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Why Cecil the Lion's Death Is a Bitter Blow for Our Kids

30/07/2015 10:48 BST | Updated 28/07/2016 10:59 BST

Children always offer great perspective when we take the time to listen.

The controversial killing of Cecil the Lion saddened my six-year-old daughter but what most confounded her was why an educated adult would actually choose to rid the world of lions.

I explained to her that some hunters pay to shoot animals like Cecil and other lions, rhinos or elephants for sport. And while I don't agree with the "sport" - in fact, it sickens me - I said I didn't think the hunters' goal was to rid the world of the animals.

Whoops. My daughter rightly called me out: "But there won't be any lions and elephants when I'm a mum if big people keep on killing them now. Why do they let it be a sport?"

Quite right. And I suddenly feel that feeling adults get when children throw light on our ignorance.

I don't know enough about big game hunting conservation strategies, though I suspect they are light on detail, so I make a note to google that information for later. But my daughter raised a good point. In her mind, Cecil's unnecessary death sparked questions of the future - a future which her and her friends might not share with lions, or other big game being hunted. And why should game hunting rob kids of that right? It's easy to lose sight of tomorrow when you're stuck in today's thrill.

"Is it because lions can kills us mum, so we kill them?" she asked. No, I reply, it's not that. "Well, it's stupid," she said. It is.

"Elephants don't kill us, do they?", she continued. "Didn't you ride on one once and it was nice. Does it mean I won't be able to ride one because there won't be any left?"

"Will people start killing dogs?" This final question from my four-year-old who joins the conversation.

Regardless of conservation measures around big game hunting will it ever be enough to prevent big game animals from extinction? Is the sport so short-sightedly selfish in that it's not thinking about the next generation? Yup, says my young daughter. Killing iconic wildlife for fun, so future generations cannot enjoy them, beggars belief.

When social media erupted with outrage and vitriol over Cecil's the Lion's killing, the dentist responsible went into hiding. No surprises. The inhumane way Cecil was brought down, with a crossbow, has been widely criticised as brutal. The fact that Cecil was collared and part of a study raised huge ire. But what about this being another blow for children, like mine, because a "sport" could mean they won't see these unique animals in 20 years' time?

A Google search on big game hunting reveals conflicting opinions on conservation strategies. A National Geographic article from 2013 reported around 600 lions are killed annually on trophy hunts, including lions in populations that are already declining from other threats. It goes on to say the sport is counter-evolutionary, because of its basis of selectively taking the large and robust healthy male lion as a trophy. In Cecil's case, this is true as there are fears the next lion in the hierarchy will kill Cecil's cubs.

Others argue that hunting tourism has been extremely successful, attaching economic value to wildlife and therefore encouraging cooperation of local people in conservation efforts for economic gain.

But perhaps it is time for children's voices to join the chorus. And for the chorus to listen and act now so tomorrow's impact from today's "sport" doesn't mean extinction.