To the American people and Dr. Walter James Palmer, My heart has truly been shattered in response to the murder of Cecil, Zimbabwe's famous lion. However, my heart hurts even more for our reactions to this event rather than the passing of one of Africa's great kings. I would like to take the time to demonstrate the deeper issues regarding these events in an explanation that incorporates with both common sense and science.
It is a known fact that lion populations (like tigers, leopards, and jaguars) have dropped drastically throughout the last fifty years due to human-wildlife conflicts, deforestation, genetic bottle necking, hunting, etc. For those of you that did not know, in 1975 there were an estimated 200,000 lions roaming Africa-now there are 25 to 30,000. Wild lion population declines can also be attributed to the international exotic pet trade, game meat consumption, entertainment (including cub petting and commercials), and let's not forget about canned hunts.
There is no historic justification to hunting other than survival during a time where dinner did not come from a box or was prepared on a shelf. Hunting comes from a history where human beings co-existed on this planet in a sustainable lifestyle. During my time spent with the Six Nations (Iroquois) in upstate New York, the elders still today educated their youth on the concepts of hunting and sustainability. If the deer population was low, hunting was limited so that repopulation could occur. Back then, people understood that resources necessary for our survival could not be hunted to extinction. Therefore, you cannot be contributing to conservation if you are hunting a threatened and declining species.
Currently, we have entered into the greatest extinction rate in Earth history - that's right, even more so than the dinosaurs. It is obvious that the indigenous worldview of securing the wellbeing of several generations to come is no longer in practice. Hunting is truly a sensitive, but simple issue. In many areas of the US, hunting white-tailed deer is a necessary conservation practice in order to maintain local populations. If deer populations continue to grow unchecked, they will decimate plant species populations. Now extinct species such as the North American lion, once helped maintain these populations by hunting them. This is the circle of life. Ironically, the deer no longer have enough natural predators and have relied on humans as predators for centuries. This is an example of hunting as a practice of conservation.
But how do we truly make of difference? How can we truly prevent lion population decline from occurring? Common sense tells us that Dr. Palmer's actions were cruel, wrong, inhumane, and immoral. These are the emotions that the general public have chosen to react with, and it is justified. Now let's take the scientific approach. A stimulus occurred (Cecil's story), emotions resulted, and these behavior was the result. Human beings have the gift of higher cognition, meaning we are the most intelligent animals on this planet and therefore are held to utmost responsible for our actions. This being said, let's mask our emotions and take a look at this event in history and I ask you, what are you doing now for the lions of Africa?
As my social media, television, and radio stations blows up with Cecil's story, I become more and more disappointed in mankind. Do not be mistaken, I cannot express my gratitude for the exponentially increasing awareness and publicity of this event. Cecil's death was literally the shot heard around the world in regards to hunting protected wildlife species. This era of social media and technological advances has one extremely large consequence: we have become radical instead of activists. An activist is one who acts. Some of you may be reading this saying "I signed the petition" or "I shared the post." So I ask you, what makes Cecil different from today, or tomorrow? Do we truly think that five, six, seven lions were not killed today? Do you really think that the petitions and rallying on social media is justice when the death count continues? And again, I ask you what are you doing for the lions of Africa?
At 26-years old, my peers and I are preparing to take up the seats that our elders now hold. With an exponential population growth, we have surpassed our planet's carrying as seen by the need to genetically enhance our foods, despite our ability to waste enough to create garbage patches in our largest oceans. We enter into a make or break time period where the future of this planet will be decided: can we coexist in a sustainable lifestyle or will we deplete this planet of all its resources? And so Generation Y is challenged with cleaning up the mess left behind due to the absence of one extremely important concept: responsibility.
It is no secret that the irresponsible behavior of our parents have led to the majority of our most pressing global environmental issues. This being said, the behaviors of the previous generation are not working and needs to change. But how to we create change? Change comes from the understanding of our higher cognition and need to act responsibly. Is focusing on the punishment of Dr. Palmer being responsible for the plight of lions in Africa? Is that making a difference today? Than why are we doing it? Why have I not seen one single news story or post that highlights the organizations working towards lion conservation? Is this responsible?
As activists, conservationists, animal lovers, and genuine good people, we all want peace and justice. Radical behaviors have resulted in our interpretation of justice as punishment for Dr. Palmer. How is this peaceful? How is this justice for the lion deaths of today? Has anyone considered the negative effects of such campaigning? The second quality that is absent is leadership. Do you really think that this radical behavior will help to change the minds of other hunters out there? When you went to college and it was still illegal to drink, and your parents said you're too young, did you not rebel and drink anyways? Did you not party the hardest during college? While we react to this event in radical behavior all we are successfully doing is turning off potential allies and making the resistance even stronger. There is no leadership here and it is counterproductive to our ultimate goal. And who do you think is truly suffering from this childish tantrum, Dr. Palmer? No. It is the lions in Africa hunted this very day that suffer.
To Dr. Palmer,
Your punishment has already been dealt. As a father you are a leader, a teacher, and a mentor. You have put your children in the crosshairs of bullying as the children of the lion murderer. You have failed to ensure Earth's pristine beautiful for seven generations of your blood line. You have increased the chances of your grandchildren never seeing lions in the wild, but behind the fencing of a zoo. You have demonstrated to your children poor morals and character that will continue to haunt you and them for the rest of your lives. If I were you, I would make it my goal in life to be the best, most responsible leader you can possibly be for the rest of your days. And, if you're smart, start contributing to a conservation fund of your choice. Hell, start a grant in the name of your children.
David Enden (a 26 year old big cat conservationist)
Justice is served. For us though, we have a lot to learn from this experience. We are wasting our time and resources with radical reactions towards this single event - time and resources that should be collaborative allocated towards action. To me it is both common sense and science that the actions resulting from this event should be a mass explosion in donations and solutions to protecting Africa's kings. This is responsibility, this is leadership, this is action, and this is change.
Now America, as we continue to have fingers pointed at us, and we point our fingers at Dr. Palmer, let's be responsible. Let's be leaders. So I challenge you to act. Don't share another post or sign another petition. Take that five minutes and donate a dollar to one of these organizations working towards lion conservation.