Cecil the Lion Could Help Protect Other Animals

02 October, 2015

After an American hunter killed a beloved lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe this summer, animal rights are getting increased attention in the U.S.

In September, a lawmaker from Arizona proposed a law that would prohibit importing dead animals that are threatened or endangered. The species do not have to be listed under the Endangered Species Act. The law would limit trophy hunting -- in other words, hunting large and mature animals to display back home.

Rep. Raul Grijalva calls the proposed legislation the "Conserving Ecosystems by Ceasing the Importation of Large Animal Trophies Act." The first words of the act spell CECIL, the name of the lion killed by an American dentist. The proposed law would have prevented the American hunter from bringing Cecil's body into the U.S.

In this undated photo provided by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Cecil the lion rests in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. (Andy Loveridge/Wildlife Conservation Research Unit via AP)
In this undated photo provided by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, Cecil the lion rests in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. (Andy Loveridge/Wildlife Conservation Research Unit via AP)

Adam Roberts is the CEO of the animal rights group Born Free USA. He says more than 500 lions are killed every year in Africa as trophies.

"When you take an individual like Cecil out of the family system and out of the ecosystem, it has dire consequences," he says.

Elephants as entertainment?

Another animal rights campaign is looking at organizations in southern Africa that offer elephant rides to tourists. Activists say using elephants for entertainment is cruel, inhumane and dangerous to both humans and elephants.

Kate Nustedt is the director of wildlife for the World Animal Protection group, based in London. Ms. Nustedt explains that for a long time, many people believed African elephants, which are larger than Asian elephants, could not be trained. But recently, she says, trainers have begun using techniques that can be effective but cruel.

"The [elephants are] taken, sometimes months old, from their mothers," Ms. Nustedt says. "And when they're very young, juvenile elephants go through what's called the crush. And in this they're trapped in a small cage, tied up with ropes so they can't move. ... And [the trainers are] poking them with sticks, hitting them with whips and wooden batons as well until the elephant's spirit actually breaks."

Many of the better-known tourist organizations say they use only positive training techniques. But Ms. Nustedt says even under the best training methods, "no elephant enjoys giving rides or being in entertainment, ever or anywhere."

In addition, the U.S. Humane Society says trainers can use abusive methods to control elephants. They are often chained for many hours every day. They may also be prevented from having social contact with other elephants.

And, the U.S. Humane Society adds elephants are unpredictable. They can unexpectedly act aggressively. They can also carry diseases such as tuberculosis.

But these obstacles may not prevent humans from using elephants for profit. In Johannesburg, a 10-minute elephant ride costs about $35. That means a trained elephant can earn more in a day than the average South African.

I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.

Kim Lewis and Anita Powell reported this story. Kelly Jean Kelly adapted it for VOA Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.


Words in This Story

trophy – n. something you keep or take to show that you were successful in hunting

ecosystemn. everything that exists in a particular environment, including plants, animals, rocks, soil, sunlight and water

dire –adj. very bad; causing great fear or worry

juvenile – adj. not yet fully grown

spirit – n. a desire or determination to do something

unpredictable – adj. not always behaving in a way that is expected