Comedian Ricky Gervais has declared war against hunters and poachers. On April 13 he tweeted this photo:
The image shows Rebecca Francis, a Utah hunter and mother of eight, enjoying a moment of levity next to one of her kills. The photo was taken five years ago while she was on safari in Africa, but resurfaced earlier this month, thanks to Gervais. After the tweet went viral, Francis was inundated with criticism, including death threats.
Since the photo, Gervais has continued his crusade. When Francis claimed the giraffe had been "old" and "going to die soon," Ricky responded with an epic smackdown.
After the uproar, Francis shot back on the Facebook page of HuntingLife.com, saying in a statement, "Ricky Gervais has used his power and influence to specifically target women in the hunting industry and has sparked thousands of people to call for my death, the death of my family and many other women who hunt."
Gervais was unmoved.
The bigger picture. While the Gervais/Francis spat remains ongoing, Gervais' larger contribution to the anti-poaching movement has been less about targeting individuals and more about raising awareness of the bigger issues, namely the illegal hunting of endangered species.
Tweeting a photo of a baby rhino next to its freshly killed mother whose horn had been removed, Gervais offered a blunt reminder of the toll poaching takes. He then asked the obvious question.
Gervais has also used his celebrity and 7.61 million twitter followers to spread awareness about efforts to curb poaching, including promoting this GoFundMe campaign to support the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, a nonprofit dedicated to protecting wildlife.
Gervais' call for wildlife protection has never been more timely. The once widespread western black rhino was declared extinct in 2011, largely because of poaching. Its cousin, the northern white rhino, has been reduced to just a handful, with the species' only male member kept under 24-hour armed guard. Over the last decade, the Central African elephant population has plunged by 64%.
Ricky Gervais can't stop poaching alone. His efforts should remind everyone that wildlife cannot defend itself and will require concerted efforts by individuals and governments alike. Every day action is not taken, it becomes harder and harder to reverse course.