We may not have been able to save Cecil the lion from Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist, who hunted him down for a trophy, but that doesn't mean we can't do more to protect wildlife here at home.
The US is home to a variety of iconic native carnivores such as grizzly and black bears, wolves and our own American lion: the cougar. Not unlike Zimbabwe, state and federal officials in the US have failed to adequately protect these top carnivores from extreme persecution, and too often, trophy hunters who poach receive only light sentences. Just three years ago, Yellowstone's most famous wolf, 832F, the alpha female of the Lamar pack, was killed just outside of the Park's protective boundaries. Biologists who studied her said she spent 95 percent of her time in the park, suggesting that like Cecil, she was similarly lured to her death with bait by the outfitters who killed her.
Every year outfitters privately profit from the sale of guiding wildlife-hunting trips. Their well-heeled clients, the trophy hunters, shell out tens of thousands of dollars, kill thousands of our most iconic and charismatic native American carnivores including cougars, wolves, bears and bobcats. These hunters use some of the most barbaric and unsporting methods - which vary by species and states - but include bait, traps, neck and foot snares, electronic distress calls, packs of radio-collared dogs, high-powered scopes and snowmobiles. These methods are not "fair chase" hunting, the cornerstone of ethical hunting whereby animals should be given an equal chance to survive. Because wildlife have only their wits and their feet to evade these armies of well-armed trophy hunters, they have little chance. Because trophy hunting and poaching are so pervasive in the US, these animals face a precarious future.