Yesterday the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe by a Minnesota dentist trophy hunter blew up on the Internet—with reason. The tactics used were cheap (baiting and luring), arrogant (although I like lists, I do not like lists like the trophy hunters' "Super Slam"), and expensive (the equivalent of four years' tuition at a pretty good college), and the result was the death of a beautiful, beloved, innocent animal.
But what good does moral outrage really do? Of course it's sickening what happened, but we can't get Cecil—or all the rhinoceroses, tigers, elephants, and other animals killed each year (each month) for their monetarily valuable "parts"—back.
Because of course, an even bigger problem than trophy hunting is poaching: killing for "aphrodisiacs," for illegal ivory, for whatever ridiculous "needs" we humans have.
As the Washington Post reported today, "As the world mourned Cecil the lion, five of Kenya's endangered elephants were slain."
It's abhorrent. But maybe Cecil's death will bring some awareness to this awful issue.
And yes, we can do something, beyond being morally outraged. At the passive end of the spectrum, we can sign online petitions, like one urging Delta Airlines to stop transporting exotic trophy animals.
If we love elephants, we can support 96elephants.org (so named because "96 elephants are killed in Africa every day"), which offers various avenues of action.
We can donate to conservation groups that are working to make a difference for all these animals. Even if we can't go out and stop the murders ourselves, we can contribute to a larger good that is trying to do so.
One Green Planet, and a useful list it posted a year ago: not all just your usual conservation suspects, but groups focused (at least as part of their mission) specifically on poaching.
- International Anti-Poaching Foundation ("Wildlife conservation through direct action")
- World Wildlife Fund ("Our mission is to conserve nature and reduce the most pressing threats to the diversity of life on Earth")
- Wildlife Conservation Society (responsible for restoring the American bison to the central plains, and since then tackling the world)
- Chengeta Wildlife (protecting wildlife, especially elephants, from poachers)
- WILD Foundation ("The heart of the global wilderness conservation movement")
- Humane Society of the United States
- Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ("Our mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species")
- Ol Pejeta Conservanc (East Africa's largest black rhino sanctuary, "supporting endangered species, tourism, and community outreach")
- Born Free USA & the Born Free Foundation ("Keep wildlife in the wild")
- Community Markets for Conservation (reframing poachers' perspectives)
If nothing else, I hope that Cecil has inspired at least some of the people who shouted moral outrage to act on their feelings.