2017 didn’t start with very much good news. There were more attacks on innocent people just like last year. The rich and powerful are continuing to play their chess game with the planet, and have moved their rook into position to fuck things up in a big way. We, the pawns, stand ready to do what we can to oppose, but expect the worst they can impose upon us.
And 2016 slips right into its place in the graph as the hottest year ever recorded, right in front of 2015 and 2014.
Just like we see with all species, the numbers of predators, especially large ones like lions and wolves, have collapsed in the last number of decades.
A large part of the problem are the conflicts these large predators come into in areas where livestock are farmed. There are many different ways to prevent kills (such as guard dogs and electric fences) but in many cases farmers whose livestock are preyed upon take action and kill the predators (one supposes it is the same animal(s)). Thus, one dead cow or goat means one dead tiger or leopard. The former can be replaced a lot faster than the latter, unfortunately.
Just yesterday, a bear was poisoned in Italy.
But there are signs of some steps back from the brink. In Spain, where the population of wolves is actually increasing, the government of the Community of Madrid have increased the compensation fund to help farmers whose livestock are attacked (though it seems at 500 Euro per sheep, there’s a large temptation to fudge the death of an animal to look like a wolf-kill – which was widespread in some areas of Spain and caused a scandal last year).
This will help reduce such retaliatory killings, since farmers don’t see their livelihoods under threat from the predators. There are also movements to protect livestock using mastiff dogs and restoring pens – this helping much more in the long term as farmers readjust to the new reality of a rewilded landscape.
The world needs more of this.
The Cecil the lion story has taken over the internet (except for those concerned with a tiff between two rappers? what the hell is that all about?). It took a while, though. I first saw the story last week in the Spanish press, where the hunter was claimed to be Spanish. I posted a link and a comment on my personal facebook page, that it seemed there was always some dickhead waiting to give good hunters a bad name. And he was a dickhead for luring the lion out of a protected area – never mind the huge amount of money he paid to the outfit.
Anyway, the story evolved and was picked up by the media and then the internet got hold of it. And now we can’t avoid hearing about it.
We never heard of you before, Cecil, but we’ll never forget you…
Copyright @DeGeorgeous/twitter, taken from an interesting article:
And some have rightly questioned why we are all so up in arms over one lion when there is so much more “important” (it’s an opinion, after all) stuff going on.
The media are to blame, in large part, because they like to push these heartrending stories. To take our minds off the really important issues, of course.
And there are too many of those more important issues to list here.
But you know what they are.
So why do we allow the media to sucker punch us?
Because we don’t want to focus on those more important issues.
It would be too much.
The media don’t control facebook (exactly). People have shared and liked those photos all by themselves.
Because they can manage their rage at one dentist. They can see a cause and effect, a perpetrator and a victim. It’s easy to transmit all their feelings of rage and anger and helplessness into that and think they’re doing something for the planet.
It’s a natural reaction, understandable and human. We can’t deal with such huge statistics. Our brains don’t take it. That’s why I wrote a post about one little boy being snuck across a border by his dad rather than the seven hundred people who’d drowned that same week, after having said goodbye to fathers and sons and everyone else in the family to trek across the Sahara to an overloaded dingy in Tunisia. It’s why we can feel extreme sadness reading The Diary of Anne Frank, or watching The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas but are numbed when we see film of Auschwitz, and the idea of six million people in similar circumstances is just incomprehensible.
The broader issue is that though lions are not currently endangered in Africa, their future is not bright. But the fact that this lion could be hunted outside his reserve is more important than the fact he was lured outside. It shows us that protecting our large animals is not going to work with just a few reserves. The lions of Africa cannot only survive in a few national parks, just like the wolf cannot exist only inside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park. It must be protected everywhere.
Cecil had a name and he was old and he stayed inside his reserve where he could be seen – he didn’t need to hide. But how many of his offspring had already left that park? How many of them, or other lions born in that reserve, were already hunted? How many are waiting, hidden from humans because they are not protected, ready to return and take over his pride?
But can we do anything to make African nations increase the size of their parks? Can we stop multinationals and other nations getting these African (and other nations with stunning biological diversity) to intensify their agriculture, to plant cash crops, to build more roads and railways that will carve up the remaining wild land so there is no hope of survival for an animal that leaves a park when it becomes overcrowded?
No. But we can call some trophy hunter names.
The future is not bright for a whole lot of species, especially the large ones like rhinos and elephants. Thousands of them, with and without names, are being slaughtered for their products. There are only thousands of them left. Or five of them left, if we’re talking some rhinos.
And we know this.
But it’s so fucking hard to do anything about it.
We watch helplessly as numbers of extinctions rise, as coral reefs bleach, as dams are built to drown swaths of rainforest, as jungles are cleared for palm oil plantations.
We watch helplessly as our elected politicians (I won’t use the word leader) fuck around in multiple planes. They fuck around shouting at one another, fuck around blaming people who walked half way across Africa, or Central America for their country’s problems while they eat caviar on the deck of some billionaires yacht. They fuck around with shit that’s just not important in the grand scheme of things and wash their hands of their blame for all the problems what are, indeed, important to the lives of their citizens.
And we wring our hands a little because, well, we are all a little to blame, too.
We know the electricity our computers and internet use is partly responsible for the coral beaching. We know the trip we take to go visit animals like lions, while giving money to the local economy (just as hunters do) to stop the locals just killing these lions and be done with it, is also making the Arctic melt. We know that buying shampoo and other stuff with palm oil is going to make it harder for the orang-utan babies we love to actually move out into a rainforest. We know that buying all those great cheap throwaway clothes in big retailers is contributing to global warming and poverty.
But what are we to do? We’re caught in a whirlpool that just drags us down with it.
One thing we can do, which I’ve done, is be concerned for all endangered animals. Not just one old lion, but all lions, all African megafauna, all species facing the threat of annihilation, along with their habitats.
We can join the amazing NGOs that are standing against these extinctions and actively protecting species.
Join your local wildlife trust (The Irish Wildlife Trust if you’re in Ireland).
Go to WWF and click a donation in the name of a lion, or a tiger, or a green turtle.
Become a member and get a sticker for your bumper to tell others that you’re doing sometime proactive rather than reactive like all this anger going around the internet.
You’ll feel much better about yourself, and a little bit better about the planet.