Hunting Lion

Discussion in 'Hunting Africa' started by Mike70560, Apr 6, 2009.

  1. shakari

    shakari AH Enthusiast

    Mar 3, 2010
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    When you look at the PHASA statement of 2005 (unfortunately I can't remember who was President then) & compare it to the recent (and IMO, disgraceful) volte face vote, it just goes to prove how many members are now involved in the canned lion shooting side of things!

    Mind you, I'm told there was no more than about 20% of the membership at that meeting & am astounded it wasn't put to a postal vote so the whole membership might have the opportunity to vote on such an important issue.


    Aug 21, 2009
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    African lions are one of the most charismatic species on the planet. Images of the King of the Jungle are etched deeply into our collective conscience. The debate on how best to conserve lions has been stirred anew with a recent Twitter post by Melissa Bachman who killed a “trophy” lion while on safari in Africa. The image of a rifle-toting Bachman posing over the carcass of a dead lion offended activists and animal lovers alike. However, Twitter hype aside, the hunting/conservation of African lions is a controversial topic that begs a thorough understanding of the facts.

    In 2011 US Fish & Wildlife Service was petitioned by animal rights activists to add African lions to the Endangered Species list, sharpening the divide of an already philosophically polarized conservation community. Contradicting the underlying premise of the petition, at a recent lion workshop hosted by FWS, three experts on African lions agreed that the lion, in their opinion, is not currently in danger of extinction. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the central body in conservation for the African lion, currently lists lions as “vulnerable” on their Red List of Threatened Species.

    All agree that populations of lions have declined significantly. According to a study authored by Professor Stuart Pimm of Duke University in 2012, about 75 percent of Africa’s savannahs and more than two-thirds of the lion population once estimated to live there have disappeared in the last 50 years. There are likely between 32,000 and 35,000 free ranging lions on the African continent today. According to Pimm, “massive land-use change and deforestation, driven by rapid human population growth” is the primary reason for the decline of the lion.

    Sixty percent of all lions harvested in Africa are destined for trophy rooms in the United States. Proponents of an Endangered Species listing claim the issue is a “no brainer.” Allowing hunters to harvest lions and export trophies back to the US sends the wrong conservation message. They say lions would be best conserved by blocking access to American hunters, thereby reducing pressure on lion populations. Jeff Flocken of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the group spearheading the petition to list lions on the Endangered Species Act (ESA), wrote, “Why should anyone spend money to protect an animal that a wealthy American can then pay to go kill?” Flocken characterizes his argument as common sense, but acknowledges that, habitat loss and human-lion conflict, not hunting, are the primary causes of the lions’ disappearance from Africa.

    It is absolutely essential that local communities identify the presence of lions as a direct benefit to them. Reducing human-lion conflict is critical to conservation success. According to Dennis Ikanda, of the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute’s Kingupira Research Centre, his country generated $75 million in lion hunting from 2008 to 2011. Opponents of an Endangered Species listing assert that trophy hunting is the only thing standing between the lions and extinction. Although those claims may seem counter intuitive, the money generated by hunting is being plowed back into the local economy, into conservation measures and into protecting lions from poaching. Hunting advocates say the only chance for survival of the lions is management as a valuable and sustainable natural resource.

    Melissa Simpson of SCIF wrote in an opinion piece for National Geographic Society, “If the (FWS) were to take regulatory action and put the African lion on the Endangered Species list, it would be in spite of the overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary. Such an overreaching decision would deprive the countries that grapple with lion management the resources they need the most. And the most essential resource is money.” Hunting advocates believe that more closely monitored hunting and the millions of dollars injected into management, conservation and the local economy is the best way to conserve lions.

    Additionally, proponents of listing insist that adult male lions being harvested are in fact dominant pride males in their breeding prime. They assert that harvesting pride males destroys pride stability by instigating less dominant males to cull the former pride male’s cubs in order to establish themselves, thereby disrupting the natural pride dynamic and throwing breeding cycles into chaos. If this were true, and management practices didn’t focus on males who have passed their prime, then damage to pride stability would be a serious problem.

    Hunting advocates have argued that it is irresponsible and unsustainable to harvest pride males in their prime. Responsible game management practices dictate only aging males that have passed their prime and are often alienated from the pride should be harvested. These are males that were possibly once dominant, but have become too old (6+ years) to maintain status within the pride structure. Although the idea of trophy hunting does not enjoy wide popularity, its value as a pragmatic conservation tool has proven to have merit. The questions are, will an Endangered Species listing relieve pressure on lion populations? Or will blocking American hunters from harvesting lions remove economic incentives necessary to protect a valuable resource?

    Animal rights advocates dismiss the conservation benefits of hunting. However, a study of trophy hunting by the University of Zimbabwe supports claims of conservation success tied to responsible hunting practices. Peter Lindsey, the lead author of the study, wrote, “trophy hunting is sustainable and low risk if well managed.” Lindsey continued, “Trophy hunting was banned in Kenya in 1977, in Tanzania during 1973–1978, and in Zambia from 2000 through 2003. Each of these bans resulted in an accelerated loss of wildlife due to the removal of incentives for conservation. Avoiding future bans is thus vital for conservation.” When local communities are not incentivized to protect lions they are subsequently killed. To date there appears to be no clear evidence that would support the premise that listing lions as endangered in the USA would inure conservation benefit to lions in Africa; to the contrary, listing could undermine real conservation efforts by diminishing the value of lions to local African communities.

    Admittedly, oversight of hunting practices in Africa is not likely to be commensurate to standards in the west anytime soon. Trophy hunting is by no means a perfect solution, but the IUCN Cat Specialists Group says, “Properly managed trophy hunting was viewed as an important solution to long-term lion conservation.” There will always be some abuse from unscrupulous individuals. But the monetary incentive to manage sustainable lion populations for hunting is the only protection lions currently have. Removing economic incentive for Africans to conserve lions has been demonstrated to be counterproductive. Working to improve oversight and lion management should be a priority. Until a better conservation model proves its mettle, responsibly managed hunts are the best chance for lions to survive in Africa.

    Author: Andrew Wyatt
  3. AlSpaeth

    AlSpaeth AH Member

    Jul 5, 2010
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    RSA, Botswana
    Hi Andrew,
    Excellent input and many valid points which I agree with.
    Have been involved in the hunting industry in South Africa for nearly 30 years here are my concerns:
    Hunting has played a huge role in wildlife condervation here in Africa and I started game ranching in 1985 as well as being an outfitter and licensed PH.
    I believe the greatest threat to our wildlife in Africa is loss of habitat due to an exploding population. The explosion of game ranches in South Africa has provided the additional habitat on private land for untold thousands of animals that would otherwise not exist. Hunting is a critical factor to the sustainability of this land and the management of the wildlife.
    Although high fenced (as required by law here), the concept behind game ranches was to provide habitat so our wildlife could live (and be hunted) in a natural wild state - ideal for plains-game species.

    No here is where it gets tricky:
    When we talk about saving animals from extinction - we are talking about preservation vs conservation.
    Zoos can play a role in preservation of a species but not conservation which is based on sustainable utilization of our wildlife. Hunting is accepted by most as being important to successful conservation - but it doesn't work in zoos.

    When it comes to lions, in particular, the "king" raises huge emotional issues. This is not Disney stuff.
    For more than a century the pinnacle of African hunting has been the "Big Five". Big Game Hunting was was always for the elite few. Even in the days of Selous and Hemmingway it was roalty and the rich who could afford a big five African safari. It was the pinnacle of hunting success and, other than buffalo, the rest were unobtainable for most.
    Game ranching made it possible to hunt wild game living and breeding in a natural state. Unfortunately, most game ranches are too small and only our parks (no hunting allowed) are large enough for lions to live and breed naturally in South Africa. This has resulted in many opportunists breeding and hand raising lions in the hope of attracting the hunting market and making lots of money. Virtually all are hand raised and fed from cubs and recognise man as a friend who feeds them from the time they are cubs.

    Those of us who have hunted Lion in Places like Botswana (now stopped) objected to this practice. In those days to get a lion permit the government required that a hunter book a mimimum of a 21-28 day safari. Baiting was not allowed so it was usually many days of tracking on foot, and many hunters went on more than one safari before they were successful. Any hunter with a lion in his trophy collection was admired as we all knew what it took to acheive.

    Back in the early 90's lion breeders were arriving at SCI with photo albums of lions and prices. You could choose your trophy and price and the lion was guaranteed. We, older hunters, called it "supermarket hunting" as was just a case of "pick" and "pay" and then it became "canned" in the same vain as artifically bred and fed - not drugged,

    My objection to the practice was simply that was illegal in the USA wher most of our clients came from. It was not that I against lion hunting or objected to killing tame animals. It was my concern over the future of hunting as a sport. Every sport has ethics. I don't think you should claim a record bass if you caught in a fish hatchery or a "hole in one" if you picked up the ball, walked down the fairway, and dropped it in the hole. It may happen, but it is not acceptable to any true sportsman - and we must remember that there is a much bigger anti-hunting lobby out there than anti-fishing or anti-golf who have threatened our sport and its popularity for many years. Canned lion hunting is just the sort of ammo they would love to have to show the world that we are not sportsmen - but just enjoy killing poor defenseless animals.

    It may be a grey area to some, but I believe it should be stopped in the interest of our sport and its future.
    And what about the true sportsman to took the time and money and endured the hardships and dangers of a true African big game safari?

    Those in the safari industry should recognise that we are selling memories - not just dead animals. How does a hunter feel when he is back home, sitting in his trophy room with a whisky in hand, looking at the magnificent lion he shot off the back of a truck. It wasn't charging - it was just running up to the truck waiting for someone to throw some meat to him. If released into the wild he will not survive as he has never learned to hunt. If he is not a trophy, he will be killed anyway as we now have a market for lion bones used in eastern medicine. He never even had a chance to be a real lion.

    Is this really the way we want to save the "King of Beasts"?
    For the sake of our sport - and the lion - I think not.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2014
  4. tigris115

    tigris115 AH Member

    Jul 25, 2014
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    Very nicely put. I do feel that responsible harvesting is a good long term solution for lions. Although I can understand that some people aren't exactly thrilled by this.
  5. LeopardsValleySafaris

    LeopardsValleySafaris AH Senior Member

    Jan 2, 2014
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    South Africa
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    South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe
    I'm not and old school PH but have hunted both wild lion and South African Ranch lion.
    It is not as you describe but rather similar to the Botswana kalahari hunting of old.

    You first check water for fresh tracks and then you check roads to check for fresh movement. They are not tame.

    I have seen fresh kills in the field, showing that they adapt quickly.

    I have also done wild lion hunts where the P.H tells my client that the 2yr old pup in the photo is all he's gonna get so if he wants a wild lion this is it.

    There are horses for courses. 40 square miles is a big chunk of kalahari to walk through and charges do happen.

    I think that due to the shrinking lion habitat South African lions are going to be the only lions we hunt in the future. I pray I'm wrong.

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