Monday, August 3, 2015

Cecil the Lion -- art, stories, lessons and perspective, Updated 9.3.15

UPDATE AUG 24th.... Stunning portrait of Cecil the Lion up for auction... fundraiser for anti-poaching effort.

This story just showed up on my radar.. so showcasing here to help get the word out. Here are images of portrait by (updated info 9.3.15). The artist is CHARLOTTE "Charlie" WILLIAMS

Below is the full final image ... via the artist (Thank you Charlotte :)
And here are views of the work progress:

Here is link for more info on the auction .. being held on Ebay ON SEPT 14, 2015 ..

According to the link above, after the auction.. a limited number of Giclee prints of the portrait will be available for purchase. The funds raised will benefit VFAPU (the Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit). More on VCAPU here
Original post resumes here....

Stories and fables aren't just lessons from the past....

Perhaps you've heard the tale of the dentist and Cecil, the beloved, protected lion. The dentist wanted a trophy and photos and a story to tell. He thought he could get what he wanted if he spent a lot of money. Here the story gets sketchy... as the dentist says he thought he was being a responsible hunter, hiring local guides who would secure the proper permits etc.... and perhaps we will never know the entire truth .. but in the end Cecil the protected lion was killed in a gruesome way. The dentist became a world-wide story. Not quite the trophy he thought he was buying. Instead of getting what he wanted, he got to be the most hated man on the internet. A tsunami of karma was unleashed against him. He was hunted on-line and in person. His family went into hiding. His employees lost their jobs as he had to close his business. His world as he knew it was over..... His hubris took more than one life....

This story is still unfolding .. and there are lots of lessons to learn.
ART as a spotlight .. and a healing process..

It was amazing to see so many artists inspired by Cecil and sharing their tributes to him online. Most of these showed up on social media. Here is a little Cecil art gallery.. with names the artists below each image...

Aliki Theofilopoulos Grafft

"Not a Trophy" by Jeannine Schafer

Cecil tribute by Jillian Altmeyer,

cartoon by Lyndon Ruddy

Cecil color study (above) and sketch (below) by Manuel Carrasco

Cecil by Michael Robertson

Cecil by Bibo Bergeron

Cecil cartoon by Bob Englehart
Cecil cartoon by David DePasquale

Cecil portrait done at site at dentist office.. painting by Mark Balma

Noted wildlife artist Aaron Blaise has posted this speed painting Cecil tribute on You Tube...

Arron Blaise also did art below for World Lion Day 2015. See more of his artwork here:
Cecil is a modern chapter in a long story between art and lions. These magnificent creatures have captivated the public and inspired art for centuries...

Even lion hunting and art are long intertwined...

Art and science also have a long partnership...
Study of Lions in Africa by William Robertson Leigh, a renowned American artist. book: From Wikipedia:  In 1926 he travelled to Africa at the invitation of Carl Akeley for the American Museum of Natural History, and from this experience wrote and illustrated Frontiers of Enchantment: An Artist's Adventures in Africa.[3]
More about the Africa book:

Lion study by Eugene Delacroix

Lion study in gouache by Adolph Menzel, (German 1815-1905)

Lion hunt cartoon by T.S. Sullivant. Sullivant is a favorite inspiration for many leading artists today.. see more in the blog post form Andreas Deja

Cecil (lying in the grass) with brother Jericho (behind him)

News and Social Media Firestorm ..

The Cecil story exploded on social media.. and in mainstream news... It was a cautionary tale rife with characters that represent the best and worst of human nature. While the reaction was swift it soon veered into the extreme. The longer term lessons are just starting to arise from the questions this reaction brings....

The Yelp page for the dentist's practice has become a forum for venting all sorts of vitriol. Yelp tried to erase these comments.. but folks kept re-posting. Some of the comments were thoughtful.. but many included profanity and became threatening. Is this appropriate?

The dentist had to go into hiding and his office was closed down. It became a memorial to Cecil .. first with flowers and notes and stuffed animals .. and then with bigger signs with stronger language. The dentist released a letter and statement, but the fall-out continued. Collateral damage included the office staff .. and even the patients...

Social Media posts tied the Cecil situation to other animal rights causes ... or despaired that so much attention was given to one lion when there are so many other wildlife causes .. or even causes far afield.. that go unnoticed.

The guide and associate hired by the dentist for the hunt where brought in for questioning.. and there was even talk that the dentist would be extradited back to Zimbabwe. Suddenly Zimbabwe was world-wide news... but this bring up other questions...

The compelling emotional reaction to this story comes from many people, myself included, who have never had the privilege of seeing wild lions in Africa. We love lions.. but are we also mindful that we are coming at this story from our perspective of middle-American experiences and values. Many voices from the mild to the extreme have spoken up,  feeling entitled to have a say in this story. The internet gives us all an outlet to express our ideas... but do we also find time to listen and learn....

How much do we really know about the economic and political situations in countries where African wildlife are being studied and managed. Many of the wildlife conservation groups working in Africa are staffed and funded by institutions from outside of Africa. The Hwange Lion Research Project .. the group that was following the radio collar on Cecil .. is connected to Oxford University in the UK.

Here is info on the Hwange Lion Project from the SATIBTrust website:

The Hwange Lion Research Project, which has been running for 15 years, is aimed at understanding, managing and conserving the lion population of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park through the collection of valuable long-term monitoring data of population demographics, ecology and behaviour. The project is run under the auspices of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) of Oxford University’s Department of Zoology which has grown to be one of the largest and most productive conservation research institutes in the world
The study and conservation of wildlife is a vital cause ... but it costs money. Where does that funding come from??? Often it is connected to universities.. but also tourism and economic forces. Would you believe, even insurance brokers???

From the "about us" page of the SATIBTrust website....
In 2013, SATIB Insurance Brokers (SIB) founded SATIB Conservation Trust. For over 25 years, SIB has supported wildlife conservation through the provision of services to the safari, tourism and wildlife conservation industries in Africa and forged relationships with many people working in conservation. In order to formalise their conservation efforts, the Board of Directors of SIB established SATIB Conservation Trust as an independent, non-profit public benefit association – a charity, under the stewardship of newly retired SIB founder Brian Courtenay.

UK news has reported over 230,000 British pounds in donations to researchers .. story included link to this speed painting RIP tribute by artist Jasmine Susak..

Several network news stories have covered how the death of Cecil put big game hunting in cross hairs. This clip from NBC'S Today Show is interesting, because it explains how most American oppose Trophy hunting.. yet most of the trophy animals are hunted by Americans. This clip also interviews a hunter and one of the Oxford University professors, Prof. David MacDonald, who is involved in the Hwange Lion Research Project. The both discuss the possible benefits of big game hunting...

Brent Stapelkamp, another source associated directly with Cecil and the Hwange Lion Research Project, is quoted in these stories..

man who studied lion talks impact.. and includes some background on Cecil and Jericho...
"Cecil had an intriguing story, making him a celebrity in Hwange. He arrived as a kind of lion refugee, alone and wandering after being displaced from another territory. Cecil befriended another male lion, Jericho, and together they grew and watched over two prides, one with three lionesses and seven cubs and another with three lionesses."

Huffington Post story on lion Jericho alive

The reports of Jericho's death were quickly discredited .. and were another reminder of how quickly news can spread on trending topics.. even when the facts are wrong.

For an interesting perspective... see this blog post by science writer David Shiffman ..

"110 Thoughts about Cecil the Lion" post on his blog "Southern Fried Science"

Shiffman is a writer for Scientic American.

Cecil's story is still being told. Before we raise our voices about the next chapter ... let's try to listen to the lessons here. Let me stress that I don't approve of trophy hunting. However, I learned through decades of working with pet rescue that opposing view points yelling at each other wastes precious resources. We can agree to disagree.. and still work on making things better. Things do change.. but it takes time and patience. Complicated issues don't get resolved with absolutes and easy fixes. The loss of Cecil has wounded hearts. Can we grow from here to a meeting of minds?

What if the momentum of this event helps impassioned points of view  find more common ground? Can we at least agree there are complex issues and connections involved with the study and preservation of wildlife? Can we listen..  be respectful of the cultures of other countries... and be examples of the honest, transparent business practices we expect. How can we work together to find the resources needed to fund these programs... raise awareness... make real progress.

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Sunday Aug 30th "Travel" section of Los Angeles Times had big feature on animals and Africa with several articles by Amanda Jones and others. Lots of photos and resources in this links ... places to help animals.. updates on endangered species etc.
"Is this Cecil's Legacy..." by Amanda Jones
"How you can help rescue wolves and other wildlife" by April Orcutt
"Rain Forest School" by Arnie Cooper
"Monkeys readied for a return.." by Arnie Cooper
"Lions roars being silenced in Africa" by Amanda Jones
"Rhinos Face Extinction" by Amanda Jones

"Pride and Shame of Africa" article on trophy hunting toll on lion populations by Robyn Dixon from 8/22/15 LA Times

Expedition Art Blog Post .. more about lions, art and Aaron Blaise]

"Outcry for Cecil the Lion could undercut conservation efforts" by Norimistu Orishi, New York Times Aug 10, 2015

Six National Geographic Photographers and the Lions they've seen. Stunning art reference shots, plus behind the scenes of the images from the photographers themselves...

Op Ed piece in NY Times gives us a chance to listen to a resonant, resident voice..
"In Zimbabwe, We Don't Cry For Lions" by Goodwel Nzou

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