Pieter's Blog

Welcome to Pieter Kat's official LionAid blog. Here you can follow Pieter's opinions, thoughts, insights and ideas on saving lions.

Lion hunters ignore all advice and kill young male lions?

Followers on our facebook page will see that we have been engaging in an interesting discussion with someone who goes by the name of John Hunt.

John is a reasonable man, and has been pointing out all the “benefits” that accrue to continued trophy hunting of lions and other species. These include a rather long list, such as land set aside for wildlife (leased by the hunting companies but giving alternative financial returns than livestock and crops), antipoaching activities by the companies, provision of boreholes, schools, clinics, employment to the communities, and income to the governments in terms of trophy fees. Yes, money exchanges hands. But to what realistic extent companies are helping communities is something that needs to be evaluated independently apart from hunting company PR and hype -  how satisfied are the communities with the hunting company activities in utilizing national resources, and are the communities therefore changing their negative attitudes towards wildlife because of those activities?

John Hunt is of the opinion that any kind of ban on lion hunting will do the species no good. And that while there might be some bad eggs in the hunting community, mostly hunters are good eggs and take conservation seriously. John puts forward a case but not a good cause. Craig Packer of the University of Minnesota has assembled some interesting information for Tanzania lion hunting at least (see our past blog). Craig has called for a reduction of trophy quotas and much better monitoring of male lion offtake as a first course. He has informed in a recent publication that the greatest contributory factor to the reduction in trophy quality (young males) and quantity in hunting areas is directly attributable to the hunters themselves – they are overhunting a fragile resource.

This is not surprising. Harvesters of natural resources often overdo things. Look at rainforests and ocean fish for example. John Hunt is of the opinion that if lion hunting is stopped, it will a) cause greater levels of vengeance killings by local residents as there is now no financial incentive to maintain lions, and b) not have any marked effect on the rate of decrease of lions as most of the decline is due to loss of habitat, loss of prey, and conflict with humans and livestock.

John Hunt is also of the opinion that maintaining the status quo (and removing the few rotten apple hunters from the barrel) will overall do lion conservation good. We disagree. Any industry that has betrayed trust for very many years while touting conservation of lions needs to be shut down. The hunters have been informed since 2002 that they were hunting a species in great decline. Instead of voluntarily backing off they elected to continue and even enlarge their activities. The hunters have been informed long ago that hunting underage males was not sustainable – Craig Packer suggested shooting no male less than six years old – but they continue to do so. Craig Packer published a few pictures from his files in a scientific article of hunters posing with their trophies of underage lions (above).

LionAid is not in agreement with this six-year rule, but if that can be seen as a minimum standard, why do the hunters still elect to shoot very young males?

The overwhelming scientific evidence is against lion hunting as a sustainable activity. Trophy hunters have ignored even the most basic levels of advice. Ergo, lion trophy hunting needs to go, the sooner the better for the lions.

Posted by Pieter Kat at 00:00

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