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Remembering Cecil the Lion, one year on

Remembering Cecil the Lion, one year on

Cecil the lion, shot by trophy hunter

One year ago, an arrow was fired into Cecil, a beloved lion, commencing an unprecedented level of public grief and condemnation that was echoed around the world.

Cecil was lured, wounded by an arrow, then ruthlessly tracked for approximately 40 hours before finally being killed on July 1 by an American trophy hunter in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe.

Today the International Fund for Animal Welfare [IFAW] remembers Cecil’s life and the countless other wildlife that have been lost to trophy hunting – including the tens of thousands more since this tragedy – and examines the work that is needed to save those remaining.

Cecil’s death was not an isolated incident. African lion populations have experienced devastating population declines, by 60 percent, over the past three decades, with as few as 20,000 remaining in the wild. Despite the significant and sustained declines in population and range, caused by a variety of threats, lions continue to be needlessly hunted for sport and their trophies imported to the US, Europe and elsewhere.

Philip Mansbridge, UK Director of IFAW, said: ‘The global outpouring of sadness and anger at the death of Cecil the Lion proved what we always believed, that the majority of people want to see our wild animals protected and not cruelly hunted for fun. We would like to see lasting change for wildlife come about as a result so that Cecil’s death was not in vain.

‘In the UK, we are calling on the Government to introduce an immediate ban on the import of all hunting trophies from threatened or endangered species. Many would argue that the concept of trophy hunting was borne out of the British Empire. We should now be leading the world in bringing this cruel practice to an end.’

In the US, IFAW is encouraged by the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s recent decision to provide protections for all lions under the Endangered Species Act. This came as a response to a technical petition that was filed by IFAW, Humane Society International and Born Free in 2011.

Jeff Flocken, North American Regional Director, IFAW, said: ‘It is our hope that these stricter protections, stopping the importation of any lions killed in a country with questionable wildlife management programmes, will also limit the demand to kill them abroad, given that Americans hunters are responsible for the bulk of the slaughter.’

IFAW recently released Killing For Trophies: An Analysis of Global Trophy Hunting Trade, a report that provides an in-depth look at the scope and scale of trophy hunting trade and isolates the largest importers of animal trophies worldwide.

The report found that African lions in particular had the strongest statistically significant increase of trophy hunting trade since 2004, with at least 11,000 trophies being traded worldwide from 2004 to 2013. The report further found that the US accounted for a staggering 71 percent of the total trophy hunting import demand, or about 15 times more than the next highest nation on the list – Germany and Spain (both five percent).

Hunting trophy imports and exports involving the UK are relatively low in comparison with other Western European countries, but IFAW believes that if the UK Government banned these imports it would close the window for those that wish to take part in this cruel ‘sport’ and set an example to other countries.

‘While trophy hunting remains extremely unpopular in the court of public opinion, it continues to be an accepted practice in many countries – where wealthy hunters are allowed to kill endangered or imperilled animals, simply to serve as the centrepiece of their décor. IFAW will continue to fight and advocate on these animals’ behalf until these beautiful creatures are no longer looking down the barrel of a gun,’ added Flocken. ‘As we remember Cecil, let’s not allow his death to be in vain; we hope it will remain a catalyst for further action to end trophy hunting for good.’

To find out more about IFAW or to support its work, click here.