David Suzuki: Cecil the Lion’s Killing Shines Spotlight on Barbaric Trophy Hunting
A beloved animal, tagged for tracking by researchers, crosses the invisible boundary between protected and unprotected area and is killed by a hunter who has paid tens of thousands of dollars for the “experience.” That was the fate of Zimbabwe’s Cecil the lion, whose killing sparked torrents of online and on-air outrage. But it also happens around the world every day, including in my home province of BC.
— Nat Geo WILD (@natgeowild) August 4, 2015
Many people are familiar with Cecil’s story. Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer and his guides, hunting at night with spotlights, are alleged to have tied a dead animal to their car near Hwange National Park to lure the lion. According to reports, Palmer wounded Cecil with an arrow, then tracked and shot the animal with a rifle 40 hours later. The lion’s body was found on the park’s outskirts, skinned and headless, along with the tracking collar.
Killing animals solely for “sport” or “trophies” is an ongoing and worldwide practice and something Palmer had engaged in many times and in many places, including Canada. He was even convicted of charges related to an illegal bear kill in 2008.
Closer to home, a grizzly that was tagged for research in Banff National Park had the misfortune to cross from Alberta, where grizzly hunting is illegal, into BC, where it isn’t and was legally shot and killed. On the BC coast, people were outraged when a photo surfaced of NHL player Clayton Stoner with a grizzly he shot in the Great Bear Rainforest. Coastal First Nations have banned trophy hunting there, but the government doesn’t recognize the ban. The bear, named Cheeky by local residents, was skinned and had his head and paws cut off, with the rest of the carcass left to rot. Reports have also surfaced that the winner of the Guide Outfitters Association of BC’s highest award in 2015 was convicted of illegal grizzly baiting in 2012.
Even though many grizzly populations are vulnerable and close to 90 percent of British Columbians, including many food hunters, oppose trophy hunting, BC’s government refuses to end the hunt, even in parks and areas where First Nations have banned the practice. Conservationists and other experts have challenged government population estimates, claiming they’re based on guesswork and that the real number is likely less than half the 15,000 on which the government justifies the hunt.
Large carnivores like lions, grizzlies and leopards that are targeted by big-game hunters are extremely vulnerable despite their size and ferocity. They range over large areas, which often puts them in conflict with humans and our infrastructure. Parks and protected areas are too small to provide adequate habitat, so bears often wander into areas where they can be killed by hunters or vehicles. They also reproduce later in life, infrequently and their young often have low survival rates, so populations don't recover quickly when over hunted.
Large carnivores are also keystone species that play a crucial role in the food web by helping to regulate prey populations. BC grizzlies also contribute to rainforest growth by dragging salmon carcasses into the woods, where the fish remains and bear scat provide fertilizer. In BC, trophy hunters have slaughtered more than 12,000 grizzlies over the past three decades. Like Palmer, non-resident hunters here pay large amounts of money to “bag” a grizzly because the species is protected in their home country, such as the U.S., or because populations have dwindled to a handful, as in Western Europe, where the species is now protected.
Killing animals purely for the “thrill” is barbaric and wasteful and can’t be justified on economic or conservation grounds. Studies show more money can be made from people who want to view and photograph them. Research also shows very little money paid by trophy hunters benefits the local economy.
We’re at a critical moment in human history: our population, technology, consumptive demand and global economy are overwhelming the planet’s life-support systems—air, water, soil and other species. We’re in a global eco-crisis that demands a redefinition of our relationship with plants and other animals.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
Green groups applauded Sen. Jeff Merkley on Wednesday for introducing a pioneering pair of bills that aim to "protect the long-term health and well-being of the American people and their economy from the catastrophic effects of climate chaos" by preventing banks and international financial institutions from financing fossil fuels.