PETA, IFAW and WWF take different approaches to comms after Cecil the lion killing

Prominent animal charities are taking different forms of action after the death of Cecil the lion at the hands of American dentist Walter Palmer.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and PETA have used the incident to highlight campaigns to end trophy hunting, whereas WWF has gone on the defensive.

Both the IFAW and PETA are now pushing the US Fish and Wildlife Service to stop imports of lion trophies in an attempt to end the hunting of endangered animals.

The IFAW has focused on delivering statistics, noting that 600 lions are killed every year and 60 per cent are shipped to the US as trophies. It also noted that $150,000 was raised for Oxford’s Conservation Research Unit after Jimmy Kimmel made an emotional plea on his late-night chatshow.

"With US hunters responsible for about half of the trophy killings of species like elephants and lions worldwide, it is clear that action is sorely needed at home to prevent these tragic killings abroad," Jeffrey Flocken, regional director of IFAW North America, said.

PETA has received 110,000 signatures for its petition so far. The animal rights organisation, which is no stranger to creating controversial campaigns, has also generated headlines for releasing an outlandish statement regarding Cecil’s death.

Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA, called for the dentist who killed Cecil "to be extradited, charged and, preferably, hanged".

With the comments being picked up by national media, the charity has moved to downplay them. A spokesperson told PRWeek that the statement was not meant to be taken literally but more metaphorically and that Palmer should face criminal charges.

Perhaps the biggest comms challenge has been faced by the WWF, which has come under fire across social media because it is not opposed to hunting for sustainable purposes.

On Twitter many users have been asking the WWF to clarify its stance surrounding hunting after the killing of Cecil, with the @WWF_UK account replying by linking users to a statement from Nov 2011 entitled "Views on sustainable wildlife".

"WWF is not opposed to hunting programmes that present no threat to the survival of threatened species and, where such species are involved, are part of a demonstrated conservation and management strategy that is scientifically based, properly managed, and strictly enforced, with revenues and benefits going back into conservation and local communities."

In a statement to PRWeek, the WWF said there were no plans to run a campaign on the back of the incident as it was focused on wider conservation work.
"WWF UK is appalled by the killing of Cecil the lion. WWF works to ensure that people and wildlife can thrive together, and that communities have a stake in maintaining wildlife populations long into the future. We oppose all hunting that threatens species sustainability." 

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