Energy & Environment, The Media

Blown Out of Proportion?

What’s the big idea about a lion?

Cecil the Lion was killed on July 1st 2015 by an American dentist named Walter Palmer. Palmer allegedly lured the lion out of the sanctuary in Zimbabwe. The hunter shot and killed the beast with an arrow. Shortly after the internet was ablaze. People went online to express their disgust of how the lion was illegally poached. It was posted on Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo! News, you name it.

People nowadays are more concerned with the 22 presidential candidates (and counting), drought, and economy of the world. Don’t get me wrong. These are all good things to be concerned and educated about. It was encouraging to see people united under a cause for the environment, a topic that hasn’t been in headlines for awhile. People caring about something other than human issues. However, there are always two sides to the internet. The side where people care too much about an event and the side that criticizes, the Debbie Downer.

After the wave of internet support for Cecil, people began to criticize the significance of killing one single lion. Some responses include:

People began to argue that others are spending too much time on one topic that only directly affects no more than 2 people’s lives. There are other concerns that are not being brought to light and precious time and resources are only directed at one lion. Another argument that was present was the hypocrisy that 9 billion chickens are killed for their flesh each year and society only cares about one single lion.

These are all valid arguments and legitimate concerns. The media tends to focus only on attention-grabbing news when there are hundreds of events that occur in a single week that are not being reported or getting the attention they may deserve. However, I ask you this. To the people who bring up the argument that we should worry about the chickens being slaughtered and the police brutality that’s taking place, what are you doing to stop this? Are you buying free range chicken, turning vegetarian or vegan, or supporting your local farmer? Are you writing to your congressmen about body camera’s and asking police chiefs to take action against their abusive officers?

I believe the news about Cecil isn’t blown out of proportion. I believe it is news that deserves all the attention it can get. Let me explain why.

In 1940 there was an estimated number of 400,000 lions roaming in Africa, but the number now is an estimated 20,000. That’s a decrease of 95% of their population, which makes lions an endangered species. Lions serve an important ecological role. They are a keystone species, meaning that without lions in the food chain their native habitat could grow out of control. Lions help control the population of organisms. They prevent one species from overpopulating. Lions typically eat herbivores. If a population of herbivores remained unchecked they have the potential to wipe out an entire habitat of plant life. An ecosystem doesn’t just support 3 organisms, but hundreds and thousands. Eliminating one link in a chain can produce unpredictable results. Take for example the sea otters of Monterey Bay, California. Sea otter’s maintain the sea urchin population from taking over a kelp forest, which is home to other marine organisms. In the 1700s, fur trappers hunted sea otters for their pelt. In a span of 35, it was recorded that 100,000 pelts were taken. Today the population is only at approximately 2,000. In 1941 a refuge was established to protect sea otters and efforts are still being taken to today to replenish their population. We don’t necessarily see the effects immediately, but nonetheless the effects are there. The lack of a keystone species can prove too detrimental to an ecosystem.

In Cecil’s case, young lion cubs could potentially be killed, infanticide, by a new male. The death of one lion could potentially lead to the death of more lions. Cecil’s pride had more than one male. A pride with two males can help stave off predators from their cubs and better protect the pride. With one less male, the possibility of infanticide is still present. Thus, there is still the possibility that more than one lion is affected by an illegal hunt.

In America, I would assume that it’s almost common knowledge that lions are endangered and because of this habit it’s easy for Americans to forget the importance of the role lions serve to an ecosystem. So, I ask you to take a step back and look at the news of a lion being killed. I believe Cecil the loin being illegally poached was a reminder that protecting endangered species is important. It is a problem with great negative effects and it’s a problem that isn’t going away. We care so much about human issues such as planned parenthood and an election that’s taking place over a year from now that we neglect issues that have always been present. I suggest everyone to take a step back from the news and to really understand the bigger picture.

On a side note, some ways you can discourage hunting and animal abuse is to boycott hunting animals that are endangered or underpopulated and boycott places that abuse animals such as circuses, rodeos, and Sea World, which are some things I personally practice. Other practices include what I’ve listed before in the entry.

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