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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1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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