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.

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.”

And:

“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

 

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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

 

 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 continuing work to conserve the remaining fragile lion populations and bring you the latest information. Thank you   

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

The EU to review regulations on imports of animals as trophies

The European Union has invited LionAid to participate in a review of current regulations concerning the import of hunting trophies of species listed on their Annex B (equivalent to CITES Appendix II). 

 

We feel this review is well overdue and therefore increasingly urgent. It should be noted that a number of EU Member States proposed a comprehensive review of current import practices by all parties at the recent CITES Conference, but this was watered down to only include elephant and rhino trophies. Such trophies belatedly have to be issued with import permits (not required before, an export permit from the country of origin sufficed) – in response to the rampant rhino “pseudo-hunting” scam facilitated by lax controls in South Africa. 

 

“Pseudo-hunting”, as you will remember, took advantage of a glaring loophole in CITES regulations where a “hunter” could legally export a rhino trophy and then quickly take advantage of the significant difference between the hunting price and the street value of the horn to turn a tidy profit. This is against the CITES rules, but to date there have been few successful prosecutions outside South Africa we are aware of (though arrests have been made in the Czech Republic and Slovakia). Such horns initially were collected by droves of Vietnamese hunters, but as eyes in South Africa slowly began to open (largely due to NGOs and the media raising questions), the syndicates began to recruit numbers of proxy hunters from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Denmark, Poland, Russia and the USA (countries, it might be added, with significant Vietnamese communities). 

 

Trophy horns imported by such “proxy hunters” have since not surprisingly been conveniently declared as “stolen”, “lost”, cut up and given to relatives and friends, etc.  

 

It is suspected that the same scenario applies to ivory collected by “hunters” in Africa – “cut-rate” hunts are offered by many agents and operators, the ivory is legally exported, and the tusks then “disappear”. Again, the EU is involved – CITES records indicate substantial increases in numbers of Danes and Portuguese, for example, showing a sudden interest in elephant hunting and significant discrepancies between numbers of exports versus imports. Ivory from hunts often seems to vanish into thin air.

 

The EU is proposing to “address” the issue by contemplating a requirement for import permits in addition to export permits for hunting trophies.

 

Lions fall in a different category, in that there does not appear to be an illegal trade in hunting trophies per se. However, we will advocate a complete ban on the import of lion trophies from South Africa. Such trophies virtually all originate from the captive breeding industry (“canned hunting”), are mislabelled as “wild” by South African authorities to allow hunters to place them in record books maintained by hunting organizations like SCI, and are hunted by very cruel techniques. In fact, the entire captive breeding for trophy hunting concept should have come under much greater scrutiny and sanctions in the past, but such was the attention given to rhinos, elephants and tigers that the industry was allowed to blossom and bloom. 

 

If the EU prohibits import of seal skins from Namibia and Canada on the basis that this industry is based on cruel practices, why not similarly ban imports of lion trophies emanating from the canned hunting industry? Since South Africa only exports captive raised lion trophies, a blanket ban would not be difficult to enforce as the issue of truly wild versus captive raised animals would not need to be considered. While over 60% of canned lion trophies go to the USA, significant numbers end up in Germany, France, Spain, etc in the EU. 

 

The necessity of an import permit for lion trophies from countries other than South Africa would also give the EU, under existing Wildlife Trade Regulations, greater latitude of ensuring that lion trophy hunting is indeed sustainable. This sustainability is currently claimed by the trophy hunting community but is increasingly being challenged by published information, surveys, and indeed the governments of Botswana and Zambia.

 

We will seek backing from our supporting organizations like IFAW, HSI, EIA and others to ensure that lions are not once again swept under the carpet in the exclusive stampede to conserve African elephants and rhinos. Desperate though the status of such species might be, concern needs to be spread to all species suffering from unsustainable commercial offtake whether it is poaching, “pseudo-hunting” or legalized trophy hunting.

 

 

 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. - See more at: http://www.lionaid.org/blog/#sthash.FDoAV1Yr.dpuf

Add a comment | Posted by Pieter Kat at 16:49

LionAid proposes 10 Point Lion Conservation Programme

It is undisputed that lions are being lost at a great rate. Of the 49 continental African nations, lions are already extinct in 25 countries and seriously threatened in a further 10 countries. Only 14 countries with some lion populations remain, but even there these predators are increasingly threatened. 

 

The major threats include a long list of factors including loss of habitat, loss of prey due to unregulated bushmeat poaching, civil strife, lack of effective wildlife departments, lack of political will to engage in wildlife conservation, conflict with livestock and humans, excessive trophy hunting, diseases introduced by domestic animals, lack of dedicated national lion conservation programmes, and lack of realistic lion population numbers to guide better and more effective conservation techniques. 

 

Some of these factors can be addressed by conservation programmes, others will require significant sociopolitical solutions. For example, wherever there is civil strife, wildlife conservation is no longer on any agenda. Countries without effective central governments will also lack any effective wildlife conservation programmes. This means, that among the few African range states where lions might still remain, we can pretty much rule out a future for lions in Somalia, large stretches of South Sudan, Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mali. 

 

Remaining lion populations in Malawi (<40), Nigeria (<40), Senegal (<40) will need greater efforts than currently exist to ensure any future survival. Remaining populations in western African nations like Benin, Burkina Faso and Cameroon immediately need to be placed on the IUCN Critically Endangered Species list as well as CITES Appendix I as they represent a unique genotype and perhaps have no more than a few hundred animals remaining.  All those three mentioned nations still allow trophy hunting offtake. 

 

So where do lions have a long-term future with much better conservation programmes? We would say Kenya, Ethiopia, Botswana, Uganda (no trophy hunting offtake); Zambia (trophy hunting moratorium); and Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Tanzania (trophy hunting offtake). 

 

Conservation challenges are different and similar in countries with and without lion trophy hunting. Except for South Africa, lion populations in all other nations occur within unfenced protected areas too small to contain seasonal wildlife movements.  As a general statement, wildlife concentrates in protected areas with water resources during the dry season, but then disperses away during the wet seasons. Not surprisingly, lion/livestock conflict increases greatly during the wet season. 

 

There have been a number of attempts to mitigate lion/livestock conflicts in the past, but these have been piecemeal, inconsistent, and seemingly incapable of integrating adaptive progress. As a comprehensive statement, financial compensation programmes for livestock losses do not convince communities to tolerate lions. This is because government programmes, like those in Botswana, are slow and bureaucratic. Private programmes might work better, but often run out of funds. Both programmes do not compensate fully for livestock lost to prevent false claims and encourage better herding practices. None of these programmes ultimately convince tolerance among communities living with lions to accept livestock losses.

 

Neither do the trophy hunting arguments that giving value for lions increases tolerance. Communities are expected to accept livestock losses because, overall, they benefit from lion trophy hunting fees and other handouts. In theory, a good agenda that has long underpinned the lion trophy hunting industry rhetoric. In practice, a failed programme as hunting companies only share about 3-4% of profits with communities and governments and community organizations dispense crumbs to those living with wildlife.  

 

In discussions with communities in Kenya suffering from direct lion livestock conflict there are much better ways forward. These include better protected bomas and night-lights to deter predators. But more importantly, the communities themselves came up with much more straightforward and equitable ways forward to deal with livestock losses and predator tolerance.  We cannot yet disclose these while we seek to implement them, but they are simple and elegant and could be applied across lion conflict zones at very little cost.

 

These programmes would also apply to regions in Africa too arid to allow bomas for cattle – Botswana for example, where free-ranging grazing is the only sustainable option outside the wet season. 

 

Another big problem for lion conservation is that we do not really know how many lions are left. Very few nations have engaged in direct lion counts as they are expensive. They require trained individuals engaged over many months, photographic evidence, repeat surveys, and unbiased evaluation. To date, lion surveys have largely been conducted by various categories of guesses and extrapolation of available habitat. This is no longer acceptable.

 

Especially as the trophy hunting countries need very accurate lion population numbers to at least guide future quotas and offtake. For example, vested opinion surveys placed 3,199 lions in Zambia in 2002. Other indirect surveys indicated a minimum of 970 to a maximum of 1,975. More recent estimates show that there might well only be between 414 and 750 lions. Zambia, before the moratorium on lion hunting, was allowing an average of 60 male lion trophies to be exported yearly 2007-2011. A hunter-funded programme, the Zambia Lion Project, supposedly oversees trophy lion age minima, but has not published any publicly available information since inception in 2004. 

 

This brings up another point. Nowhere, in any lion trophy hunting country in Africa, have there been any recent surveys of lions in hunting areas. In many trophy hunting countries, the concession holders have been allowed to set their own quotas based on no discernible data. Meanwhile, studies in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Cameroon have shown that trophy hunting concessions bordering on nationally protected areas greatly influence lion populations in terms of male depopulation, pride structure, reproduction. 

 

In 2004, Craig Packer and his associates published a paper much applauded by the hunting community that indicated that as long as male lions over the age of six were shot, quotas were not necessary. Based on very questionable data about male reproduction (males take over prides age 4, are evicted by new males when they reach age 6 and then have no further reproductive opportunities) supposedly based on Serengeti lion data (challenged by virtually all lion research programmes), and guided by computer models, this has now become written in stone for hunters. Now every trophy hunter supposedly aims for 6 yr old males to the benefit of future survival of lion populations. 

 

Big problems remain. Lions are very difficult to age through a telescopic rifle sight, and younger and younger males are continually shot. Only in Mozambique is there an enforced 6 yr minimum, but how do you realistically age a lion to 6 yrs? It remains a puzzle. Tooth wear, pulp cavity measurements, skull suture measurements all occur post-mortem. Nobody abides by them, and nobody admits that the 6 yr rule is fundamentally flawed. Craig Packer will not speak out against it, but he knows full-well that it is based on questionable science. 

 

So how to go forward? We propose a much better lion conservation programme based on 10 points:

 

1. Lion range states need to conduct urgent, independent and sound population assessments. Such assessments need to be done in hunting concessions and protected areas alike. Once remaining population numbers are scientifically determined, much better conservation programmes can be put in place.

2. Lion conflict needs to be better addressed to truly mitigate costs of communities living with dangerous predators. No more piecemeal and temporary solutions, a breakthrough is both required and available.

3. Lion research programmes need to do more than monitoring. Disease threats need to be urgently assessed and quantified. Causes of lion mortality need to be documented and mitigated. Research programmes need to be established in hunting areas subjected to many years of male offtake to determine consequences of trophy hunting as a “conservation tool”.

4. Lions need to be brought to the forefront of range state national conservation programmes. Far too much attention is presently devoted to rhinos and elephants in Africa. All lion range states need to immediately formulate and enact lion conservation programmes. In all range states, lions should immediately be declared nationally protected species.

5. All lion trophy hunting should cease. There are no benefits to the species for this continued offtake.

6. The USA and the EU should immediately declare an import ban on all African lion trophies. Until independent assessments can verify that such offtake is sustainable, and does not impact negatively on trophy source populations, the precautionary principle allowed by CITES should immediately be implemented.

7. South Africa has allowed a captive breeding programme including about 7,000 lions to provide canned hunting for eager trophy hunters. All countries should immediately ban any import of lion trophies originating in South Africa on the basis that the industry integrally involves animal cruelty. No wild animal species should be purpose-bred in small enclosures using forced breeding techniques to be hunted. There is considerable evidence that lion breeding programmes to supply trophy hunters are being established in Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe at least.

8. Vested interest groups like the Safari Club International, Conservation Force, CIC, etc are lobbying hard to maintain lion trophy hunting. Politicians and decision makers should insist on careful evaluation of scientific information regarding the status of lion populations after more than 30 years of “conservation hunting” in a number of African range states. If conservation hunting had been successful, lion populations should be flourishing instead of being in steep decline everywhere.

9. Lions should be internationally recognized as a species of concern by agencies and governments, not shuffled under the carpet in favour of tigers, orang-utans, rhinos and elephants. Procedures to ensure lion protection have largely been ignored by NGOs and funding agencies in their rush to sanction species placed in the media spotlight rather than taking more considered courses to ensure biodiversity conservation.

10. LionAid is the only NGO specifically dedicated to lion conservation in the world. We should not be expected to bear this burden for an iconic species faced with an inevitable slide to extinction unless immediate and realistic attention is paid by conservation donors.

 

 

 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. - See more at: http://www.lionaid.org/blog/#sthash.FDoAV1Yr.dpuf

Add a comment | Posted by Pieter Kat at 16:48