In Conversation with Linda Tucker: How can we turn rage into positive action?
Journalist Shamin Chibba was first invited to the Global White Lion Protection Trust in 2016 with a team of media professionals in preparation for his coverage of the CITES COP17. What he found was a community organisation working tirelessly to protect the sacred lions. He returns in 2023 to speak to its CEO, Linda Tucker, in a series of Q&As. The first looks at how, in the face of merciless exploitation of our natural world, we can turn rage into positive action.
Shamin Chibba: When I recently read your book, Saving the White Lions, I was moved by your story of Ingwavuma, who was tragically gunned down by an American trophy hunter. It also acted as a stark reminder of the shocking lion policy developments that took place around the time we first met in 2016. Perhaps for those who have not read your recent article on Ingwavuma, could you contextualise who Ingwavuma was and the role he played in your life?
Linda Tucker: Ingwavuma was a magnificent golden lion, with a huge black mane – the first “StarLion” I encountered in the flesh in 1994. As a child, I had recurring dreams of a powerful male lion roaring in my face, and after I chose to pursue my calling to learn more about the White Lions, medicine people identified Ingwavuma as my ancestral guardian, who had been with me in spirit all my life. Yet, he was also a real living, breathing, roaring lion – the dominant male of the region governing his kingdom in the Timbavati wilderness. In 2000, he was specifically targeted and killed in a commercial trophy hunt, despite all my desperate efforts to prevent it. I was left gutted, heart-broken, and utterly enraged.
SC: And yet you kept fighting the good fight, as an activist and conservationist. It would be helpful to understand how you remain sane and focused under such circumstances. In fact, there’s this amazing parallel between your tragedy of Ingwavuma and the ruthless killing of Cecil the Lion which occurred in Zimbabwe, in 2015. In some ways, it’s almost as if the world woke up to your experience two decades later. Cecil’s death at the hands of American trophy hunter, Walter Palmer, shocked and enraged people around the globe, and it effectively ignited and mobilised the hearts of humanity, sparking global marches for lions taking place in 52 countries. Then it all died down. How do we sustain positive action regarding issues as important as the conservation of lions?
LT: Seeing the world so ignited by that event was really encouraging – and I do believe that it woke many people up to the atrocities being perpetrated against lions (and all of Nature). When the heart is broken open, we have an opportunity for expansion into heart-centeredness.
But maintaining that momentum is difficult if we don’t remain open-hearted. In other words, our action needs to be rooted in fierce love, rather than angry hatred, to be sustainable. It’s true, I’m heartbroken by much of what I’ve witnessed and experienced, but that means I’m also open-hearted – open to love and joy, which I experience every single day! Humanity at large has lost our connection with our hearts – we’ve become cold, robotic and shut-down – and so we’ve forgotten what it means to Love. Love is not an inert thing or experience, it is a verb. To Love is to act in service of the Love that flows through all of Nature – through all of Life. Acting from a place of fear, outrage and loathing is not sustainable because these deplete, rather than nurture, life-force. After centuries of fostering hostility, we are so out of touch with Life, that we find ourselves collectively at the edge of burnout and system collapse. But once we start acting again from our hearts – our LionHearts – we can re-establish our connection with the web of Life and flourish along with it.
SC: So, we need to be acting from a place of Love, from our heart, rather than from the anger generated by the egoic mind?
LT: Exactly. There are countless people proclaiming their anger on social media when a tragedy occurs, and I have no doubt that they feel it. However, when acting from that place of outrage or indignation, it’s so easy to become fatigued – or distracted by the next outrageous event. As a result, the anger experienced is easily eclipsed when they scroll down to the next event on their news feed. But, if one can come from a position of deep Love, reverence and service of all life, one’s foundations and anchoring is strong – and so is one’s purposeful action. Accordingly, you are rewarded and replenished with greater renditions of Life’s magnificence. Speaking from experience, the pain, grief and rage are not exactly taken away, but instead transformed into sustainable action through the sense of wonder at the majesty of Life.
SC: It makes me think of the Martin Luther King Jr. quote, “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
LT: Indeed. At core, that’s the ethos by which that the Global White Lion Protection Trust operates. It’s also the central tenet of my LionHearted Leadership™ model: Love and Respect for all Life enable us to change our world for the better. Martin Luther King Jr. is a wonderful example, but there are many leaders throughout history whom I consider to have been guided by their LionHeart, and it is precisely because they are rooted in Love that their messages are still so relevant today.
It’s easy to become consumed with outrage at people like Walter Palmer who have acted against the flow of Love and Life. And for me, Cecil’s death was very personal. It was a tragic replay of the killing of my own lion guardian, Ingwavuma. Yet, despite that, I decided to make a public invitation to Walter Palmer to visit my project – in the hopes that experiencing the flourishing of Nature’s King of Kings in the wild would offer him an opportunity for transformation. Unfortunately for Walter Palmer, he declined.
SC: That would have been a fascinating and ground-breaking shift. This lack of transformation was echoed in policy shortly thereafter: despite the global agenda being in favour of protecting lions after Cecil’s death, policymakers at CITES COP17 ruled in favour of international trade in lion parts, thus, effectively legalising an industry which previously only operated on the black market. I remember, even the press and media at the COP17 were in shock at the ignorance of the decision.
LT: Yes, that was another utterly heart-breaking blow and failure of the human judicial system – we had been so hopeful for policy to change in support of lions and Nature at that time. But, it’s important to bear in mind who was hosting that conference: CITES, the Convention for the International Trade of Endangered Species. The name itself tells you that the primary purpose of the entity is not the protection, regeneration, respect, or inherent value of our wildlife – it’s about cross-border trade and economic value.
SC: So, what happened after that CITES decision? How did you pick yourself up again?
LT: The CITES legalisation of the lion bone trade in 2016 was catastrophic: 800 lion carcasses were instantly mandated to be exported from South Africa annually, a figure that was nearly doubled to 1400 a year later, with countless more lions traded on the black market. This legitimisation of this trade resulted in thousands of lions being kept and forcibly bred in indescribably inhumane conditions, held in cages as living skeletons, with many succumbing to malnourishment and disease even before being slaughtered for their body parts. From their moment of birth to their moment of death, thousands of lions, on as many as 450 farms, were being bred for the bullet.
My efforts and campaigns to shut down this industry date back to the ‘90s. But, after the 2016 CITES decision, rather than working on my own as a lone soldier on the frontline, I started forming and joining influential alliances with heart-centred activists and conservation groups. We pulled together and stepped up hugely after this disastrous setback. These collaborative efforts forced further stakeholder engagements and policy review. Drastic policy shifts are called for – ideally at the constitutional level – and we are starting to draw on international precedents.
SC: Can you talk us through the status of lion policy today?
LT: In 2021, we seemed to have finally reached a turning point: a High-Level Panel report was published exposing the evils of the industry, and our Environmental Minister, Barbara Creecy, called for the mass breeding of lions for commercial gain to be shut down.
It’s huge progress, but the battle continues. Whilst we welcome this finding, we are now almost exactly two years down the line, and little has actually been achieved to bring this industry to an end. Inspired by the White Lions, I see things from a higher-consciousness perspective. This moment in time is all about a paradigm-shift in human consciousness back to the heart, the LionHeart. When you operate from the heart, you can see the deceit in human policy that is a thin cover for greed and exploitation. South Africa has been making some potentially innovative policy shifts in conservation, under the title of the “Wildlife Economy Model.” However, what remains concerning is the South African government’s strong movement towards establishing a model based on what is being termed “authentic trophy hunting of iconic species”: Lion, Leopard, Elephant, and Rhino. Central to our ethos is the restoration of right-relationship with Nature, so the Global White Lion Protection Trust cannot endorse this strategy, and we’ve been tirelessly engaged in policy submissions to influence and chart another way: one that is much closer to the indigenous way of Love and Respect.
If humanity is going to survive, we need to move away from viewing Nature as a resource to be used and abused to further the economy. We need to reinstate a relationship of harmonious coexistence, stewarding Mother Earth as a precious living legacy for future generations.
A moment ago, I heard myself use the word “battle.” But, in truth, I know there is no battle. Love transforms all. That is the Higher Order reality that is playing out in our evolutionary times. Love is the greatest force, and Nature is responding to that cosmic calling now, restoring herself. The question is: will we?
SC: Will we respond to the cosmic calling of Love in our evolutionary times? What a question. Speaking into this, I’m reminded of how you came to this notion of a Higher Order reality. In your book, Saving the White Lions, you describe how the myth of the “StarLions” – walking the Heavenly plan of Love back on Earth with every paw print – became a living truth. For you, Ingwavuma is a StarLion. Because this moved me so much, I’ve included a link to an extract from your book, which describes not only how you dealt with your heartache at Ingwavuma’s killing, but also how you came to understand his higher purpose. You also allude to a higher form of justice that exists above human law: “For every lion killed, a human soul will be lost.” Do you think that humankind is paying the price for ignoring natural law?
LT: You can call it cosmic law or natural law, but regardless of its name, this brand of justice is meted out even if we choose to ignore it.
Through our mistreatment of Nature and misuse of fire (firearms, atomic weapons, fossil fuel-driven economies etc), we have invited great ills. Consumerism has unleashed nihilistic neuroses and psychoses that are seemingly incurable. We are still resorting to deadly wars to settle disputes. And we remain blind to the fact that approaching life from a scarcity consciousness, rather than from deep and enduring gratitude for the magical gift of life, leads to exceptionally harmful actions. We still live our lives extracting from Nature and greedily filling our coffers because we have forgotten that resources come from Source. It is from such a mental imbalance that our mental ills of disharmony abound, and wars begin.
Heart and soul are connected. I now recognise that Nature is one great system of Love, awakening and restoring herself. The question is: will humanity be part of that miraculous restoration? I believe yes, but only if we can reclaim our hearts, and our souls. That is the exquisite invitation at this time – an evolutionary moment I am calling “The 13th Hour”, the birthing of the Golden Age.
SC: You spoke about this concept of “The 13th Hour”, and the birthing of the Golden Age at your workshop, Money as the Golden Currency of Love. I’d like to ask you some key questions for better understanding. For now, can you speak into the shortfall between the higher justice system you referred to and man-made laws? Why do human laws fall so short of addressing global issues?
LT: Because the vast majority of them are rooted in an ownership mindset affording rights and power to a small segment of sentient beings (humans). Those in power who are driving the sustainability agenda are still existing and speaking within the realm of scarcity. There is always talk of food insecurity, reducing poverty and achieving gender equality. But if we continue disrespecting the planet, our human and economic issues will forever remain. What is needed is a human system change.
The current capitalist economic system that has gripped the globe – and its obsession with economic growth and arbitrary measurements such as gross domestic product – has led to a free-for-all, with its monstrous offshoot, consumerism, obliterating Nature.
SC: Yet there are those, like you, who are working with tools for human system change. German-British economist Ernst Friedrich Schumacher, for instance, espouses Buddhist Economics which speaks into the purification of human character by obtaining the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption. To Schumacher, the heedless use of non-renewable goods is an act of violence, a parasitical existence based on capital instead of income. Similarly, you created LionHearted Leadership™ training, based on 13 fundamental laws of Nature, after the decades of being inspired and guided by the lion prides you reintroduced to their endemic wildlands. How can this training help us make the transition?
LT: How? Because these fundamental laws of Nature are in fact the laws of humanity’s true nature. Nature is an intelligent system attuned to a great cosmic plan, to which we are aligned when we remember who we truly are.
In essence, our redemption lies in shifting our consciousness on both an individual and collective level, to remember our original contract with Earth, our great mother – which is all about the true responsible use of fire – guarding the flame of Life.