In Honor of Cecil: 7 Lion Conservation Organizations to Support

Video screen capture. YouTube

Turn your anger into action by supporting lion-loving charities that are doing great things for big cats.

By now most of us know the story: Dentist from Minnesota pays $50,000 to kill a lion in Zimbabwe; lion is lured with food out of protected national park, shot with an arrow, stalked for 40 hours before being shot, beheaded and skinned. Lion turns out to be a famous research subject and affable tourist attraction, a regal beast by the name of Cecil, a cat with star power and leader of his pride. Cecil’s killing strikes a nerve across the globe, dentist-man becomes the most-hated person in America.

It’s an awful story. Like every other story of trophy hunting, everything about it is just abysmal. It’s arrogant and shameful and heartbreaking. But instead of pacing around in circles getting angrier and angrier and thinking of new diabolical ways in which to inflict pain upon a Minnesota dentist, being proactive may be more helpful than being furious (although fuming is expected). Let’s do all we can to support conservation groups that work from their heart to protect the magnificent creatures that share the planet with us. In honor of Cecil, here are some organizations, recommended by World Lion Day, where you can direct some of your support:

1. National Geographic: Big Cats Initiative
National Geographic – with filmmakers, conservationists, and Explorers-in-Residence Dereck and Beverly Joubert – launched the Big Cats Initiative, a comprehensive program that supports hands-on conservation and education projects combined with the Cause an Uproar global public-awareness campaign in support of lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards, jaguars, and other top felines. Get involved with National Geographic: Big Cats Initiative

2. Panthera: Project Leonardo
This group has collected some of the world’s leading wild cat experts to direct and implement effective conservation strategies for lions, cheetahs, leopards, tigers, jaguars and snow leopards. Their approach to wild cat conservation is science-backed and based on years of in-the-field experience. The group is a leader in programs to care for critical habitats and core populations connected by genetic and biological corridors, relieving the threats of habitat loss and conversion, human-lion conflict, bushmeat poaching and excessive trophy hunting. Get involved with Panthera: Project Leonardo

3. International Fund for Animal Welfare
This long-established group works to help threatened animals in more than 40 countries around the world. Along with animal rescue and cruelty prevention, they advocate for the protection of wildlife and habitats. The group is also working towards helping to ensure that the U.S. government lists the African lion as "endangered" under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Get involved with International Fund for Animal Welfare

4. Lion Guardians
Lion Guardians is great. The groups has taken an innovative approach in which they work to preserve the cultural traditions of pastoralist communities and work with young Maasai and other pastoralist warriors to learn the skills needed to effectively mitigate conflicts between people and wildlife, monitor lion populations, and help their own communities live with lions. Lion Guardians monitor lion movements, warn pastoralists when lions are in the area, recover lost livestock, reinforce protective fencing and intervene to stop lion hunting parties, resulting in reduced livestock and losses and therefore the need to retaliate. More than 40 warriors are employed as Lion Guardians covering over thousands of square miles of key wildlife habitat in Kenya’s Amboseli ecosystem as well as the Ruaha landscape of Tanzania. Lion killing in the Lion Guardians’ areas has been nearly eliminated and the Amboseli lion population is now growing. So good. Get involved with Lion Guardians

5. Ruaha Carnivore Project
Part of Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), the Ruaha Carnivore Project is working to create conservation strategies for large carnivores in Tanzania’s remote Ruaha landscape. The area supports around 10 percent of Africa’s lions making it an extremely important conservation area, yet the area has received little attention. Currently the project is gathering data on population statistics and ecology as well as educating local communities to reduce human-lion conflict. Get involved with Ruaha Carnivore Project

6. African Parks
This non-profit assumes responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks in partnership with governments and local communities. African Parks has implemented, supported and funded vital lion conservation management programs and is helping to ensure the long time survival of lion populations. Get involved with African Parks

7. LionAid
This UK-based non-profit brings about conservation awareness and is in the process of urging the U.K. government and EU to ban the importation of lion trophies in order to help stop game hunting in Africa. They have approached the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in an effort to list lion populations in west and central Africa as “regionally endangered” and are also striving to get the lion listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Species for further awareness and protection. Get involved with LionAid

And there are so many more from which to choose.

RIP beautiful boy.