This week, the world and the Internet at large mourned the loss of Cecil the lion. The beloved creature at the Hwange National Park in Zimbawe was killed by an American dentist and big game hunter who allegedly paid $50,000 to shoot Cecil with a bow and arrow.
The story is nothing short of devastating -- but what's even more disheartening is that Cecil's not the only lion to meet his demise at the hands of humans. An increasing population of people and a lack of protection under the law are just some of what's leading to their rapid decline in the only home lions have ever known -- the savannah.
We can't turn back time and save Cecil. But we can prevent other lions like him from being killed. And to do that, we have to understand the dire situation African lions face every day, and the culture of trophy hunting that kills so many every year.
Here's why lions, now more than ever, need our help:
They're Victims Of Poaching -- And Legal Hunting
According to the African Conservation Foundation, "the willingness of Asians and Westerners to pay handsomely for lion head trophies combined with the urgent need for revenue among African locals means that these great predators are increasingly hunted for sport." So, for financial reasons and the "trophy hunting" mentality around endangered species, lions are paying a deadly price -- literally.
In some places in Africa, like Zimbabwe and South Africa, trophy hunting is legal. But if the law doesn't protect lions and other wildlife from trophy hunting, what will?
They're Kept As Pets -- Sometimes In Basements
This is a huge issue for African lions and all big cats. According to The International Fund for Animal Welfare, "an estimated 10,000 big cats are kept as pets and for profit in places like basements,
backyards and roadside zoos throughout the U.S." To put that into perspective, the IFAW says the U.S. has more captive tigers than there are currently living in the wild.
Their Homes Are Being Destroyed, Because Humans
Simply put, more people means less land for lions -- a lot less. That's because more people = more building on the savannah (where lions live) = 75% of that land gone.
It gets worse -- because lions have lost so much of their natural territory, they've begun to live closer to humans, who kill them for preying on their livestock.
They're Almost Gone Forever -- For Real