The Evil that is Trophy Hunting: Remembering Cecil the Lion

Infinitely more majestic and compassionate than the killer who ended his life.

This week a beautiful, long-lived, and non-threatening lion was murdered in Africa. A lot has been said already about it but everyone needs an outlet and this struck a chord with me so hard the strings broke.

Hunting has been a part of human culture, likely since before we developed tools. Man is nature, and nature is a place where a balance of creatures that consume other creatures to survive is good for the ecosystem. So, despite the fact that there are problems with the conditions in which some food animals are kept, people eating animals is natural. I’m not from a culture of hunters or farmers so the idea of killing something myself to eat it sounds horrific, but I can respect, just like the wolf eats a deer, that it is done for the purposes of survival. I’m not going into the vegetarian vs omnivore argument too much here, just pointing out that an excuse can be made for some hunting.

Now. Trophy hunting is evil. It is something that wealthy Westerners have been doing for entertainment in the Africa, often exploiting the desperate poverty of its people, for centuries. This is something that is not for food, not for safety, and not for population control (though admittedly in the US the reason we have to hunt animals like deer for population control is because our American ancestors killed all the natural predators…I’ve seen the payments for wolf pelts from the 18th and 19th Centuries…). Trophy hunting is so a person can, in the safety of a controlled environment, slaughter what is basically a helpless animal for ENTERTAINMENT. Ending a life, not for any viable purpose, but just because they get a gruesome thrill from it. It’s the kind of thing that, if you did it in a neighborhood, ambushing the local dogs and cats, would get you arrested by the police and probably killed by your pet-friendly neighbors.

Cecil was a lovely lion who never caused harm and helped researchers learn more about how lions live. His death has shed light on this issue because he was a bit of a celebrity. The sociopath who killed him said he “didn’t know the lion was known.” My argument: who cares if he was known? You killed another living being, dismembered it and attempted to take part of him back to hang on your wall. You lured him out of his home with food, hid in all the safety that $55,000 could buy, maimed him with an arrow, causing him to suffer for nearly two days before approaching him with a high-powered rifle and killing him in an even more helpless state. Anyone who cherishes life should grieve for Cecil. But I think we should grieve for every helpless animal murdered by some power-hungry killer. Celebrity or not. “Big Game” or not. What the vicious killer did to Cecil is the rich person’s version of kids pulling wings off of flies. And it’s done for the same reason; because they get a rush from harming others and the ones they harm are incapable of reciprocating.

The only punishment fit for people like this is to find a General Zaroff’s Chateau and let them experience the pain and fear they have caused on the creatures they’ve hunted. Though even Rainsford was given a fighting chance…

If there is a positive that comes out of this it will be that nearly every common-sense outlet has been united in the horrific, senseless, and likely criminal killing of Cecil the Lion. And those of us who care about the future of the natural world can only hope that Cecil’s Legacy helps save the lives of other animals endangered by the cruel selfishness of some of the humans who share their planet.

RazCat
This is Raz cat, who like every other cat, Rawrs for Cecil. If anyone ever tried to harm him or ANY other animal in my presence we’d see who ends up helpless and hunted without remorse…

 

Off the Top of My Head #7: The Thanksgiving Bird is the Word

Off The Top of My Head

Last Thursday was Thanksgiving.  That usually means family, food, and time off work.  And typically when people say “the bird is great!” they’re referring to a roasted turkey they’re eagerly devouring along with various vegetables, pies, rolls, and sauces.  It’s as often as not a bald-faced lie too as, it turns out, turkey is apparently rather difficult to cook to perfection.  My dad usually has a good-turkey trick, but I’ve heard not everyone has as fool-proof a poultry plan.

This year, however, when I think of the “bird” from my 2012 Thanksgiving, I’ll think of THIS:

Hawk

After our Thanksgiving food-fest, I went to a store for a major caffeine hit, and when I returned this guy was waiting at the house.  He swooped down in most magnificent fashion, then performed daring, aggressive leaps at a small bush at the terrified little birds hiding within (he didn’t get any of those).

He then flew to a nearby powerline (where he imposingly glared down at me) …

Hawk
I took this pic and the above pic with my phone…which is why it’s as grainy as it is. Don’t believe the hype…phones aren’t cameras…

…and then to a pole where he regally surveyed the surrounding terrain for more accessible prey.  He stayed there long enough for me to run inside, grab my a55, and run back outside telephoto lens attached.  I was in such a rush I didn’t have time for the tripod set up.  Fortunately he lingered long enough for hi-drive speed to net me some good pictures!

Hawk HD

Hawk

I was able to get over 150 photos of him perched up there before he locked eyes on something a hundred or so yards away and again dove impressively out of site to either another near miss or on top of a less-fortunate small animal than the birds hiding in the lucky shrub.

I learned a few things from this:

1.) There’s something unique about seeing a natural predator like this in the suburbs.

2.) Birds of prey are fearless and seem naturally pretentious, the whole time he looked at me it was as if he was thinking, “Look at that clumsy mammal down there staggering around me for no reason…”

3.) No matter how old you are if you see such a thing in action the only thing you say is, “Wooooow…”

I think he was a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk, but can’t say for sure.

Seeing him definitely changed my definition of the Thanksgiving “bird” for a while!

To see more on strange avian holiday visitors see Story of the Month for November written by my lovely RevPub counterpart!

Next week will be a requested Illustrator tutorial, and the following week a return to Life-Lessons from Video Games!

Off the Top of My Head #5: Winning Hearts and Minds with Goldie the Black and Yellow Garden Spider

Off The Top of My Head

 I once had a serious brown recluse infestation.  A flat, cardboard glue trap designed to ensure that our cat, Sweetie, had beaten her flea problem, caught one giant brown recluse.  Afterward more traps caught dozens, sometimes HUNDREDS more, of all sizes all over the room.  Needless to say it caused nightmares and paranoia, but, believe it or not, after a while I got used to them.  I’d sit in the floor, playing guitar or drawing, and see one creep by.  I’d smash the life out of it, and then go right back to business as usual.  I have since traded my brown recluse infestation with a cellar spider infestation.  They EAT brown recluses but are harmless to people so I say it’s a fair, natural, “circle of life” kind of trade.

Spiders creep people out.  Often the reasons for this are “they have too many legs,” or “too many eyes,” or “they’re dangerous.”  Mostly I think it’s because they’re an unseen threat, we usually only notice them if something is wrong, like we’re bitten or we see them in an unusual are like a bedroom or kitchen.  I think of it this way: I had hundreds of brown recluses stuck to glue traps.  I only ever saw 20 or so running loose alive.  As far as I know I was never bitten and who knows how many were actually roaming around that I DIDN’T see and weren’t in the traps.  So maybe my infestation was good for me, it got me accustomed to them and taught me a bit about fear.

It gave me a new spider policy: I bring them no harm, no matter how dangerous they may be, so long as they’re outside.  I’ve even released a brown recluse that a friend asked me to identify, she brought him to me in a cup  and I felt if I killed her it would feel like executing a prisoner of war…somehow just wrong…  If they are inside I typically bring them no harm if they are harmless.  Woe to the poor brown recluse that staggers through my defenses into my room now though…dangerous ones in my space I treat like invaders…

But most people hate spiders, even those outside.  During my vacation the first week of August I left my home and came across her:

Yellow and Black Spider

She built her web at the end of our carport and I immediately recognized her as a gold and black, or yellow and black, garden spider.  I knew she was harmless and her web was so impressive I implored everyone in the house to let her be.  Everyone wholeheartedly agreed and, despite the fact that she was initially considered creepy by some, she has grown on us.  She was named “Goldie” and we put up a sign to warn package delivery services to not destroy her web or bring her any harm.

Goldie
Goldie the female Yellow and Black Spider.

Every morning we check her web, see if she’s caught any food (it’s usually in tatters from the moths and other insects she’s skewered) and every now and then she’s draining some poor meal (I still feel for the eaten bugs…what a way to go..)

Goldie Snack
That was a WASP. She had quite a meal there…

Goldie has become kind of an outside pet.  We are pleased to see she’s eating well (I’ve tried to offer up some superworms which unfortunately flew straight through her web), we cheered when she built not one but TWO massive egg sacs, but we lament that, despite the safety of her location from birds, she will not likely find a mate in the carport…

Egg Sac
Goldie’s first egg sac
Egg Sac
Goldie’s second egg sac

Goldie the spider changed the hearts and minds of many around here who feared or disliked spiders.  The fear of spiders is largely irrational; as are most fears.  Remember a world without spiders is a world full of cockroaches, moths, and flies!  And I for one am much happier with these lovely little killers out there.

Goldie Side

Goldie Under

Here’s a video of Goldie spinning her web.  Forgive the raw version of it I took it in a rush THIS morning and haven’t had time to edit it yet.  I had never before seen her doing this and was pretty excited to get it on video at all!