some, doesn’t seem as simple as it may appear. According to the hunting associations, the hunts are actually beneficial to the conservation effort, with massive funds raised to have the opportunity for a legal kill. The hunts draw tourists to areas that are in decline, and give countries and parks the funds to help protect the species. Not everyone believes there is sufficient evidence to attest to the truth of the conservation argument, but for the hunters willing to shell tens of thousands of dollars for a kill, they believe they are promoting the good of the species.
So, what exactly has changed in the last year?
Trophy Hunting Laws Have Changed
Some countries, like Australia and France completely banned the import of lion trophies. The United States still allows lion trophies but has added regulations requiring that the hunt fees go to conservation efforts. There are other proposed regulations and protections that would restrict commercial trade of animal parts if they were to pass.
Airline Policies Changed
Even when a country legally allows the import of trophy lions, you still have to figure out how to get them home. And, that’s been made a little more difficult after 40 airlines announced bans on transporting big game animals.
We’re Still Learning about Trophy Hunting
We learned people will pay up to $70,000 to hunt lions in Africa. We learned that thousands of lions have been killed for sport in the last decade. We learned that the conservation argument really depends on how the hunts are regulated and in which countries they occur. The idea of hunting older animals, with strict quotas, may bolster funds in needed areas, but there is little evidence this is effective, especially in areas known for corruption.
Walter Palmer Continued His Dental Practice
Because he had proper documentation, the hunter was never charged with a crime. After taking several weeks off, he returned to his dental practice in the US.
Cecil’s Cubs are Fine
Although scientists feared the pride would be overthrown and killed, the pride has survived well under the protection of the other pride leader, Jericho.