It's just one lion: so why the public outrage?
Protecting wildlife means protecting individual animals
The coverage of Cecil the lion's premature death at the hands of an American hunter has been quite staggering. In just a few hours we have seen live interviews, extended analysis, head-to-head debates between animal protection groups and hunters, vox pops with the hunter's neighbours in Minnesota, tweets from big name celebrities, and even a segment from Jimmy Kimmel to his audience of millions in the States.
Many reasons have been proffered for why this story has inspired such a collective expression of disgust from the public. The fact that Cecil was tagged and part of an important conservation project; the fact that he was well known in the local area; the fact the hunter is question was an average Joe dentist from America who could somehow afford the big bucks required to get access to Cecil with his bow and arrow.
Cecil's celebrity status undoubtedly triggered the story in the first place - but let's be honest, none of these factors are enough to sustain the outrage we've seen in the last 24 hours. The reason is actually very simple: this man cruelly injured and left for dead a conscious, living, breathing animal - and he did it for kicks. For fun. He didn't do this to conserve population numbers, or to reduce the risk of human-wildlife conflict (both commonly offered as justification for hunting). Afterwards, Cecil was skinned and decapitated so that his body parts could be displayed and his killer admired for his bravado.
If we take a step back, detach ourselves from the high emotions surrounding this story, then you could say that yes, it's just one lion. But really - why should that mean we care any less? The response we've seen shows that people care about individual animals as much as they do about conserving populations. It's about how each animal is treated, and a desire to protect them as individuals in their own right. People saw Cecil and wanted HIM to be OK.
Unfortunately, Cecil is not alone. Lions, tigers, elephants and many other wild animals are being chased, tormented and killed every day solely for people's entertainment. Our most recent investigations have revealed that there are as many as 7,000 lions in breeding facilities in South Africa today, not only for hunting, but for cub petting and walking in lion parks.
You can do something about this. World Animal Protection wants wild animals to stay in the wild, free from persecution. Sign up to our campaign and find out how you can help (links to our International site)