Can There be Sustainable Lion Hunting in Africa?

AFRICAN INDABA

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By now the arguments for both sides are well known. Trophy hunting provides important revenue for African landowners, and without that income, they might be persuaded to convert land currently managed for wildlife into farms and mines. Sacrificing a few older, non-reproductive lions—it is argued—allows the entire ecosystem to be preserved. On the other hand, pervasive corruption and unscrupulous practices that contravene the established scientific guidelines for sustainable hunting have led to overharvesting, especially for the charismatic king of the jungle. Can anything be done to make hunting practices more sustainable?

That’s what Montana State University the Zambia Carnivore Programme‘s Scott Creel wanted to know. The common wisdom for sustainable hunting is known as “age-restricted harvesting,” and it holds that only male lions above a certain age ought to be removed from the population. The problem, the researchers realized, is that those guidelines were developed based on a well protected, growing lion population. They set out to determine whether there could be sustainable lion hunting for the more typical challenged populations.

Using mathematical models informed by real-world population estimates, Creel and his team projected population dynamics for African lions 25 years into the future—both without hunting and under a range of hunting scenarios. Those scenarios included quotas for hunting blocks, age restriction, and hunting periods punctuated by recovery periods with no hunting. They assumed that the hunting blocks were located adjacent to protected areas like national parks, as is so often the case in the real world, with lions moving frequently between protected and unprotected landscapes.

They discovered that most hunting scenarios resulted in a long-term decline in trophy-sized males, which is both detrimental to lion populations and undesirable for hunters. The best strategy, therefore, was a mosaic one. “This decrease in the availability of prime-aged males is minimized,” the researchers conclude, “by the combination of a block quota of one, a 3 on/3 off cycle of hunting and recovery, and a minimum hunted age of 7 or 8 years.” In other words, hunting blocks can sustainably be allocated one trophy hunt per year of a lion at least 7 years old, for three consecutive years, followed by three years for recovery. They also recommend that trophy fees be increased to account for the reduced quota. Still, such a scenario would still include a long-term decline in lion populations, especially if poaching or habitat degradation worsen.

Trophy hunting by itself might be sustainable, but not given a background of poaching, habitat loss, and retaliatory killings. “If other negative effects on lions are not controlled, it is unlikely that trophy hunting at any level will be sustainable,” they conclude. It’s a dire warning, and one that they say likely applies to other African megafauna as well, especially leopards.

Source: Creel, S., M’soka, J., Dröge, E., Rosenblatt, E., Becker, M., Matandiko, W., & Simpamba, T. (2016). Assessing the sustainability of African lion trophy hunting, with recommendations for policy. Ecological Applications. DOI: 10.1002/eap.1377.

Author: Jason G. Goldman June 22, 2016 Conservation This Week
 
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Philip Glass

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Sorry but these people are complete morons. They know nothing of wildlife and how it works in Africa. Simply put, without annual hunting revenue ALL lions outside of national parks will be poisoned in time. Lions eat massive amounts of meat annually (livestock and wildlife) and they must pay or they will not stay. We all understand the cub mortality that can happen when a new male comes in. When there are large numbers of mature male lions the chances of a pride being taken over by a new male and the resultant loss of cubs is higher. Did this study take that into account or did they only attribute death to hunting? Granted when a pride male is taken as a trophy when the pride has small cubs there is a problem. Other wise taking mature lions does virtually nothing to the overall population.
Can common sense prevail? Or are there just too many people in our world that are disconnected from the reality of how animals live and die?
Frustrated,
Philip
 

cpr0312

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Or are there just too many people in our world that are disconnected from the reality of how animals live and die?

I'd say sadly this is the most likely scenario in every country from what we see and read almost weekly it seems now
 

Ryan

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Montana State University isn't what I'd consider part of the blind side of conservation research community. I don't think he is a moron and he does appear to know how things are working. The report doesn't say hunting of adult males can't occur, but it is saying the current method does not appear to be working to maintain the proper age structure for a healthy pride. They then offered another structure to maintain it better. Lions definitely aren't the first animal species we've had to rethink our hunting practices on to sustain the population best. The report brings up the bigger problem in the last paragraph which is that it's not the hunters killing off selected lions it's the accumulation of other negative effects by the human population that indiscrimately kill off some and in some areas all lions. I will concede the report doesn't mention the financial incentive of hunting to reduce or prevent these negative effects. Thankfully it is brought up in other reports, and others will continue to do so.
 

npm352

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I like his part that says trophy fees should be raised to compensate for off years. What people are willing to pay for a lion hunt has zero to do with what a researcher thinks. It has to do with a free market and supply and demand. And USFWS just significantly dropped demand by taking away the majority of the lion hunters (Americans) in the worldwide scheme of things.
 

CAustin

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Well one thing is for sure IMO ....if high fenced hunted lion import is not allowed in the US the total numbers of lions in Africa is going way down. The ranchers will not be able to sustain the captive numbers without American hunters being in the mix. While some American hunters may still do a high fence hunt without bringing home the trophy ...those numbers will be very small. So as all the non hunting pressures act upon the free range lion population (read human population growth) the potential savior population will be diminished as well. Anyway you look at it the actions of the USFW has put a dark cloud over lions in Africa. All the schemes offered amount to nothing without ethical hunting taking place. I agree " if it pays it stays"
 

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I agree with @CAustin, if it pays it stays. While I question how good some african countries are at responsibly managing their populations, there is no question that in the absence of a monetary incentive, the lion population will diminish rapidly.

Hopefully USFW will figure this out... maybe a new director appointed by a new administration will help...
 

Pheroze

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It's hard to discuss the article when all we have is a summary of it. Is there a link to the publication that is publicly available?

Last week I was at the Daniel Cheetah project in South Africa. They have two four year old lions. We were told they could not be used to breed for wild populations because South Africa already has more lions than the land area can sustain. So, I am confused by the belief in a decline unless the rules change.

This article claims the same model would apply to all mega fauna. If so, why did Botswana see a growth in their elephant populations over the last 40+ years?

Perhaps the model would apply to some jurisdictions but a different model needs to be applied in some other areas?
 

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