Action needed to protect lions in wake of Cecil tragedy

Cecil’s demise has been the topic of hundreds of news stories globally.The killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe has sparked worldwide outrage.

Celebrities, public figures, and throngs of citizens from countries far and wide have expressed their diverse views on the tragedy and their opposition to the senseless trophy hunting of Africa’s treasured animals—from lions to elephants to rhinos.

We’ve seen Ricky Gervais tweet “RIP #CecilTheLion I'm struggling to imagine anything more beautiful than this” with a photo of the iconic lion. Debra Messing declared over Twitter referring to the American dentist accused of the killing: “SHAME ON HIM! I want them to take his citizenship away. I'm ashamed and horrified by what he did. #CecilTheLion.”

Honorary IFAW Board Member and UN Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall wrote on her website: "I have no words to express my repugnance. [It is] incomprehensible to me that anyone would want to kill an endangered animal." Other IFAW ambassadors and honorary board members—Kristin Bauer van Straten, Joely Fisher, Matt Sorum and Chris Matthews, to name a few—also weighed in.

Cecil’s demise has been the topic of hundreds of news stories globally, has been trending on all social media outlets and has undoubtedly been the subject of many water cooler conversations. The plight of animals suffering is on the tops of mind of millions…and deservedly so. But how much has been done? Where do we go from here?

Jimmy Kimmel’s emotional plea on his show made a huge impact, raising $150,000 for Oxford’s Conservation Research Unit, the group that had collared Cecil and was conducting research on his and his pride’s movements and behaviors. 

More action needs to be taken to prevent another senseless trophy hunt.

The long-delayed listing of African lions under the U.S. Endangered Species Act—for which IFAW was a lead petitioner—is a much-needed step in curbing trophy hunting. While we may not be able to save Cecil, we can honor him by protecting the hundreds of other African lions that would otherwise be killed for sport each year at the hands of Americans.

IFAW also applauds the swift actions taken today by U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ.) and his colleagues, Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) in introducing the CECIL Animal Trophies Act in an effort to disincentivize trophy killings. 

With US hunters responsible for about half of the trophy killings of species like elephants and lions worldwide, it is clear that action is sorely needed at home to prevent these tragic killings abroad. 

We’re also thrilled to see that the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution yesterday to tackle illegal poaching and trafficking of wildlife. “The time to act is now,” Harald Braun, the permanent representative of Germany to the United Nations, was quoted in the New York Times. “No one country, region or agency working alone will be able to succeed.”

Approximately 600 lions are legally killed every year on trophy hunts, 60 percent of which are shipped to the US as trophies.

This needs to stop.



With as few as 32,000 African lions left in the wild, we can’t afford to lose any more. Tell the USFWS service to immediately stop imports of lion trophies and to finalize its proposal to list the African lion under the US Endangered Species Act.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy