Cecil’s Legacy – 5 years on
Lion numbers have disappeared from 92% of their historical range. The death of Cecil the lion and the resulting global outcry brought this sobering fact into sharp focus. Cecil was first fitted with a GPS satellite collar in November 2008 when he was between five and six years old. He was a male lion coming into his prime. Over the next eight years, while WildCRU monitored his movements, Cecil, and his coalition partner Jericho, succeeded in claiming, and successfully holding, territory in the eastern part of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, home to the Ngweshla pride. In July 2015 he was killed by a hunter from the USA.
The ensuing global outcry and media storm generated unprecedented support for WildCRU’s lion programme – raising more than £750,000. Five years on, the conservation group based in the University of Oxford, can report on the legacy of Cecil.
Dr Andrew Loveridge, Director of WildCRU’s Trans-Kalahari Predator Programme, said: ‘Cecil was one of the many lions whose lives we have studied in intimate detail over the last 20 years. His death was emotional and saddening for our research team but the global response surrounding his loss took us by surprise. Perhaps the level of public concern might have been something to do with the manner of his death at the hands of an American bow hunter, or perhaps because the society we live in is rightly starting to question the destructive relationship humanity has with nature.
‘Indeed the future of lions is inextricably entangled with the future choices of human society and the willingness of African people to share a landscape with these beautiful, but dangerous creatures.’
Following support received in the wake of Cecil’s death, the WildCRU’s Trans-Kalahari Predator Programme has been able to:
1) expand its field research on lion ecology and behaviour to inform conservation planning and policy
2) boost community projects to mitigate human-lion conflict and promote co-existence
3) support educational scholarships in Botswana and Oxford
Professor David Macdonald, WildCRU’s Director, who founded the lion project with Dr Loveridge, said: ‘From science into practice, I can scarcely think of impacts that better fulfil WildCRU’s mission, which is to achieve practical solutions to conservation problems through original scientific research. There are now 60% more lions in our core study area than when we started, the food security of poor rural communities is improved, and remarkable young Zimbabweans are being trained to the highest international standards.’
© Jane Hunt
© Andrew Loveridge