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.

What is conservation?

Monday 20th October 2014

Cedar trees 

A confused picture


Strange question you might ask, as we all know what conservation is don’t we? But I would pose that we don’t really understand the concept anymore as it has become both incredibly diluted and has multiple meanings.

For example, the Business Directory says this:

“Exploitation, improvement, and protection of human and natural resources in a wise manner, ensuring derivation of their highest economic and social benefits on a continuing or long-term basis. Conservation… (unlike preservation) implies consumption of the conserved resources."

While the Oxford Dictionary says this:

Protect (something, especially something of environmental or cultural importance) from harm or destruction."

Let’s look at the root of the word – it comes from Latin and basically just means “keep together”. And that is where we have gone wrong, as we are not keeping very much in nature “together” are we? We have somehow moved away from what conservation really is to a much more exploitative definition.

Some say we should not confuse conservation with preservation – and the latter has actually become a rather “bad” word. But preservation only really means “keep as before”.

So let’s just have a new definition of conservation – “keeping wild”. That means keeping wild areas and keeping life wild in those areas,

Now the sad thing is that we don’t really know how to “keep” things as they were before, as we have very little real information on what natural areas, wildlife populations, forests, marine life etc looked like 2014 years ago let alone 10,000 years ago. We know that the expansion of human populations and associated consequences like the proliferation of agriculture, mining, industry, water use, harvest of natural products etc has made great changes across the face of our planet. We know that our grandparents tell us that there was much more of lots of things years ago. That might not be true in some cases – but that’s a subject for another discussion.

The reality is that we have not kept things wild. Instead, as the Business Dictionary defines conservation, we have opted for “ensuring derivation of their highest economic and social benefits on a continuing or long-term basis” of natural resources. Sustainable use in other words.

Long espoused by the “major” conservation organizations, has “sustainable use worked? That should not even be a question. It has not. Even the oceans have been depleted of fish. Why has it not worked?

Two reasons at least. First, we have never bothered to establish the “size” of the resource that we use “sustainably”. We have no idea of how many fish there are in the ocean, how many lions there are in Africa, how many trees there are in the forests. We just use them for our purposes until we run into big problems as we find fewer and fewer of those resources we were supposedly using sustainably. If you have no idea of how to limit use of resources to a sustainable level you inevitably end up overexploiting them.

To assuage ourselves we set “quotas” on such practices, but as we should all know quotas are always exceeded, either because they are ignored or because they become part of the illegal trade. Until very recently nobody was greatly penalized by exceeding fishing quotas or logging quotas or trophy hunting quotas as there was nobody there (and that continues today) to effectively monitor what is happening. Overexploitation just means greater profits.

Second, it has been estimated that we need a planet 1.5 times the size of the Earth to meet our current demands. So let’s not talk about “sustainable” utilization of wild resources anymore. That concept, now very many decades old, has failed spectacularly and should get buried in a pauper’s grave.

Another concept is that we should “farm” our forests and wildlife. Farming forests is not conservation – as farmers substitute fast growing and often non-indigenous trees for the centuries-old native trees that are cut down. That is not keeping wild is it?

Farming wildlife has been heralded by a few southern Africa countries as a major solution to conserve wildlife. In fact, many “conservationists” in South Africa point to the fact that there are now many thousands more “wild” animals in the country than ever before. But farming is not conservation, it is commercial utilization. Perhaps South Africans equate “wildlife” behind fences with wildlife, but this is a stretch of their imagination. Wildlife ranches are not concerned about biodiversity, they are concerned about profits. That is why they farm selected species (the most commercially valuable ones) and neglect others. Also, a wildlife farm (or the seemingly preferred term “ranch”) cannot include predators as they will literally eat into the farmer’s profits. By farming wildlife it is not wildlife any longer. That’s not keeping wild either.

You might as well say that other facilities, like zoos, contribute to conservation by keeping and breeding animals. A zoo tiger might look like a wild tiger but that resemblance is only skin deep. A predator raised in captivity cannot be released back into the wild and be expected to “recover” hunting skills.

So if we now accept that conservation means “keeping wild”, where do we go from here? Humans need fish and wood and meat and plants to survive. Fish farming and tree farming and wildlife farming could be needed to provide our ever-increasing demands, but let’s not call that conservation any longer.

If we want to keep things wild, we need better managed wild areas where consumptive human activities do not encroach. That is the first and not necessarily easiest step. Africa has huge gazetted wildlife areas that could be restored with better management and better political will and better financial discipline. There are similarly huge areas worldwide that can be resurrected for forests and wildlife. These lands are degraded and no longer commercially valuable, but given time, can be restored. Much more attention needs to be paid there. We need to abandon highly destructive activities like growing palm oil and extensive fields of crops for bio-gas. We need to concentrate much more on renewable energy like wind, solar, tidal.

We need not only a better definition of conservation, but we also need to live more carefully, imaginatively, and respectfully to keep the wild. And let’s restrict the term “conservation” to what it really needs to be, not what many want it to be.


 Picture credit: www.flickr.com 



If you have not already signed up to our mailing list, you can add your name here and keep up to date with our ongoing work and, most importantly, DONATE to support our work to conserve the remaining fragile lion populations. 

Add a comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 15:28

A possible remedy to bushmeat poaching

Wednesday 17th September 2014

bushmeat snares
 Lots of snares but no poachers caught


All over Africa, poachers are setting wire snares to catch wildlife. Some do it on a small scale to feed their families, others do it on a commercial scale to sell bushmeat on local markets by the hundreds of kilos. The so called “by-catch” or collateral damage of these snares is that very many predators like lions get caught and die needless deaths.

The response has usually been to employ anti-poaching teams from wildlife departments or NGOs to remove snares.

In my opinion, this has for many years been possibly a wrong response. While it might benefit those to show piles of collected snares (see picture above) as a means of indicating that they are combating poaching, the reality is that in short order the poachers put out new snares.

It might seem like a strange suggestion, but I would advocate leaving the snares in place. Obviously the snares should be rendered ineffective so they can no longer catch animals, but by leaving the snares in place you will be able to snare the poachers.

The weak link in using snares is that the poachers need to visit them regularly to determine what they have caught. Such checks must occur regularly, as an animal left in a snare for too long can be eaten by a predator – or the meat will rot.

So snares can be used to catch poachers as well. Either by setting ambushes for those coming to check their snares, or photographing them with hidden trail cameras as they inspect the snares.

So instead of collecting piles of snares, you could collect piles of photographs of the poachers. The cameras these days are quite sophisticated and are activated by motion sensors. They can take pictures by day and night without the subject knowing they have been snapped.

The bushmeat trade is worth far more than the illegal ivory trade these days, and is destroying wildlife at a great rate. Also, it appears that a significant number of snares are placed inside protected areas, as poachers can operate freely there.

Time to stop collecting snares as evidence of doing something against poaching activities. Deactivate the snares and collect the poachers.


Picture credit: http://bit.ly/1spbxDY 



If you have not already signed up to our mailing list, you can add your name here and keep up to date with our ongoing work and, most importantly, DONATE to support our work to conserve the remaining fragile lion populations. Thank you.

Add a comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 19:22

A tale of two conspirators?

Wednesday 10th September 2014

A tale of two consirators

Two “free range” lions shot at Tam Safaris courtesy of Seaview?


We by now all know the connections between lion breeding facilities and canned hunting operations. However, the breeding facilities often disguise themselves as lion conservation entities. In fact, they attract many paying volunteers and tourists to pet and interact with lion cubs.

They say that these lion cubs are all “orphans” to be raised to “somehow” be returned to the wild in the future. Yes, they are orphans as they are taken away from their mothers at a few days old to be raised by “volunteers” and petted by tourists. But their future is not in the wild, it is to eventually be hunted.

All along the value chain, these cubs in captive breeding facilities are exploited. By paying volunteers, by petting tourists, supplied to wedding ceremonies and schools, supplied to “walking experiences” – there is no limit to inventiveness by the breeders. And at the end of the day the lions end up as hunting trophies, skins, and bones for the Asian “traditional” medicine trade.

It is said that you can use any part of a pig except the squeak. The same applies to captive bred lions.

Captive breeders have always claimed innocence. But now a report by The Herald, a local newspaper in the Port Elizabeth area of South Africa has shot down such claims.

A parallel report by associated news organization Times Live said this:

“Lions and tigers from Port Elizabeth's Seaview Predator Park are being sold to game farms known for hunting and the exporting of animal bones.

Although the park has refused to comment, Eastern Cape department of economic development, environmental affairs and tourism MEC Sakhumzi Somyo has confirmed that:

The park has sent 22 lions to Cradock hunting reserve Tam Safaris since 2008; and
Two tigers have been sent from the park to the country's leading bone exporter, Letsatsi la Africa, in the Free State since 2008. Nine lions were sent last year.
Earlier this year, the Weekend Post revealed television show hosts, major league sports stars, wealthy entrepreneurs and a former US Congressman were among those who had hunted at the family-run Tam Safaris.

Departmental permits indicate there have been 86 lion hunts at the reserve over the past six years.

Tam Safaris owner Irvin Tam confirmed it had bought lions from Seaview Predator Park, owned by Janice and Rusty Gibbs.

"I have an agreement with them but can assure you that none of these lions from Seaview are used for hunting.

''They are specifically used to breed and bring new blood into our breeding projects," he said.

"Those lions are then either sold or used for hunting.

"I must stress again that all our hunts are legal and completely by the book."

Tam Safaris exported 32 lion carcasses to Vietnam in 2011, 738kg of lion bones and teeth in 2012 and 459kg of lion bones, claws and teeth last year.”


Seaview, in their public messages say this:

“As the name implies, the Seaview Game and Lion Park’s main attraction is the lions. At present, the lion population is approximately 55, of which nearly 25 are sub-adults and cubs.

All the lion cubs born at the Park are hand-reared and for a small fee may be handled by the public. When lions are hand-reared and become familiarized and imprinted with humans, THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED TO BE HUNTED. [capitals mine]
Our healthy, adorable cubs continue to receive many accolades. They are inoculated against all known feline diseases and rabies, and are free of Feline AIDS and TB. All the cubs are micro-chipped.” 

Tam Safaris says this:

“Tam Safaris have been hunting free ranging Lion for over seven years. There are three dedicated Lion reserves, comprising over 25,000 acres, devoted to free range Lion. These exclusive hunts have been very well received by hunting communities and are especially popular with clients who do not want to hunt “canned” Lion.”


“Tam Safaris is the first accredited private game reserve in South Africa for free roaming Lion Hunting; based on the National Draft Policy, Norms and Standards for large predators. The unprecedented success of this hunting opportunity relates directly to five years of hard work and well-developed infrastructure and dedicated game management programs. This has resulted in the accreditation of three related hunting areas for the fair chase hunting of the magnificent African Lion.”

The “gallery” of canned lions is available on the Tam Safaris website.

So – Seaview does not sell lions to hunting organizations and Tam Safaris does not hunt canned lions?

Is this a convenient story? Is the truth very different? Does it show that Seaview has been manipulating volunteers and tourists and Tam Safaris has been manipulating “hunters” into believing they hunt “free-roaming lions”? And then does it participate in the lion bone trade as well?

It seems, in short, a clear expose of how the canned lion hunting industry works. And, if correct, how sordid the whole business really is. Well done The Herald and various people in the Port Elizabeth area working together to bring all this to our attention.

Picture credit: www.tamsafaris.com


If you have not already signed up to our mailing list, you can add your name here and keep up to date with our ongoing work and, most importantly, DONATE to support our work to conserve the remaining fragile lion populations. Thank you. 

Add a comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 19:57

Where have all the lions in Zambia gone?

Saturday 6th September 2014

David Scholey 

One less lion in Zambia – 230 or so left?


Recently, the Zambian Carnivore Programme published their 2013 Annual Report .

Included in their information was their estimate of lion populations in three areas of Zambia – Luangwa, Kafue and Liuwa Plains. Respectively, they estimated 141, 56 and perhaps 5 lions. There was no estimate for lion numbers in the Lower Zambezi area, but I’ll come back to that.

There have been a diversity of lion estimates in Zambia over the years. In 2006, the IUCN arranged a meeting in Johannesburg for southern and eastern African lion range states. Delegates at that meeting mentioned estimates of 750 lions in the Luangwa area, 500 lions in Kafue, and <50 lions in Liuwa. In the lower Zambezi area they estimated about 250-500 lions.

One of the reasons for the IUCN meeting was to encourage lion range states to formulate conservation management plans for their lion populations.

Zambia put together a report in 2009, but this has yet to be signed off by the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA).

In June 2013 we were invited to make a presentation to the ZAWA Board by former Minister of Tourism and Arts Sylvia Masebo. We asked the Board to justify their lion estimates, which to date they have not. This information is now even less likely to be forthcoming as that Board has since been fired.

ZAWA estimated 2123 lions in Luangwa, 1334 lions in Kafue, and 238 lions in the Lower Zambezi. Tourism operators in the Lower Zambezi told us in 2013 that there were only 35 lions known to them in that area at the time.

Sylvia Masebo placed a moratorium on trophy hunting in Zambia in January 2013, citing irregularities in the tenders for hunting concessions and concerns about remaining wildlife numbers. Her successor, Jean Kapata, recently reinstated some trophy hunting in Zambia, but kept lions off the menu until proper population surveys could be undertaken.

LionAid would suggest that Minister Kapata takes a hard look at the figures published by the ZCP.

Overall, these numbers suggest that Luangwa and Kafue contain perhaps 197 lions, and our information suggests that the Lower Zambezi contains perhaps 35 lions. The total for those three main lion conservation areas would therefore add up to 230 or so lions in Zambia.

This is a far cry from ZAWA’s 2009 estimate of almost 3700 lions in those same three areas. And also a far cry from the IUCN number of 1750 lions.

So where have all the lions gone? Zambian wildlife areas are heavily poached for bushmeat and lions are killed by trophy hunters – and farmers and ZAWA as “problem animals”.

Trophy hunting of a declining population of lions should not be given an inch of consideration by ZAWA and Minister Kapata in the future. Zambians will be greatly distressed that there are perhaps only 230 lions remaining in their country. They should not be sold to foreign trophy hunters again regardless of pressure from parties with vested interests.

Picture credit:  http://thetim.es/1nCn0P6 


If you have not already signed up to our mailing list, you can add your name here and keep up to date with our ongoing work and, most importantly, DONATE to support our work to conserve the remaining fragile lion populations. Thank you.


Add a comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 16:41

Zambia elephants 

Still in my sights



Recently, the Minister of Tourism and Arts, Jean Kapata, reinstated (some) trophy hunting in Zambia. Her predecessor, Sylvia Masebo, placed a moratorium on trophy hunting in January 2013, citing irregularities in allocations of hunting concessions and worries over a sharp decline in Zambia’s wildlife.

When LionAid was given the opportunity to address the Board of the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) in June 2013 at the invitation of former Minister Masebo, we were told in no uncertain terms by the Chairman that trophy hunting would return. We submitted a written report detailing our concerns about the lack of proper information about lion populations and have yet to receive the promised reply. This is unlikely to be forthcoming as Minister Kapata fired that ZAWA Board when she was instated in March 2014, and there seems little progress to identify a new Board.

Kapata mentioned that ZAWA was broke and dependent on income from hunting concession leases and trophy fees. She still excluded leopards and lions form the hunting menu, and recently this statement was issued to also exclude elephants:

“ZAWA communications and public relations officer Readith Muliyunda said in a statement yesterday that that even before the ban was effected, Zambia was never been [sic] a pro-elephant hunting nation.
“Contrary to blatant misinformation reports on social media and some sectors of the media that the hunting ban on elephants has been lifted, ZAWA would like to inform members of the public and the international community that this is not the case,” she said.
Ms Muliyunda said even before the ban, hunting of elephants in Zambia had been at the lowest, restricted to two out of the 36 Game Management Areas (GMA’s) namely, Rufunsa and Lupande.”

Looking at CITES trade database records from 2008-2012, it would appear that 128 elephants were hunted in Zambia over those five years. That means that an average of 26 elephants were shot from only two GMAs per year. Is that a low level of elephant hunting?

Regardless, it is clear that Zambia needs to carefully examine how it derives income from wildlife resources. If ZAWA is to attain financial stability, it would appear that a much greater effort should be made by government to promote photographic tourism to Zambia. Why not? Zambia is an incredibly beautiful country with a well-developed hospitality industry.

Unfortunately, previous international donors like the Norwegian Aid organization have closed down their programmes in Zambia citing massive corruption in ZAWA. Minister Kapata will need a strategic mission to restore international donor confidence.

She is not helped by a significant level of political turmoil in the country. Minister Masebo, as mentioned, was sacked. More recently the Minister of Justice and Chief Executive of the ruling Patriotic Front party, Wynter Kabimba, was sacked. President Sata appears to be terminally ill and there is much confusion about his capacity to fulfil his duties. It is rumoured that the Vice President, Guy Scott, is also in trouble.

Given this scenario of political infighting, wildlife conservation will doubtless remain on the back burner for a while.

Meanwhile, an impeccable source tells me that trophy hunting in Zambia will not be financially viable to the hunting operators unless lions, leopards and elephants are restored into the mix. Those are the “big draws” for foreign hunters, and therefore the pressure from the trophy hunting community will be persistent.

So where to go from here? I’ll write another blog on the dire straits of Zambia’s lion population. As for elephants, there are no good estimates for Zambia. I’m not even sure that Zambia signed up to the pan-African elephant counts funded to an organization called Elephants Without Borders by the Paul Allen Foundation to the tune of $10 million.

LionAid would urge Zambia to get her wildlife house in order, and diversify ZAWA’s income away from the heavy reliance on trophy hunting. There are good people in Zambia fighting for responsible conservation programmes. They have been lying low for a while with the political turmoil, but now would seem the time to speak out again.


Picture credit: http://bit.ly/1pAHszp 



If you have not already signed up to our mailing list, you can add your name here and keep up to date with our ongoing work and, most importantly, DONATE to support our work to conserve the remaining fragile lion populations. Thank you.

Add a comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 14:03

western African lions 

I’m more Indian than African – pay attention!


Recent surveys have estimated that only 400-600 or so of these genetically unique lions remain. Why are they unique? Well, because they are more closely related to lions in India than lions in the rest of Africa. That has been proven by a number of genetic analyses by independent researchers.

I have written a number of blogs on the subject, and hopefully many have now become much more informed about these unique lions.

But perhaps such information has not yet reached CITES or IUCN, as these organizations still insist that an African lion is just an African lion wherever it occurs. Not good for intelligent conservation, but those organizations have not shown stellar qualities in this area for the past decades, and do not like to consider genetic evidence.

Despite their genetic uniqueness (they should be a lion subspecies just like the Asiatic lions are a subspecies) and their very small numbers (it is estimated that the surviving western African lions only occupy 1% of their former geographic range), these lions are still trophy hunted….

Surprised? Well, there’s more to the story than that.

Let’s look at some numbers first, and begin with the IUCN estimated numbers of lions in western Africa derived from a conference in 2005. The IUCN estimated that there were 500-1,000 lions in the Niokolo Guinee ecosystem. A recent survey showed that there were probably not more than 16. The IUCN estimated there were 100-500 lions in the W-Arly-Pendjari area spanning Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger. Recent surveys estimate about 350. The IUCN estimated about 100 lions between two reserves in Nigeria. Recent surveys estimate 32. The IUCN said there were between 200- 360 lions between two reserves in Cameroon. Recent surveys estimate between 100-200.

In short, the IUCN estimated there were about 1,960 lions in the areas mentioned while recent actual surveys show a maximum of about 600 and a minimum of 370.

So there is a clear case to immediately declare western African lions highly endangered with this new evidence. But … as I mentioned Benin, Burkina Faso and Cameroon still allow lions to be trophy hunted.

According to the CITES export numbers, Benin’s records show that in the five years 2008-2012 a total of 11 adult male lion trophies were exported. Over the same period, Burkina Faso exported 40 trophies, and Cameroon exported 18 trophy lions.

However, from those same CITES records, it appears that Cameroon basically stopped exporting lion trophies after 2009, and Burkina Faso shows no lion trophy exports after 2010. Read that carefully.

How wonderful, you might say, as this indicates that lion trophy hunting in those countries was shut down in recognition of the few lions that still occur.

However, an impeccable source tells me a very different story. I have known him for some years now, and the information he provides has always been factual. He says that the actual export of lion trophies from Burkina Faso has held relatively steady at 10-13 lions per year, every year. In Cameroon, he says 6-9 lions have been shot every year.

So why the discrepancy? It would appear that both Burkina Faso and Cameroon have been exporting lion trophies without reporting them to the CITES database. This is entirely possible, as CITES allows each lion range state to issue permits. Reporting those export permits to CITES seems optional, and we cannot just use Cameroon and Burkina Faso as examples. There are huge discrepancies for rhino hunting trophies from South Africa also.

The EU has just recently passed an opinion on allowing future lion trophy imports from Benin. I cannot tell you what that opinion is until it becomes public. The EU will consider the Burkina Faso situation later this month. But the EU has no announced schedule to consider Cameroonian lions, a bit of an oversight on their part. All of this is highly important to lion conservation in those three countries as most of the trophies end up in EU countries, predominantly France.

And CITES should also clean up its act. The very fact that Burkina Faso and Cameroon seem to be playing fast and loose with CITES reporting regulations while being CITES member states should seriously raise eyebrows at the CITES Secretariat. And I can promise that same Secretariat that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

How to clean up this mess? It seems that the EU is also far along the path of deciding that all lion trophies need to be issued with not only an export permit by the country of origin but also an import permit by the country of destination. Irregularities between the two numbers can then be rapidly established. Until that happens, CITES permits are not worth the paper they are printed on and such permits are susceptible to be used to facilitate both unsustainable and illegal trade.

Picture: Benin lion by Philipp Henschel


If you have not already signed up to our mailing list, you can add your name here and keep up to date with our ongoing work and, most importantly, DONATE to support our work to conserve the remaining fragile lion populations. Thank you. 

Add a comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 17:23

Wild lion hunting

Monday 25th August 2014

Wild lion graph

It is not conservation


Please look carefully at this graph of the numbers of wild lion trophies exported over the past 20 years from the diversity of African lion range states that permit lion hunting.

The data comes from the 20 years 1993-2012. You will note I have not included South Africa in this graph as virtually all lions hunted there are captive bred and then transported to fenced locations for hunters to shoot.

What you will see is some very high hunting numbers especially in Tanzania and Zimbabwe that exceeded 300 trophies per year in early years. What you will also see is a significant decline in recent years. Why is there this decline?

Certainly not out of a concern by the hunting operators to offer their clients fewer lions – quotas have not changed. It is largely because all the trophy lions in hunting concessions have been shot out. It is not because lion hunting is difficult – lions are baited in all the countries listed to make hunting easier. Lions are lured out of protected areas as well.

It is just simply a sad reflection of how badly the concept of “conservation hunting” has worked in practice. Big spin, no result.

Wild lion trophy hunting should cease across Africa. Unless and until trophy hunting operators can prove that shooting wild lions is actually conserving their numbers no further hunting should be permitted.

It is just that simple.



 If you have not already signed up to our mailing list, you can add your name here and keep up to date with our ongoing work and, most importantly, DONATE to support our work to conserve the remaining fragile lion populations. Thank you. 

Add a comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 16:13

Lions also get sick

Friday 22nd August 2014

FIV lion

At death’s door


In addition to all the other problems that lions have, they also suffer from a diversity of diseases. Some have been communicated by domestic animals – like canine distemper virus and bovine tuberculosis – but lions also have their own viruses that increase their fragility.

The lion above was photographed in the Masai Mara some time ago and shows all the classic symptoms of infection by Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. Like people infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus, this lion shows massive muscle wasting especially noticeable on the hind legs. The lion was probably about 2-3 years old and would have died shortly after the picture was taken.

How prevalent is FIV? The few remaining large lion populations in Botswana, South Africa and Tanzania show infection rates of over 90%. Like HIV, these infected animals do not die immediately. Immunodeficiency viruses fall in a family called lentiviruses – they work slowly as the name implies. Once infected, the lion’s immune system becomes slowly eroded and their lifespan shortened. Five lion FIV strains have been identified with differing levels of virulence. Some lion populations, like those in Etosha National Park in Namibia and western African lions seem not to be infected – or at least not infected by currently known FIV strains.

Infection can occur across the placenta from infected mothers, by contact with saliva from infected individuals, by bite, and by mating. Cubs infected at birth or in utero have short lifespans, and many die stillborn. Other lions get infected later in life and can live further years before they succumb.

A lion with an impaired immune system will not be able to withstand all the parasitic infections they are daily exposed to. This includes infections from organisms like hookworm and tapeworm, micro-organisms like babesia and theileria, and a whole host of viruses.

Yet disease research among lion populations is not receiving the needed attention. LionAid would call on all researchers and veterinarians who handle wild lions to ensure that blood samples are taken. These should then be stored in national and international repositories to enable Africa-wide studies. So much more data is needed and is not being collected….

Obviously, we cannot do very much about these diseases. We cannot vaccinate lions against canine distemper and rabies and FIV. We cannot give them pills to cure worm infections and antibiotics to battle bacterial infections. What we can do is learn much more about the challenges diseases pose to remaining lion populations and act accordingly to prevent, for example, contact with domestic animals like domestic dogs that transmit canine distemper to a wide variety of wild carnivores.

An understanding of the epidemiology of diseases in wild animals is crucial to informed conservation management. Much more attention needs to be paid.


If you have not already signed up to our mailing list, you can add your name here and keep up to date with our ongoing work and, most importantly, DONATE to support our work to conserve the remaining fragile lion populations. Thank you.


Add a comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 13:46

The hunting industry and money

Monday 25th November 2013

The hunting industry and money


                             I’m the King of Spain (on the right) and a past patron of WWF


It seems that if you are a trophy hunter you are required to learn some phrases by heart. Or perhaps keep them on a laminated card in your wallet and whip them out when you quickly need to make points about the benefits of hunting. You need not necessarily believe what you say, but you must practice in the mirror at least once a week to ensure an earnest-sounding delivery. 


These are the top ten phrases:

  1. Hunters are the best conservationists. 
  2. Without the income from hunting, land would be lost to wildlife and overrun by poachers and cattle.
  3. Hunting contributes vast amounts of money to poor rural communities which would otherwise be destitute. In addition, trophy hunting provides these communities with badly needed protein in the form of meat. Hunters provide communities with schools, clinics and potable water.
  4. Hunting provides enormous sums of money to national economies. One hunter brings income equivalent to about 100 photographic tourists.
  5. Hunters boldly go where no other tourist would dare – horrible landscapes without any smidgeon of scenery and where tsetse flies are the size of sparrows. Or crows even. Without hunters such land would have no value.
  6. Without hunters, many species would now be extinct. Because of hunters, rhinos have been saved in South Africa, previously rare species are now common on game farms, and ducks blacken the sky in the USA as their habitat has increased because of hunting income. 
  7. Hunters contribute millions of dollars annually to scientific research to conserve species. Hunters contribute more individually to wildlife research projects than any anti-hunter.
  8. Hunting organizations have support from major conservation organizations. WWF and the IUCN support sustainable utilization and many others as well. All these scientists cannot be wrong. 
  9. Unless you are a vegetarian and own no leather products, and you feed your pet cat/dog rice it means you kill animals. So do not point hypocritical fingers at us.
  10. Humans have hunted for hundreds of thousands of years. It is a human right to hunt.


Hunters might overstate their case, but they do work hard to present their point of view and they do have some facts right. They also have the ear(s) of many in African governments and those in the USA, the EU and the BRIC countries. They have very many sponsors on the Forbes Rich List. They are supported by many royal families. They award prizes to Ministers from African countries who support trophy hunting. When Botswana placed a moratorium on lion hunting in 2001, the Safari Club International delivered a letter to the Botswana President urging him to reverse the decision signed by former US President George Bush Snr, former Vice President Dan Quayle, and former General Norman Schwarzkopf. Big guns. When Zambia placed a moratorium on lion hunting the SCI paid for Minister Masebo to attend their convention and raised $1.5 million for lion “conservation” in a single night. Hunting organizations have specialized and well-paid lobbyists who stalk their prey in the corridors of power. Hunting organizations fund scientists and unearth economists to produce glowing reports about the benefits of hunting.


Hunters have deep pockets, big names, many connections and huge focus.



Conservation organizations, while they might represent the vast majority of people who do not see the benefit of trophy hunting, are less focused. Many are these days spending their time and money on illegal wildlife trade issues, combating poaching of commercially valuable species like elephants and rhinos, and attempting to change minds in consumer countries about buying rhino horn and ivory. Meanwhile others dally with the legalization of the same products. 


These conservation organizations seek support from “celebrities” like Leonardo di Caprio, whose foundation then donates money back to WWF – so round we go again. 


Some hunting organizations are shaping up. But it would seem that the majority of hunting operators are resistant to change, especially when it comes to adequately compensating communities and playing fair with disclosure about their income and how effectively they conserve versus consumptively utilize wildlife.  


Edna Molewa, Minister of Environment in South Africa said recently that hunting benefited the South African economy to the tune of R6.2 billion per year – that translates to about $615 million. Another estimate put the benefit of foreign trophy hunting to South Africa at R811 million in 2012, or about $80.5 million. That leaves a shortfall of $534.5 million between the two estimates. 


All is fair in love and war in terms of making claims, but let’s have some realistic economic assessments. And then let’s objectively evaluate what are now opposing positions of benefits of hunting versus non-consumptive tourism and most important of all the relative conservation benefits under one model or another.   


It is in the interest of everyone to ensure wildlife exists for many future generations. So let’s have the hunters engage in an honest and transparent debate rather than what they are instructed on the cards in their wallets. We will await your response.


Picture credit: http://bit.ly/1bii6Fd


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Add a comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 17:49

Bluefin tunas bargained against elephants


                                                   Save tunas? Only if you save elephants



This is an old report I came upon, but it clearly indicates how issues are handled at CITES meetings. 

The report can be found here.


 It concerns pre-CITES CoP15 (Doha, March 2010) negotiations between a group of 23 African nations (Kenya, Nigeria and Ethiopia are identified) and the EU bloc. The 23 African nations were concerned that the EU would allow Zambia and Tanzania to downlist their elephant populations to Appendix II so they could sell their ivory stockpiles (and engage in elephant trophy hunting, etc). So the group of 23 decided to apply a bit of pressure – we will vote to protect tunas if you vote against the Zambian and Tanzanian proposals.


"Please do not force our collective hand to cast our 23 votes against the EU on any of the issues it is supporting such as, for example, the high-profile proposed ban on bluefin tuna," they stated in a leaked letter seen by Reuters.


As you will remember, the elephants were not downlisted but the tunas were not protected – Japan was able to mobilize sufficient support to convince CITES that tunas should be looked after by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (which had overseen the decline in the first place) so that tuna fishing could go on unabated. Tanzania tried again to have elephants downlisted with a proposal to CoP16 in Bangkok, but withdrew the proposal before the Conference. 


So anytime anyone says that CITES carefully considers trade in species based on scientific evidence and the “precautionary” principle, please remind them of the tuna. It is all secretive horse-trading and politics at the end of the day. 



Picture credit: www.lastwordonnothing.com



 If you have not already signed up to our mailing list, you can add your name here and keep up to date with our ongoing work and, most importantly, DONATE to support our work to conserve the remaining fragile lion populations. Thank you. 

Add a comment | Posted by Pieter Kat at 14:40