From Cecil to Sandy: Trophy Hunters and the Slaying of Lions Abroad and at Home

By on January 19, 2016 with 12 Comments

The killing of Cecil the lion shocked people throughout the world, but Americans took particular offense because the shooter was one of our own – a privileged dentist from Minnesota. What a misuse of time and wealth to kill an extraordinary and beautiful creature, an icon of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, and a driver of revenue to the ecotourism economy there.

While our outrage and anger were well justified, we should feel the same disgust for the Americans who kill lions on American terrain. In Montana last week, an American trophy hunter – seeking notoriety and prestige within the fraternity – shot a mountain lion named Sandy who had astounded scientists in British Columbia with her recent migration from Canada into the United States.

Just as Cecil had been carefully studied and radio-collared, so too had Sandy, thrilling scientists who had followed her 450-mile journey from Canada into Montana. This is an unusual feat for female lions who typically do not travel far from their birth areas.

American trophy hunters kill more than 700 African lions a year (although this number should drop dramatically because of their impending classification as threatened and endangered), but they kill more than 2,500 mountain lions in the American West.  Only in California do mountain lions enjoy special protection from trophy hunting.

There are perhaps few things as senseless as the killing of mountain lions, or wolves for that matter: no one eats these animals, and that makes killing them trophy hunting in its purest form

These carnivores provide all sorts of benefits to their natural ecosystems. Mountain lions keep the herd healthier, taking the weak, sick, and diseased animals. They leave carrion for black bears, grizzly bears, and other scavengers.

This past weekend, CBS’s 60 Minutes aired a piece documenting the struggle of a small population of lions trying to hold on in the limited open spaces in Los Angeles and its immediate environs, a sprawling mega-city with 18 million people. Led by California State Senator Fran Pavley, there’s been a push to build an overpass over the 10-lane-wide 101 freeway to open up a migration route for the animals – as a way to prevent deaths on the road and allow lions on opposite sides of the freeway to breed.

That’s the best part of humanity – using our human creativity to save and preserve.  On the other hand, killing these animals as a headhunting exercise, whether in Zimbabwe or Montana, should produce nothing but shame and embarrassment. We are better than this. But in order to stop more killing of lions at home, we’ll have to get active, as the nation did when it learned of Walter Palmer’s slaying of a famous lion. We cannot be bystanders when the killing is happening in our own backyard.

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Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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12 Comments

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  1. Aimee Jacobs says:

    I will always do whatever I can to protect animals, it is our duty to protect our friends and wildlife. I will never understand why most humans continue to act as barbaric as they do and pretend that it’s human instinct. It is my human instinct to love, honor and protect my animal family.

    • David Bernazani says:

      Nice comment, Aimee. I can’t help but think that trophy hunters must have had poor parenting, since they obviously never learned basic compassion and respect for their fellow Earthlings. It takes a particularly cold, unfeeling heart to get pleasure out of killing an innocent animal for no reason. I don’t know one single person in all my circles of friends who would even consider doing such a senseless thing– and I hope I never do.

      • Patricia says:

        I belong the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, I am a female, and I never saw anywhere else so many men who get a pleasure out of killing things, so much so that first prize for best electrical photo of the year is a trip to a canned hunt in Texas, courtesy of the IBEW. I always pride myself on being given the gift of belonging to this organization until they decided that we as an organization would approve of killing animals for fun without even asking across the board if that kind of first prize would be appropriate. I certainly never approved it. I think it breeds nothing but violence and is certainly no where near a moral role model for out children, not to mention it is selfish, self serving, and theft of our natural wildlife from the rest of us who care about it. Unfortunately there is no law to put everyone of them in psychological counseling and retrain them as decent human beings.

        • David Bernazani says:

          Patricia: wow, I never knew that about the IBEW. Have you contacted the organization’s leadership and expressed your views? I bet if enough of you do– and as eloquently as you did here– they would at least listen, and maybe next year decide on something more humane as a prize. Good luck!
          (Also, HSUS, I hope you are reading this thread; perhaps you can contact them as well and pressure them to join the 21st century.)

  2. Nancy Zimerowski says:

    I live in Massachusetts. What can I, as an individual, do to help prevent the killing of our country’s mountain lions? Please let us know.

    • David Bernazani says:

      Nancy, I think you can help mountain lions best by supporting organizations that fight to protect them, like the HSUS, and wildlife groups such as Defenders of Wildlife and the National Wildlife Federation. If you’re not already, become a dues-paying member, which will help you stay informed on the issue. You can also write to your representatives asking them to increase protections for America’s wildlife.

  3. Chris says:

    These people need to get put in jail. That’s abuse to animals. These animals are not harming anyone and need to be left alone. DO SOMETHING ABOUT THESE PEOPLE NOW…

  4. margie anne says:

    As someone from the Southwest – Arizona – I have personally seen mountain lions when hiking. ( at a distance of course ). What a thrill to see these gorgeous cats in their natural habitat just hanging out. Never did one come after me. No excuse for this behavior.

    This is

  5. margie anne says:

    For those here reading this blog and comments, please sign my petition that fights the Bipartisan Sportsman Act. Also find, and sign the petition from the Humane Society. The Bipartisan Sportsman Act will open Federal Land to hunting and defines hunting to include TRAPPING. If you care about our beautiful mountain lions, know, the Bipartisan Sportsman Act will place them in more jeopardy.

  6. Larissa Agahi says:

    Trophy hunting really shows the savage side of man. It is a purely barbaric act against some of Gods most beautiful creatures. As a nation we should be ashamed and embarrassed to tolerate such despicable behavior. It’s a disgrace and a blatant insult to God to show such disrespect for His creations. Animals are Gods gifts to mankind and to the and deserve our respect and protection.

  7. Steve says:

    My thoughts on this subject out a great idea on how to go about your agenda of saving these great animals. You need to push forward the truth which is that killing apex predators kills off the trophy bucks. Apex predators do not kill healthy bucks which allows them to breed and pass on their high point antlers to their offspring and king them makes weaker deer, sheep, moose and elk and every other food trophy animal.

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