I have been banging the drum pretty loudly in conversations and in social media about what I see as the senseless slaughter of Cecil the Lion. For anyone who cares to know, here is the third of a five-part series explaining why I am so outraged about this tragic event.
I respect collective efforts, and don’t like it when they are undermined by one person.
There have been countless opinions shared, articles written and perspectives offered about the situation that caused the death of Cecil the Lion. One perspective carries more weight with me than all of the others combined:
“I was shocked and outraged to hear the story of Cecil, Zimbabwe’s much loved lion. Not only is it incomprehensible to me that anyone would want to kill an endangered animal (fewer than 20,000 wild lions in Africa today) but to lure Cecil from the safety of a national park and then to shoot him with a crossbow…? I have no words to express my repugnance. He was not even killed outright, but suffered for hours before finally being shot with a bullet. And his magnificent head severed from his wounded body. And this behaviour is described as a “sport.” Only one good thing comes out of this – thousands of people have read the story and have also been shocked. Their eyes opened to the dark side of human nature. Surely they will now be more prepared to fight for the protection of wild animals and the wild places where they live. Therein lies the hope.”
Those are the words of Jane Goodall.
I could write 10,000 words about the life of Jane Goodall, and of the work The Jane Goodall Institute has done in both the study of and care for not just the great apes of Africa, but also the people in the communities that surround the habitats through innovative community-centered-conservation. She commands my highest level of respect. Read more here.
But Goodall and her institute are representative of hundreds of organizations and thousands of people who work every day and tirelessly for years for good (in her case of both the animals or land they are trying to protect and preserve and the people most impacted by those efforts), only to see those efforts undermined.
Warren Buffett said, “it takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”
I believe the same could be said about this. It takes thousands of people decades to bring about positive change, and one man with one arrow to set it back.
With the outcry that has happened in this country and in social media throughout the world, one might say there has been no setback at all – instead a huge new awareness. While true, the real setback is in the potential loss of trust of those at ground zero, those who continue to do the work. I don’t like that. It makes me angry.
I have some first hand experience with this. When we spent our year on mission in Mexico, we were well aware of the potential harm that could be done by one person. The rogue…the idiot…the those rules don’t apply to me visitor. At the orphanage we served, we talked about them, watched out for them and planned contingencies in the event one person behaved badly. We knew that four decades of excellent care, positive community- and government-goodwill and trust-building could be lost in an instant if one member of one mission team did one thing that could be called into question. It never happened while we were there, but my guess is that team in charge now still loses a bit of sleep from time to time thinking about it.
While all of the excellent work of organizations like the African Wildlife Foundation, the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and many others will continue, it is undermined when even one person breaks the trust. While I acknowledge that sport hunting is legal in Zimbabwe, this person had a history of ignoring the rules. He did it again in the case of Cecil the Lion. He broke the trust.
It is the same when one person walks into a church and kills 9 people because of racial hate, undermining efforts I see happening every single day at my church and in other organizations around my city – efforts that are bonding races and promoting healing. It is the same when one person bombs an abortion clinic, undermining the efforts of thousands who work for the care of single mothers and for adoption of unwanted children by strong, healthy families. It is the same when one dog-fighter grabs headlines instead of the work done by those who work to rescue and place dogs into loving homes. And it is the same when one ultra-orthodox zealot stabs 6 people at a gay pride event in the name of God.
One person, undermining the good done by many.
But I have hope.
(From the International Fund for Animal Welfare): A 2011 poll found that 70.4 percent of Americans would pay to go on an African safari to view lions, whereas only 6.6 percent of Americans would pay to hunt lions. With travel and tourism in African lion range countries generating $65.8 billion in 2011 and projected to reach $69.6 billion in 2012 according to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the region could suffer fiscally if there are no lions for tourists to view. “Americans would much prefer to point and shoot a camera at a lion rather than a gun,” said Jeff Flocken, DC Office Director, International Fund for Animal Welfare which commissioned the poll. “More than 95 percent of Americans are opposed to hunting any species in danger of extinction—a problem the African lion is currently facing.”
My guess is if that poll were taken today, the numbers would be even more drastic. Jane Goodall may understand and appreciate this more than anyone. She said:
The greatest danger to our future is apathy.
Hopefully, one arrow has dealt apathy a severe blow.
Next, part 4: I am an American, and I care about what the world thinks about America.