The illegal killing of Cecil the lion last month has sparked worldwide debate about hunting and conservation of endangered species.
To see if the event has made a lasting impact on public opinion, National Geographic partnered with polling firm Ipsos in a survey of more than 1,000 American adults over the August 1-2 weekend. The poll found that 71 percent of respondents were familiar with Cecil’s shooting. Of those who were familiar, 70 percent acted in some way, mostly by reading a news story or talking about it with someone else.
To see if all that awareness is translating into further action, several questions were asked about people’s subsequent behavior. Sixteen percent of respondents who had heard about the lion posted about him on social media, ten percent signed an online petition on his behalf, and four percent said they donated to a related charity.
Despite high familiarity with the story, a more modest 41 percent of respondents were aware of the rapid decline of big cats in general and only 19 percent feel much more aware of the issue as a result of recent news coverage.
“I take the upwelling of feeling around the world about Cecil as a metaphor for their interest in lions and conservation more broadly,” says David Macdonald, the director of the Oxford University study that included Cecil. “I feel a great hope emerging from this.”
In response to all the interest, the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force announced Thursday that they intend to install a statue of Cecil at the entrance to Hwange National Park, where he lived.