The world came together last week in a rare moment of solidarity following the abhorrent slaughter of what was, by all accounts, a very popular lion. When the now-infamous dentist from Minnesota unleashed the bolt from his crossbow, he ignited a global fury by taking down this beloved lion – though it required another 40 hours of pursuit before the dentist finally found the badly wounded Cecil and ended his life with a rifle. Officials in both the United States and Zimbabwe are seeking the offending trophy hunter for questioning, and calls for indictments and policy changes rose out of the online outcry. Our own petition calls for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to reconsider exempting some trophy hunters from what would otherwise be a solid ban on importing African lion trophies after a proposed listing is final.

Cecil’s death was strikingly similar to the killing of another beloved animal closer to home. In December 2012, a hunter shot and killed what was then Yellowstone’s most popular wolf. Scientists studying her knew her as 832F, while others called her the ‘06 Female or ’06. She was a six-year-old, radio-collared alpha female from the Lamar Canyon Pack that roamed Yellowstone National Park.

06 Female (832F)  Photo credit Jimmy Jones Photography
06 Female (832F)
Photo credit Jimmy Jones Photography

The Wyoming trophy hunter that killed 832F was, by many accounts, acting legally, as Wyoming then allowed the hunting of wolves. In 2014, Wyoming was ordered by a federal judge to again protect them under the Endangered Species Act. Wolves in that state, unlike those in neighboring Montana and Idaho, are currently fully protected under the Act.

While the killer of ’06 may have been acting within the law (though there is some question as to whether he artificially and illegally lured the wolf out of the safe confines of Yellowstone National Park), he was certainly acting against the public interest. Like Cecil, ’06 was the subject of ongoing scientific study and was treasured by wildlife enthusiasts. For as little as $18 (the cost of a “wolf license” for Wyoming residents), this trophy hunter was able to deprive the rest of the public from continuing to enjoy the benefits of ’06.

Beyond the loss of scientific benefit in continued study, there is a clear economic cost to allowing trophy hunters to satisfy their own wants by taking animals like ‘06. Wolf-related tourism brings in $35.5 million annually to Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. High profile wolves like ’06 are key drivers of that spending. Like Cecil, she was a park favorite that drew photographers and wildlife enthusiasts who wanted only to see her.

Also like Cecil, she served a very valuable role in her ecosystem. Apex predators like lions and wolves facilitate balance by preventing other animals from overgrazing and by keeping these same populations healthy. When wolves were brought back to Yellowstone in 1995, they changed the behavior patterns of herbivores, allowing plant life to regenerate and bringing benefits across the environmental spectrum. Lions serve a similar function, keeping their ecosystems healthy by preying on ungulates, and keeping those herds and their shared habitat healthy.

Tragically, these two killings bear another similarity in their immediate impact on existing social structures. Cecil’s killing will bring the ascension of another lion who will likely kill Cecil’s twelve cubs. Scientists call this the perturbation effect. When a dominant male lion is killed, other adult male members of his coalition and their offspring are often killed by the successor to his crown.

The death of ’06 was equally devastating to her pack. The social structure of the Lamar Pack was torn apart following the killing of ’06 and another wolf, 754M, a beta male in the pack, who was also ‘06’s mate’s brother. The mate of ‘06, 755M (754M’s brother), abandoned the pack following the killings and left the area to set out on his own. A previously healthy, thriving pack was upended and has never fully recovered.

The killing of ’06, like the killing of Cecil, was not just the killing of a lone animal. Their social structures were ripped apart. Economic, environmental, and scientific benefits were sacrificed. Hearts were broken.

These killings are preventable. In Cecil’s case, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service can quickly act to close the U.S. market for “trophies” like Cecil’s by finalizing proposed protections under the Endangered Species Act. African lions have declined by as much as 60 percent in just three decades. If we don’t act, they could be extinct by 2050. In addition to issuing its final rule protecting lions, the Service should reconsider its planned exemption for the import of lion trophies from countries it deems to be engaging in “scientifically sound management.” Trophy hunters kill as many as 600 African lions annually. That is roughly a 2 percent loss every year, spread disproportionately onto healthy, adult male lions favored by trophy hunters. USFWS should immediately remove that exemption from their proposed listing to help lions recover and to prevent future lions like Cecil from being killed.

The Service should also act to prevent the killing of the next ’06. Her death illustrates the economic, environmental, and social costs of trophy hunting of still-recovering gray wolves. The pending USFWS proposal to remove Endangered Species Act protections from most of the gray wolves in the lower 48 states has been deemed unscientific and is widely opposed. Federal courts have found their efforts to delist Great Lakes wolves lacking and have ordered them protected.

Congress can help in two ways. First, members of Congress should oppose all attempts to legislatively delist wolves. Scientists, not politicians, should make decisions about endangered species protections. Congress should also quickly move to pass the Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large Animal Trophies (CECIL) Act, introduced last week by Senator Robert Menendez, D-NJ. This bill would ban the imports of trophies form lions and other at-risk species into the United States.

The Cecils and ‘06s of the world need these protections from trophy hunters. Congress and the USFWS should listen to the worldwide uproar around their deaths and work to protect remaining wolves and lions.

Stay Informed!

32 comments on “The Heavy Price of Trophy Hunting

    1. I beg you to put an end to this inhumane act of killing Lions for sport/fun. It is beyond sick. We are the guardians of the beautiful animal kingdom and we are cruel and heatless.
      Thank You,
      Linda J Aronson

    2. I absolutely agree. Put the lion and the hunter without his gun in the same place and then see who wins. The hunter are sick creatures. The governments who allow it should be voted out. They make me sick.

    3. I totally agree! Trophy hunting is inhumane and we as a people should have moved on from this obscene behavior. I would tell these stupid men(?) to get a life and learn about saving these beautiful animals. If the tables were turned, how would they feel.

    4. I AGREE. WHY IS THE COUNTRY IN AFRICA SO CORRUPT THEY ALLOW BLACKMARKET THROPY HUNTERS TO HUNT NEAR WILDLIFE PARK THAT PROTECT BLACK LION. I READ SOMEWHERE IN 1969 THERE WERE 600,000. LIONS IN AFRICA now Today less 30,000. Now are alive. 80 percent have been murdered. These are God s animals. This has to STOP. Please make better laws more protected areas. Please stop poachers like the on that killed CECIL black lion

  1. In fact, this is a very important issue and we must take it very seriously if we are to make any difference in the world. In this post here lobo-guará I saw more important information about it

  2. I am so sad and upset that this so called hunting..wot the sickos call it ..iv just seen that they are shooting leopards..unreal..just can’t believe this is still going on..you know if someone can look a beautiful animal in the eye and shot this beautiful creature…then God help human beings..this must stop now..o yes and buy the way I do wonder if they have any brain cells..they certainly are little man …with small brains and cowards..that’s why they have guns ..cant fight…gutless..

  3. What is wrong with people . Is their self esteem so low of themselves that they have to resort to this kind of barbarity . I pray the lord has mercy on them as they and all involved will pay dearly for this .
    Very very sad state when this is the best any man or woman can do to get some kind of self gratification…. try yoga it helps .

  4. Money buys an animals life wasted for sport to be decorated on someone’s wall or floor.
    Only too often their cubs life’s and keeping animal numbers down without human intervention.
    Sadly people use Africa as a poor country to justify bringing money into the country in order to have free rein on their animals.
    I do fear future generations will be deprived of seeing these animals in the wild I do agree a ban on killing for sport or items from them to face prison sentences.

  5. The tragedy of hunting is the belief that the hunter feels he has paid and is therefore entitled to kill to the value of his money! This is based purely on greed and arrogance and has no place in scientific evaluation of prides and packs. The fact that two dominant and impressive animals were destroyed and the repercussions therein were catastrophic for their respective families. Hunting is a blood lust and a primitive so called sport! Today we should no better! Tragically outfitters utilize this for money! How soul destroying that people who admire, respect and indulge in nature and wildlife have to endure what is taking place throughout the world. The time is now for informed and educated people should step up and end this brutal and blood thirsty past time.

    1. Trophy hunting supports the protection of the animals in Africa and feeds the villages . Lions are killed by permit issued only by the government .

      1. Total BS. That tried, weak argument has been put to bed so many times. Africa’s gov is absolutely corrupt. Breeding lions in pens just to be killed by some white guy? You trophy hunters are sick. There is no valid reasoning, no defense of violently killing keystone species.

      2. The corrupt government. Follow the money. Trophy hunting takes the very best out of thre species gene pool forever. Not only is it fit for only a psychopath, it does nothing to “conserve” the species. That’s bullshit & you know it, or you are fooling yourself. Because you’re not fooling anyone else & you #CantFoolGOD.

  6. Absolute disgrace, our kids when they have children will never see these animals when they grow up unless it is in a book. Shocking. End this now before it’s too late.

  7. All it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing. Let us relentlessly pursue these murderers until trophy hunting, poaching and the consumption of wild animal parts are severely punishable at law in every country. The greatness of a nation and it’s moral progress can be judged by the way it’s animals are treated (M Gandi)

  8. One of the saddest and deplorable
    acts that this “dentist/hunter” committed is 1: He killed a lion in its prime, Cecil could have lived a long life and sired many cubs. 2: He was such a pathetic ” vacation hunter ” that he wounded Cecil left to suffer 40 hrs straight. And him and whoever the tracker was were not very gd at tracking. It took 40 hrs to find Cecil. It’s appalling to have any creature suffer for 40 HOURS, 40 !!!!!!!!

  9. U clowns should worry more about what global warming is doing to the loss of animals then hunting.
    Polar bears are dying at the north poll. Wales r dying in nets left in the ocean. No one is innocent. Look at what u do to the planet everyday. U hear one side of story and judge.

  10. This is something rarely taken into account by hunting advocates, maybe because they don’t care, and that is the various ramifications to the herd/pride/pack of an individual animal that has been killed, just to satisfy the kill lust of a hunter, though they try to paint themselves as ‘conservationists’. Well, that argument is easily refuted.

  11. I AGREE. WHY IS THE COUNTRY IN AFRICA SO CORRUPT THEY ALLOW BLACKMARKET THROPY HUNTERS TO HUNT NEAR WILDLIFE PARK THAT PROTECT BLACK LION. I READ SOMEWHERE IN 1969 THERE WERE 600,000. LIONS IN AFRICA now Today less 30,000. Now are alive. 80 percent have been murdered. These are God s animals. This has to STOP. Please make better laws more protected areas. Please stop poachers like the on that killed CECIL black lion

  12. Cecil bill needs to be finally passed and if we don’t take action now to protect and preserve our lions,wolves and all wildlife and the endangered species act we have failed them and ourselves,we are the last generation that can save nature,wildlife, and stop global warming,everyone needs to step up,and we need to stop the inhumane barbaric,sadistic killing of our wildlife and stop all forms of trophy hunting,and it’s pathetic how trophy hunters hide behind the word conservation,when they do so very little,if anything very good story,thank you

  13. I hounded Governor Inslee daily with data to prove how important the wolf is for the ecosystem. It seems to work so now I’m onto the governors in Montana and Wyoming. Ihave sent data from the Yellowstone area but data from everywhere as to why the wolves have a hierarchy that works and how they help the ecosystem.

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