African Lion - What The Hunter Can Do!
African Indaba Vol. 1 # 3 carried an article by HO de Waal, African Large Predator Research Unit (ALPRU), University of the Free State, South Africa with the title “Measuring Large African Predators”. ALPRU's objective is the establishment of a continent wide database for the African Lion and professional hunters and outfitters (as well as visiting hunters) were asked to contribute a little time and effort towards the establishment of this database. In Vol. 1 # 2 we also published information about the field work and models of Karyl Whitman and Petri Viljoen with regard to sustainable safari hunting of the African lion.
This issue of African Indaba is taking up the topic once again – and the reasons are obvious. You just have to read the article “Another debate – this time the African lion” on page two. Notwithstanding the fact that Professor David Macdonald may have quoted some wrong figures on BBC and on the WildCRU website, the hunting community must show goodwill and cooperative spirit in lion conservation. Last not least, we still want our sons and daughters to experience the thrill of a genuine African lion safari during the next decades. In times where public opinion is easily swayed, and where emotions of a generally under-informed or miss-informed public may turn against any form of hunting, hunters must proactively show their commitment to conservation and sustainable use!
With a view to CITES CoP 13 (Conference of Parties) in 2004, hunters must be aware of the distinct possibility that the African range nations may face immense pressure for up-listing the African lion to Appendix 1. What that means for hunting trophy lion can easily be imagined; but what it means for the rural communities who live with and next to the free ranging lion is somewhat more difficult to fathom out. It will essentially mean that the lion will loose most of its economic value to these rural people and the cost of having lion in the vicinity will increase manifold. Their economic equation will balance even less than before. The result? Lion will be prosecuted and killed; relentlessly and mercilessly – by any means available. What does that mean to the African lion? Outside of formally protected areas, the lion will be seen as vermin without economic value, even with a very negative economic value! It will meet its destiny and disappear from these areas!
Neither we as hunters nor any scientists conducting research on lion want that outcome. And I believe firmly, neither do the rural communities in Africa. So what can we do?
The scientists must make sure that the public is receiving factual and unbiased information – and in cases where the media do not fulfil their role as unbiased communicators, the African Lion Working Group is commended for its recent publication, “African Lion Database” and supported in its efforts as a watchdog and as a source of factual information.
The hunters in turn also have to shoulder their responsibility. It makes no sense for hunters to bury their heads in the sand and pretend to wait for the storm to pass. For this storm – if not fought with facts and scientific principles in time - will not pass. If we do not secure the continued existence of a viable African lion population, the economic future of many a safari operator will also hang in balance and hunters around the world will loose the possibility of hunting lion in Africa.
Lion Body Measurement - 1
Lion Body Measurement - 2
Feel free to print this set to use or contact ALPRU on Tel: +27 (0)51 4012210, Fax: +27 (0)51 4012608, Mobile: + 27 (0)834065998, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for a full set of originals.
All hunters must join forces – visiting sport hunters, professional hunters and outfitters – in order to show a serious commitment towards the conservation and sustainable use of lion. I therefore commend the International Foundation for the Conservation of Wildlife (IGF) and its director, Dr Philippe Chardonnet, who together with his colleagues and John Jackson’s Conservation Force brought out the book “Conservation of the African Lion – Contribution to a Status Survey” (details see page 5, this issue). But we certainly need more work and commitment at grassroots level – all visiting hunters and most of all, all professional hunters and hunting outfitters have to join in.
In some quarters, there is a growing concern that trophy quality of African lions is declining. It is therefore the obligation of the hunter to co-operate in collecting reliable data of trophy quality, area, habitat and prey availability which can be evaluated and integrated into game management plans. Hunting can only be sustainable if it involves an ongoing process of adaptive management of the natural resource. The hunter is a key element in this process and must not shy away from this responsibility.
This is where ALPRU fits in. In February 2002 ALPRU started a database on the body mass and dimensions of large African predators. Standardized procedures to measure specimens and record data collected from dead or immobilized large African predators were developed. The procedures proposed by ALPRU will assist professional hunters to meas- ure all variables on all hunted large predators. Similarly scientists will collect data on immobilised animals across the continent. Samples of mane and body measuring instructions are shown in sketches on page 17 of this African Indaba.
There is a simple rationale for the professional hunter and outfitter to join in such a continent wide effort to establish a meaningful database (other than the mere “record book entry” – see Dieter Schramm’s remarks about “world records” on page 4, this issue) and sustainable hunting quotas: It will give an economic incentive to rural communities to tolerate lion on their land, it will ensure the presence of viable lion populations on non-formally protected land, it will provide mature trophy lion for the visiting hunter and it will guarantee the economic future of safari companies!
During discussions amongst experts it became evident that techniques to capture and record morphometric data from hunted animals in Africa are either non-specific, inade- quate or non-existent. As a result valuable data as substantiation of sustainable use of wildlife, especially large African predators, and as contribution to conservation efforts are lost to science.
At the first glance it may seem that the measuring of large animals is difficult. For that reason, or because it is simply not regarded as necessary or a priority by professional hunters or visiting hunters, very few authenticated measurements are available to science.
In my article “Another debate – this time the African Lion” I have criticized recent alarmist media reports, but I also called for cooperation between science and the hunting community. I challenge ALL HUNTERS – PROFESSIONALS, LOCAL AND VISITING – to recognize not only their obligations towards the age-old traditions of hunting but also for the needs of scientific conservation activities. Join the ALPRU effort and contribute the data of the game you hunt to the benefit of science, conservation and sustainable use.
In case of the African lion the procedure is less than difficult – it just needs a bit of time. To sacrifice that time must be in the interest of all genuine hunters! With this issue of Afri- can Indaba you receive the ALPRU Field Data Sheet as separate mail to record variables of the hunted lion as well as other relevant information The ALPRU Field Data Sheet has been developed to universally suit all large African predators and has been tested successfully with several species by ALPRU – so you may also want to use it for leopard, etc.
In addition, ALPRU has designed graphic presentations to assist the operator in the field with the task of measuring the animal. A complete set of these instructions is available from African Indaba or directly from ALPRU. I see that you are of goodwill and ready to cooperate with ALPRU –but how do you weigh a big lion in the field? It is actually quite simple –Dr Brian Bertram already used this method in 1975:
“I carried six lengths of angle iron and four wooden planks 30 cm wide; all were 120 cm long, and so fitted conveniently into a small vehicle. These components could be bolted together in 4 min to produce a platform roughly 120 cm by 200 cm. This was placed close to the back of lion, which was then rolled over onto it and pushed to the centre of the plat- form. A set of low flat bathroom scales was placed underneath each end. With the platform with the lion then balanced on the two sets of scales, the reading of eachscale was taken; their sum, minus the weight of the platform, gave the weight of the lion. With this system, it was possible to weigh a lion of 200 kg alone and without assistance, and with a minimum of disturbance. A slightly larger platform with four sets of scales would enable one to weigh considerably heavier animals."
It should not be too difficult for a safari operator to per- form these chores – last not least the hunted lion is normally brought back to camp, were all the utensils for weighing and measuring (and the time to do a proper job) are available.
Biological samples can be collected with a simple procedure, since ALPRU only require hair samples for DNA analysis to accompany the physical data set. The hair is plucked between thumb and forefinger from the skin at the base of the tail. The hair must still contain its follicles (roots attached). The hair sample is placed in a paper envelope; the envelope is inserted in a small plastic bag or a pill box to keep it dry and stored in a cool place or refrigerator. Clearly mark the container with the corresponding identifying information from the ALPRU Field Data Sheet. Once ALPRU has been informed about the number of hair samples, the necessary arrangements and quarantine procedures for export/import of pathology specimens will be issued. Better still, be prepared and contact ALPRU timely in advance for more detailsbefore the hunting season starts.
Any conscientious safari outfitters and professional hunters gain another two advantages by participating in the scheme –the bath room scales can be used in the hunters’ tents to show how much weight is lost on a strenuous African safari, and the visiting hunter is being supplied with hitherto unknown detailed statistics of the trophy and an ALPRU certificate recognizing the hunter and the outfitter will be issued.
Please cooperate in this important issue – it is your action now which will determine the success of scientific conservation efforts. Your action will contribute towards maintaining viable African lion populations and continued lion hunting. For more information or discussion on how you may cooperate contact either Gerhard Damm email@example.com or ALPRU (Prof HO de Waal) at fax +27-51-401-2608; email ALPRU@sci.uovs.ac.za or ALWG (Sarel van der Merwe) firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMPORTANT NOTE: PDF files of the ALPRU Field Data Sheet and A4 size instructive photos/sketches for measuring will be provided by email on request. All data submitted to ALPRU will be treated with the utmost discretion.