I was not going to post today, since I would like to slow down the rate at which I publish new material (most of my posts are fairly labor intensive). But when I read this story I knew I had to share it.
I am sure you are all aware of the horrible way in which Cecil the lion was killed. If not, then this article from CNN will help you catch up.
One of the reasons it is hard to hunt big cats sustainably is because they engage in infanticide. Males of many felids will kill cubs that are not theirs in order to mate with their mother. In this way they ensure that their genes are passed on, and not their rivals’. When dominant cats are killed other males often move in to their territory and kill their offspring.
It was feared that Cecil’s murder would be a death sentence for his cubs, because lions engage in infanticide. But lions are unique in the cat world: they are highly social. Female lions form prides, and males often form coalitions. This allows them to work together to defend territories and cubs from opposing males.
Based on this article by David Millward, it seems Cecil and his brother Jericho were coalition partners. This is because Jericho is defending Cecil’s cubs from other males. With Jericho’s help, these young lions may be able to avoid an untimely death.
This story demonstrates one of the reasons lions are so extraordinary. It is good to know that despite Cecil’s abhorrent and brutal death, there is still hope for his cubs.
Thanks for sharing this Josh. It’s great that this information is now circulating the internet and giving people some hope after the shock of last week. While the pain is palpable, at least Cecil’s celebrity has made more people aware of this bloodsport and its ramifications. Getting the message out that these animals are complex and that not everything is about numbers – that relationships of the individuals is important to is critical to the future.
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You’re quite welcome! Like you, I hope Cecil’s death will make people aware of how serious poaching is, and that much of it’s done by “ordinary” citizens. Even legal hunting of big cats is a moral grey area. It has the potential to benefit cats’ long-term survival by reducing rampant and lawless killings by local people, but felid social dynamics are complex. I also believe each animal is a person with rights, but I realize we have to meet people where they are. Perhaps I’ll explore this in a post one day.
Hmm, maybe I was wrong about hunting potentially being beneficial: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/travel-leisure/no-big-game-hunting-does_b_7913530.html?utm_hp_ref=green&ir=Green
So much conflicting information, I need to look into this further.