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 Trophy Hunting is not sustainable - it cannot be called conservation anymore.

Trophy hunting of lions needs to be stopped. It is not conservation, it is not sustainable, and will not lead to any form of recovery of Africa’s lions.

Let’s say you have a pond on your property, and that pond is full of a species of delicious fish, but it is only the males that taste good. During the first year of fishing, you are catching lots of fish, you are throwing the small males back, and it takes you only an hour or so to catch a basketful. Time goes by, and you notice a different trend – the fish you decide to keep are getting smaller, and it is taking longer to fill your basket. More time goes by and you might sit there for hours without catching anything except a few females. Disgusted with your pond, you decide to sell the house and buy a new property with a new pond.
Let’s change the scenery and the setting a bit. Your pond is now a hunting concession in Tanzania, and you are not a fisherman but a hunter of male lions. First year – no problem in bagging some wonderful trophies in short time. As time goes by, you have to spend more time hunting to find a lion, and the trophies are getting smaller – to the point where you spend days and days searching without seeing a single male lion not even able to be “enhanced” by a taxidermist. Disgusted, you sell move to another concession.

WE HAVE SAID THIS MANY TIMES BEFORE

In many blogs on this website, we have pointed out that lion trophy hunting is not sustainable, is an additive factor to the overall decline in lion populations where they still occur, and as it is focused on male lions, is highly destructive to the well-being and reproduction of lions in hunting and nearby protected areas.

We have provided you with appalling CITES export numbers and declining overall numbers of lions across the continent. We said disease risk factors were important, and that human/domestic animal conflict problems have also contributed to the declines.

We received a lot of flak. Trophy hunting was a conservation measure for lions we were told sternly, and the extra land made available in hunting concessions could only benefit numbers of lions and other wildlife. Shoot a few and conserve the many, it is all part of unsentimental wildlife management in the 21st Century. The proceeds from a trophy hunt are shared between the communities and the governments, so therefore they will value the lions and protect them.

Suddenly and rather out of the blue, support for our consistent stance that trophy hunting is not a conservation measure and has led to the overall decline in lion numbers comes from an unexpected source. Craig Packer of the University of Minnesota, a long-time lion researcher and a darling of the hunting community for a while, a recipient of funds from hunting organizations, a proponent of the sustainability of lion trophy hunting, has now seemingly had a change of mind.

In this issue of Science NOW, based on an upcoming article in Conservation Biology, Packer’s team looked at several explanations for the decline. “Expanding agriculture, disease, and retaliatory killings might all play a role, but those threats paled in comparison to recreational hunting, according to the team’s analysis.

Shooting for sport was responsible for 92% of hunters’ reduced success.” Translated – the hunters over-shot, and lion numbers plummeted.

The article goes on to say: “Tanzania allows trophy hunters to shoot only male lions that are at least 6 years old. Theoretically, this is better for the species as a whole than shooting lionesses, but Packer and Child agree that even killing just the adult males poses a serious threat. The country tries to cap the number of yearly kills at 500 in a 300,000-square-kilometer range. Packer thinks even a third of that is dangerous.”

NO MORE TROPHY HUNTING

A bit of a sea-change for Packer, but a welcome one. Trophy hunting of lions needs to be stopped. It is not conservation, it is not sustainable, and will not lead to any form of recovery of Africa’s lions.

PS – When you read the article, ignore the 450,000 lions seventy years ago. That came out of nowhere.

Posted by Pieter Kat at 00:00

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