If you have internet access (and since this blog post is online, obviously you do), you probably know what I’m referring to when I say “Cecil the Lion.” Here’s a refresher- a few weeks ago Cecil, a beloved lion from Zimbabwe who was well known and the subject of much study, was illegally lured out of the conservation area where he lived, and shot dead for sport by the now-infamous trophy hunter American dentist. It sparked a nationwide debate about the morality of trophy-hunting big game and endangered species, and also put issues of conservation in the national spotlight. This is a rare moment for the environmental movement, which often only gets attention when animal-rights groups or radical environmental organizations stage dramatic and often controversial public protests designed to shock people.
Conservation is important, and deserves to be addressed. So lets have a quick look at why conservation is needed, and what that means for charity.
What is it?
Wildlife conservation is “the practice of protecting wild plant and animal species and their habitats. …[T]he goals of wildlife conservation are to ensure that nature will be around for future generations to enjoy and to recognize the importance of wildlife and wilderness lands to humans and other species alike” (Wiki).
Why should we?
There are many schools of thought here. For many people, they believe that the lives of ALL living creatures deserve to be respected and protected. This includes the animal kingdom, not just humans. Elephants grieve and mourn when loved ones die… being good stewards of our planet demands we not cause more grief and pain than is necessary.
Some perspectives operate more in self-interest, but they are no less valid. Humans depend on nature, because everything is connected. As Mufasa might say: the circle of life is a delicate balance, and if one group falls out of the cycle, the effects can be disastrous for the whole system.
Many conservationists believe it is a moral obligation to protect nature, since humans are without a doubt the biggest threat to it. Activities like illegal logging and poaching are depleting natural resources and decimating entire species in record numbers. Consumption and profit is the main driver for this.. the palm oil that goes into all that Nutella we have been eating is complicit in destroying the little habitat remaining to orangutans, and historically the fur and ivory trade has been deadly for leopards and elephants. And the dentist who shot Cecil paid over $50,000 for the opportunity.
Where is it practiced?
Conservation is practiced all over the world to varying degrees. Laws against poaching exist in most of Africa (although as we learned with Cecil, it does not always work to actually protect those animals). Some countries facing deforestation have been able to use the revenue generated from rainforest tourism to justify protecting the ecosystem (I recommend looking into what Costa Rica has managed to do to protect it’s natural resources: 25 percent of Costa Rica’s land area has been set aside in national parks and protected areas. That is HUGE!)
How can you help?
1)Make sustainable and responsible eco-tourism choices on your next vacation!
2)Donate to reputable conservation charities and non-profits
3)Contact your government representative and let them know you want them to push legislation that protects natural resources. (If you need help, you can find your HOUSE and SENATE reps through the links.)
4)Be thoughtful about the origin and sustainability of products you buy.
From Lion King fans everywhere,