The seductiveness of the word "conservation" has allowed certain players in the wildlife tourism sector to exploit it towards their own selfish ends, and use it as a smokescreen for all manner of sins and unethical practices. But for how much longer?
When I finally landed in South Africa (after two days and three flights), I now had physical exhaustion to add to an already-wearied mind. Prior to the trip, an unexpected setback left me teetering. The optimistic joviality that had sustained me all summer was waning. And I found myself anxiously awaiting a second wind.
Should crimes against the environment and animals be addressed by an international criminal code and prosecuted by an international tribunal, particularly if national courts are unwilling, unable or deemed inadequate?
The horrific killing of the magnificent, black-maned lion Cecil by an American trophy hunter in Zimbabwe highlights the little-known plight of his species. Lion populations are in free fall, and we are losing this iconic species in most of its range.
Lions also have predators -- the most dangerous of them all is man. Cecil never attacked the dentist who ultimately ended his life. It was not basic survival for the hunter to kill or be killed. Cecil was shot by an arrow and suffered for 40 hours before finally dying. This is cruelty.
We cannot separate our dignity from that of other creatures. It is just as intrinsically linked to that of the starving poachers of Zimbabwe as it is to that of the animals they are poaching. If we really do have intrinsic individual worth, its value ought to be greater than any mantelpiece trophy.
Humans are by far the kindest, most compassionate, most creative, most violent, most destructive and most misery-inducing animal in the history of the world. We are the only creature capable of creating global problems.
I am happy that this week I didn't have to discover that my crowns and root canals were funding a man who uses my money to kill the worlds most rare and beautiful creatures. That my veneers didn't help pay for the destruction of the last few white rhinos. Or that my cavity fillings were funding the slow and painful death of a spectacular male lion in Zimbabwe.
Living free in the wild, being admired -- not killed -- for their beauty is where these species true and only value should lie. Cecil brought in significant tourist dollars as a living, breathing icon. Now he is nothing more than a sad reminder of what greed and exploitation of wildlife can lead to.
The Supreme Court's ruling may be a progressive move for Americans, but this is nothing new for animals. Did you know that at least 1500 species of animals have been engaging in homosexual activity sans judgment from their peers for eons?
I didn't know much about desert-adapted lions before my trip to Namibia. I knew they were endangered like every other lion in Africa. But that's just part of their story. It wasn't until Stander's talk that I fully understood the magnificence of these majestic creatures -- the mere 150 that are left.
I want you to keep trying -- no matter how discouraged you get. You'll be amazed at the life you can lead when you stop looking for the easy way out of life's chokehold, and instead, persevere in spite of it.
The lions were right next to us. Tom, our scout, sat on an elevated chair out on the front of the jeep, that is, until he spotted cats. Then he would jump inside next to Erich, the ranger.