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The killing of Cecil the Lion as an impetus for policy change

  • Stefan Carpenter (a1) and David M. Konisky (a1)


The killing of Cecil the Lion in July 2015 generated considerable media attention worldwide. We measured public interest in Cecil's death to examine the degree to which this high-profile incident represented the type of focusing event that public policy scholars often emphasize as being important for triggering policy change. Finding that public interest in lion conservation spiked in the weeks immediately following the incident, we then analysed whether this focusing event led to policy changes to restrict trophy hunting in eight countries (USA, Spain, France, Russia, Canada, South Africa, Germany and Mexico) that most frequently import lion Panthera leo trophies. The surge in public attention seems to have had only a limited impact on the adoption of significant new policy, although it may have hastened changes in some countries.


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