Earlier this summer, an American dentist killed Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe. Social media outrage resulted, and talk show host Jimmy Kimmel gave an emotional plea on his late-night talk show. He asked people to direct their anger into donations for the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University, the organization that had been tracking Cecil.
Now, the Hollywood Reporter reports that the donations WildCRU received may have saved the research unit from its own extinction. As of August 14, donations totaled $948,000. The money has helped save the project’s anti-poaching team, which was on the verge of shutting down only a few months ago. WildCRU director David Macdonald gave Kimmel credit for his advocacy.
“I have been in correspondence with Jimmy Kimmel, who has done a wonderful thing, because on his chat show, he was emotionally very moved. Previously, I didn’t know him, but he had taken the trouble to find out that the research done on the lions in the national park in Zimbabwe was being done by my team. He also had taken the trouble to find out that our website was wildcru.org and that people could make donations. We survive, by the way, entirely on financial aid. Jimmy Kimmel did a really wonderful thing by starting all this.”
Macdonald said other people of wealth and status have offered to help. The support is welcome.
“If these people use their influence and their wealth, that’s a wonderful outcome from this story, which had such a sad beginning.”
The WildCRU anti-poaching team is part of a $235,000-a-year lions conservation project in Africa. Macdonald says the recent donations ensure the anti-poaching work will continue for at least another three years.
Macdonald posted Friday on WildCRU’s website about the intersection between art and wildlife. He listed the artists who have created works in tribute to Cecil, including animator Aaron Blaise, composer Mark Rapp, and photographer Astrid Harrison.
“We thank them all for reminding us, alongside the scientific fascination of wildlife, and its functional importance as the moving cogs in Nature’s engine, of the enchanting beauty that inspires us to treasure lions and other big carnivores.”
Macdonald told the Guardian earlier this month that the influx of donations would be used to expand the unit’s conservation efforts.
“We will devote ourselves, supported by the incredible generosity of these donations, to working for the conservation of lions in Hwange [the national park where Cecil was lured from] and, with this marvellous support, the surrounding landscapes in adjoining countries.
“I believe that the worldwide engagement with Cecil’s story transcends the tragic fate of one lion, and sends a signal that people care about conservation and want it to be reflected in how humanity lives alongside nature in the 21st century.
“We feel inspired by this support and will work tirelessly to deliver the science and understanding that will enable wildlife and people to co-exist for the wellbeing of both.”
[Photo by Kevin Winter / Getty Images Entertainment]