August 10th is officially World Lion Day. A day that aims to raise awareness for the majestic hunter, we know as the King of the Jungle and all of his big cat friends. This particular day and my partnership with National Geographic Kids have taught me a great deal about lions that I wasn’t aware of before and that I’m honored to share with you.
Hopefully, this opens your eyes, regardless of your views on the tragic death of Cecil the lion and sports hunting. Unfortunately, social media spreads a lot of misinformation. And most of the misinformation I’ve seen (from my small corner of the world) spread online is from those that like to hunt being defense of what they do. I say, let’s put down our defenses and learn some facts. Not all hunting is the same. I’ll admit, I am for hunting if you’re hunting for a purpose, like eating, survival or to help with predator control through a planned DNR program.
“In essence, a lion hunt may be vicious, but it is not cruel. The activity of Dr. Palmer’s (the hunter who paid for and killed this famous lion) is one of malicious intent and cruelty and there are almost no examples of that in nature.”
So what are the facts about lions? Are they a nuisance and are the animals being hunted because they’re overtaking local livestock? Are the trophy hunters that take the hide and head (and leave the meat) doing locals a favor? Is there really a decline in the lion and big cat population because of trophy hunting and poaching?
Here’s what I’ve learned about lions in the last few days that have been eye opening and shed light to some of the questions I’ve seen debated on social media:
- There is a 90-95% decline in the lion population. Lions aren’t protected by the US Endangered Species Act.
- This decline is for a number of reasons which include their habitat and degradation as well as poaching, trophy hunting and illegal bush meat trading. The US is responsible for importing half of the hundreds of dead lions each year. (I’ve never seen lion meat on a menu, have you? So why are they being hunted?)
- Yes, lions are scary and kill local livestock and farmers hunt and kill them to take revenge. It’s survival of the fittest and the farmers lack alternatives, besides hunting to prevent livestock from being killed.
- The real issue at hand is poaching and trophy hunting. Where lions are raised in cages or hunted illegally (maybe promising their American client that everything is legal) to make thousands of dollars. The number of registered hunters and the number of lion trophies exported don’t align. Hmmm? And did you know Lion bones are a hot commodity! I think the documentary Blood Lions™ says a lot.
Why care about decline in the lion population? In my small corner of the word, it seems like the only feline I have to worry about is the “alley” cats near my office. I’m far removed the problem because I’m not local to Africa and lions aren’t trying to kill my livestock. However, lions are part of the eco-system and they’re the eco-systems top predator. Remove them from the eco-system and we have several issues, which I think National Geographic Kids does a good job of explaining:
“If large predators such as lions disappeared, herd populations would balloon, and grazers would eat up the grass. The savanna would become a sandy desert.”
What can you do about the declining lion population, even in your small removed corner of the world?
- Put down your paws. Educate yourself before voicing your opinion online. Don’t be stupid when you post just because you hunt and love the sport of hunting to feed your family. Good for you. I’m pro hunting but not just to slash a head and put it on my wall. If you go to Africa to hunt big game and you feed an orphanage, you have a different purpose. Think before you type and speak and learn the facts. Even post links to the facts from people who actually know. If you love animals and want to protect them, respect that many hunters also love animals but they might hunt to feed their family and genuinely care about animal conservation and work with the DNR and animal conservation groups to hunt legally and ethically.
- Support the Big Cats Initiative. This initiative helps to prevent livestock from being killed by building better corrals, tracking lions and warning farmers, educating farmers and locals on other methods besides lethal action. You can simply text LIONS to 50555 to donate $10.00 or shop Big Cats gear . Support the cause with National Geographic by sharing a photo of your virtual high-five using#5forBigCats and donate $5 to support National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative.
- Educate our kids about how lions and all animals are an important part of the eco-system. Teachers and parents can download this free kit to help educate kids on saving wildlife from National Geographic Kids. Check out some cool facts about lions here and add this awesome National Geographic Kids book all about lions and how to save them. It’s one of my kids favorite books because they adore anything animal related! We also love this National Geographic Readers book titled Lions. Educated children will grow up to understand the eco-system and if they hunt, hopefully be taught to hunt ethically and legally and if they don’t hunt understand why some do. Education helps, in my opinion, diminish the conflict and misunderstanding.