If the title of today’s post startled, you, it was supposed to.
Thanks to a world-wide media storm, Cecil is the poster child for conservation, and his name is directly linked to numerous petitions to ban trophy hunting, and lion hunting, and countless other issues. The public is a fickle lover, becoming instantly and utterly enamored of an ideal, or focal point. In this case, the focal point is a lion named Cecil, and the ideal is that there should be laws to protect animals like him. What the ICARUS team is afraid that the public at large fails to grasp, is that Cecil wasn’t special.
Recognizable? Quite. Memorable? Most definitely. But special? No.
The ICARUS team is all too aware of the fact that Cecil was merely one of the 665 lions that are killed on average each year by trophy hunters alone – many of those in canned hunts. 208 Leopards are killed every year in India, about four animals a week. Almost 1,000 Rhinos are poached every year worldwide. Conservatively 1,000 tigers are killed each year worldwide, and only about 3,200 wild tigers exist in the world today. In the last 3 years 100,000 African elephants have been killed. More than 1,000,000 Pangolins have been poached, killed or sold into the illegal animal trade in the last 10 years. Approximately 28,300 freshwater turtles are traded within the pet industry EACH DAY. The illegal animal trade is a $20,000,000,000 a year industry, while the South African hunting industry nets an average of $744,000,000 every year.
Cecil’s death has garnered international attention, and has been hailed as an international tragedy. The real tragedy, however, is that the only thing special about Cecil, is that he, and his death, became an internet and social media phenomenon. For the millions of other wild, and captive wild animals, killed by sport hunters, or poachers, or captured into the illegal animal trade each year, there is no such international outrage. They remain hidden behind the veil of ignorance.
The Care2 petition demanding justice for Cecil was the fastest growing petition ever hosted by Care2, gathering tens of thousands of signatures per hour. The danger of things like electronic petitions, social media, and the Internet itself, is that people join in, and subsequently feel ‘involved’ in their chosen cause. Petitions can be a great thing, but the ICARUS team would encourage you to do more than just sign the petitions showing up in your Facebook feed.
You don’t need to travel across the world to have an impact on stopping the illegal trade of animal. It can be as simple as demanding to know where local pet stores secure their exotic birds. Where do they get their turtles? There exotic lizards, or snakes? Do you know someone who has an exotic pet? Where did they get the animal? Often times exotic pets such as Bushbabies (Galagos) various breeds of Sloth, Kinkajous, Squirrel monkeys, Hyacinth McCaws and Fennec foxes are not captive bred, like many people presume. Rather, these animals are poached as babies, and sold into the illegal animal trade to be imported only to be sold again, many times to owners who do not fully understand the needs of their new rare pets. Simply not endorsing the ownership of such animals will help to stop their importation. If every member of the public refused to support the exotic pet trade, there would be no revenue to be made off the illegal importation of such animals.
In the greater scheme of things, don’t stop with your support of justice for Cecil. Demand more than that. If you travel to other countries, and enjoy going on photography safaris, research your destinations carefully. Choose to support institutions which only host photography safaris. If you find that the resort you’re planning on visiting allows cub-petting or hosts paid hunting expeditions, cancel your reservations, and send the corporate offices an email, or letter, letting them know that you’ve chosen to take your business elsewhere, and why, you’ve chosen to do so. Yes, you are only one family, but if enough families choose to do this, the corporations will notice.
Too often, people who don’t necessarily endorse animal exploitation, still support those who commit it. Disney’s Dolphins in Depth is a prime example. About 11.2 million people visit Disney’s Epcot Center each year. Of that number, only a fraction – about 3,000 – participate in the Disney’s Dolphins in Depth. But if you visit a Disney park, you’re still supporting their exploitation of animals. While DDD takes pains to stress that they do not force the dolphins to interact with the guests, the fact remains that this is a version of pay-to-play, wherein captive wild animals are exposed to the public in order to make money. Think of it as Sea World on a smaller scale. For a closer look at exactly what goes on behind the scenes at large scale water parks the ICARUS team suggests checking out Blackfish. Though the Disney parks are not part of the movie, Blackfish is an exemplary example of everything wrong with the captive marine animals, in both large parks, and small.
To learn more about Africa’s canned hunting industry, check out Blood Lions an amazing campaign to end canned hunting.
Conservation begins at home, with the simplest of actions. Plan vacations either with establishments who do not exploit animals, and subsequently inform establishments who do, that you will not patronize them so long as they participate in such exploitation, or plan vacations in local National Parks, or other areas. If you want to get a pet, consider adopting a domestic from a rescue, or local shelter. Instead of owning an exotic pet, the ICARUS team suggests you explore the possibility of volunteering at a local wildlife rescue center. Volunteering offers you the opportunity to learn, and be around the animals, yet does not feed the illegal animal trade.
Be vocal. Do not fear taking a stand on matters. Too often those who strive to protect animals are viewed as radicals. The truth is much more mundane. We are pet owners, animal lovers, idealists, and even hunters and farmers. The difference is in our drive to act, and to speak about the causes we’re seeking to further. In the immortal words of Edmund Burke: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good men do nothing.”
The ICARUS team hopes that you will join us in action to help ease the suffering of wild animals everywhere, whether your action is simple, like sharing this post with your friends, volunteering, or adopting a pet, or whether it is large, traveling to other countries to help promote conservation, every single action matters.
And if the arts are something that interests you, then keep your eye on ICARUS, as our team has some exciting projects in the works which involve both the arts, and conservation. What better way to support two birds with one hand, than by purchasing a piece of art, the sale of which will go to aid in conservation? What kind of art, you ask? Ah, that is a mystery better left for another post, but we hope you’ll stay tuned to find out! Until then, be sure to share our post, to help spread information, and follow us here, on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The ICARUS team wouldn’t get far without our supporters! We appreciate you greatly!
Author: Artemis Grey
Featured Image attributed to Robert Clark