There are many ways to show your anger towards the American dentist who killed Cecil the lion in July, and your support against hunting generally. But buying a £1,580 gold-plated smartphone with an engraving of Cecil on its back is probably not one of them.
Goldgenie, London peddler of ostentatious gold-plated gadgets, ornaments, bicycles and just about anything you could think of, has produced 99 examples of a Cecil the Lion edition of its HTC One M9. A phone which can be bought with a gold coloured finish for just £430 online.
The company says 10% from every order (a heady £159, it was kind enough to round it up to the nearest pound) will be donated to Friends of Hwange, a charity local to where Cecil was killed and associated with the Hwange National park in Zimbabwe. Donating more than £15,000 to charity (assuming all 99 units sell) is a nice enough gesture from any company, but feels somewhat exploitative when Goldgenie will earn close to £100,000 profit from this venture, once the cost of the phones and gold plating (just a few microns thick, done in minutes, and surprisingly cheap) has been taken away.
A drawing of a lion is etched on to the back of the phone with "For Cecil and his Kingdom" written below. The phone is no different from Goldgenie's regular gold-plated One M9 (also available in rose gold) and costs the same, too.
It is also exactly the same in all but material as any other One M9 which you can buy on the high street for considerably less, leaving you with £1,000 to donate to a charity of your choice. And, best of all, without employing a shiny gold phone to show everyone how you selflessly chucked £159 into the Cecil pot. I bet buyers will tell everyone just how shocked and outraged they were at Cecil's death, and how proud they are to help such a worthy cause.
Far be it from me to tell the rich what to spend their money on – Goldgenie is a very profitable business and loved by many, as we found out when we visited – but drumming up publicity off the back of a story many feel so strongly about, then donating just 10%, feels wrong.
IBTimes UK has asked Goldgenie for a comment and will update this article when we hear back.
Update: Goldgenie responded to our request for comment, with a spokesperson stating:
The idea for the limited edition Cecil the Lion HTC M9 was a spontaneous reaction to the sickening killing of the endangered beautiful creature in Zimbabwe last month. We wanted to do something to help those working towards wildlife conservation where Cecil lived and are surprised and saddened at the negative article. This may have been prompted by an error in The Telegraph, which misquoted and exaggerated the price of this limited edition customised phone at £24,000.
Overall, the articles that have been published on this phone are extremely favourable and speak positively of the campaign and we are proud of the viral online impact it has had in achieving further conversation surrounding Cecil and links throughout the Internet pointing directly to Friends of Hwange.
Our 24k Gold HTC M9 is our latest luxury customized smartphone release, we saw it as our most effective vehicle to bring attention to the cause whilst potentially raising funds for Friends of Hwange, a very worthy Trust directly supporting the maintenance and development of Hwange National Park, where Cecil lived.
Our founder Laban Roomes was personally and particularly moved by this story and like many others in the UK and globally found the actions of the perpetrator both abominable and abhorrent and was keen to try and draw attention to not only the plight of Cecil but also all other animals that are in danger of such mindless slaughter and we believe we have achieved this. We have been promoting a link to make direct donations to this charity alongside the fundraising capacity of the phone.
Our intentions were and are honourable and we simply applied a charitable initiative to what we do, which is Gold embellishing phones and lifestyle accessories. Our ultimate hope is that our campaign has raised awareness of Friends of Hwange and that the charity benefits from sales of the phone and direct donations as a result.
We would also like to add that this phone is not the first time we have supported a charity by selling a product and donating a percentage of proceeds to the charity. Other charities we have raised funds for with similar campaigns are:
- The Elton John Aids Foundation with the Starburst iPod Nano Collection
- The Teenage Cancer Trust with a Frank Lampard signed Gold iPod range
To name just a few, other charities we have helped with product donations towards their own fundraising campaigns are:
- The British Heart Foundation
- The MacMillan Cancer Trust
- The Kayan Prince Foundation
- The SOS Children's Charity
Despite any cynicism, we will continue to try and raise funds for charities through our work in future.