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.

Ivory stockpiles

Keep it fresh


A recent article in Wildlife News indicated that UK Africa Minister Mark Simmonds “assured the Tanzanian government that the UK would help it to maintain and store the vast ivory stockpile.”

This stockpile is supposed to measure 137 tonnes of tusks.

But let’s take a few steps back to look at what facts are available for this apparent UK government decision:

  1. Prior to the CITES Conference of Parties in Bangkok, Tanzania put in a bid to be able to sell their ivory stockpiles
  2. One of the reasons given was that there was considerable expense associated with “maintaining” the warehouses and “ensuring” security - “There are costs associated with storage and stockpiling ivory. The longer the stockpile remains under storage the more its quality and therefore value declines. On the other hand, costs associated with collection, storage and management of the stockpile continues to increase. Such costs, which include also 24 hours surveillance, fumigation and monitoring, stand at about USD 100,000 per year. Besides, with over 100 tonnes the present strong room is full. This calls for another building as more ivory will keep on being collected. Building a new strong room shall cost over $ 1 million excluding the cost of acquiring a construction plot.This comes with added costs of providing security and maintenance. Clearly this money could be better used in other more important conservation activities.” 
  3. The CITES proposal was withdrawn, but then Tanzania sought other avenues to gain finance.
  4. In February 2014, the President of Tanzania attended the London Summit on the Illegal Wildlife Trade. There was some controversy. After all, this same president was backing a highway through the Serengeti and a uranium mine in the Selous Game Reserve, a UNESCO world heritage site. Not surprisingly the media provided this report
  5. At the Summit, President Kikwete agreed to some sort of level of non-trading. Many secondary reports came out – and it seems most likely that Kikwete agreed to stop ivory trading proposals for about 10 years – in return for concessions. This is the way politics works – we all know very well the old adage – “if you rub my back I’ll rub yours”…
  6. So – did the UK agree to pay to maintain the cost of the ivory stockpile – a considerable concern expressed by Tanzania as a reason to sell it – as a means of ensuring Tanzania’s promise not to raise the ivory sale issue for another ten years?
  7. The mind boggles. I will remind you of a 1938 statement by UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who said “Peace for Our Time” after the Munich Agreement to appease Germany to annex parts of Czechoslovakia. A year later Germany invaded Poland and started WWII.
  8. Is this “Peace for Our Time” for ivory just for an equally short time? Tanzania meanwhile is contesting a USFWS moratorium on elephant trophy hunting imports into the USA – the USFWS calling trophy hunting “not conducive to conservation”. It does not look good for Tanzania’s political will to do better to conserve remaining elephant populations.

So, where do we go from here? Tanzania as a sovereign nation is free to do with its ivory stockpile as it wishes. Selling it on the international market – China- is not going to be allowed by CITES anytime in the future. Meanwhile the UK seems to agree to provide funding to maintain the warehoused ivory under the best possible conditions.

Also meanwhile, living elephants are being poached out of existence in Tanzania. It is alleged that authorities know the identities of the poaching kingpins. But they will not act against them as they might be embarrassingly connected to the highest levels of government.

I for one will contact Mark Simmonds to ask for further clarity on this issue. He spends UK taxpayer money on a scheme not even vaguely known to UK taxpayers. And that is an issue even bigger than an elephant.


Picture credit: Tom Pilston



 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 17:13


All advice indicates – get more involved!!



On any given day, there are tens of thousands of petitions available requesting your “signature”. There are scores of internet sites where you can “design” your own petition or request a “signature campaign”. It is a huge growth industry, but the question remains – how effective are they?

Without much more research, the most acceptable answer is that we do not really know. But I did do a bit of research on a diversity of sites to find out what people “in the know” have so far written.

The basic message is that it is very complicated. For example, there could be a petition that comes to your attention to stop hunting of wolves in Iowa. You can surely sign that petition addressed to the local authorities, but unless you actually live in Iowa there will be no attention paid. Another petition might be on a broader scale – like stopping the culling of badgers in the UK. Again, you might sign this but unless you live in the UK (and are therefore a potential voter), your signature will have little effect on government agencies or ministers.

People who have done a modicum of research on the effectiveness of online petitions have this to say:

  1.  “Those truly committed to righting the wrongs of the world are encouraged to take pen in hand and craft actual letters to their congressmen or to whomever they deem are the appropriate people to contact about particular issues. Real letters (the kind that are written in a person’s own words and sent through the regular mail) are accorded far more respect than form letters (let alone petitions), and that should be kept in mind by those intent upon being heard. Yes, the effort it takes is far larger. But so is the potential for making an actual difference.”
  2.  “About the only thing that Snopes [an internet investigative agency] does think an online petition is good for is informing the signers of the petition about a situation they might not have heard about before. And then, in the best case scenario, they will go try to do something effective about it. In the worst case scenario, they will feel they have done something important just by signing an online petition (and possibly spamming their friends).” See full article here. 
  3.  “Of the 2589 petitions presented to the [Australian] House of Representatives since 1999, only three have received a ministerial response…. “
  4. “A petition is often the start of a long fight for change. In the case of the [UK] national forests, half a million of us signed up. 38 Degrees [a petition organization] then brought together these people to fund a YouGov study, speak to their MPs, put advertisements in national newspapers and apply pressure on an independent panel. This particular journey was 27 months long, and led to victory when the government was forced to revoke the policy.” See full article here.
  5.  “Despite the best efforts of the UK government to make 100,000 signatures the arbitrary petition signer threshold for access to our own elected leaders, there are no hard and fast rules. It's not the size of the petition, it's what the signers do that counts.” See full article here.
  6. “Here is the last petition you should ever sign:                                                                   I will stop hiding behind a computer and instead and instead get out there and take action. I will become an ACTIVE activist. I will get out there and protest issues I opposeI will attend events and rallies that are important to me. I will start committees and grassroots movements to incite real change and make the world a better place.” See full article here.
  7. “But so far the evidence does seem to point to most petitions being nearly useless except in terms of raising awareness and bringing communities together (which can certainly be good things, but are not usually the stated goals of petitions). However, I’m guessing that how a petition is written, targeted, and publicized, and which organization(s) are backing it can make a difference as to how it is received. If someone like the ACLU gathers hundreds of thousands of signatures and then goes to the media with these numbers, that publicity might help effect change. “  See full article here.

So overall the message seems to boil down to this:

  1. Make sure that your signature actually “counts”. This means your IP address has to match the qualification of being in the right place, sometimes even with the right physical address. 
  2. Read the petition carefully. Assess the source and what you think your signature will add. Then, write to the petition organizer and ask what they will do with your signature. Will they put out a press release to the media saying “we have gathered xxx signatures so let’s make this a bigger issue?”
  3. Write a letter to your government representative and tell them that you signed the petition. Better yet, tell them this is an issue of concern to you and ask for a meeting when they are next back in your constituency. Telephone their office also.
  4. If you sign a petition it should not end there. If you write a letter to your government representative and if you do not receive a reply within a reasonable amount of time, write another one or phone them. If you receive a reply that you do not agree with (and remember that your Congressperson or Parliamentarian has access to standard letters written for them by a “service”) then you are free to write them again. Keep up the pressure!
  5.  Remember that the people addressed in the petition know that such petitions can overall be ignored. A petition should be a first step on a journey that would be much better for your continued and active participation. Consider that your signature means not only that you agree, but also that you agree to be involved in the issue. 
  6. Signing a petition should be seen as your willingness to put your “ante” in a poker game. It means you are “in” for the next round. If you drop out after putting up your “ante”, you are no longer in the game.

By all means, sign online petitions. It’s easy. But all indications are that you must please follow up to be effective.

Keep involved!

Picture credit:  http://bit.ly/1kA1oRE


 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 15:41

Tolerance for predators?

Monday 7th July 2014

Tolerance for predators

Off we go to retaliate… 


In an excellent article in the journal Science, authors Adrian Treves and Jeremy Bruskotter examined various attempted means of reducing declines of predator populations due to direct human causes. They say that scientists and policy-makers have concluded that promoting tolerance to such predators is critical to conservation efforts, but that the factors that promote tolerance are not well understood.

Treves and Bruskotter begin by stating that “whether in the form of eradication policies (such as bounties) or illegal killing” it is widely assumed that intolerant behaviour is “motivated by retaliation for real and perceived losses of livelihood”.

Consequently, a number of governments and NGOs have implemented compensation schemes to reduce the economic consequences of living with predators. Do these work?

Well, yes and no. The authors look at Sweden – where reindeer herders are paid to tolerate predators. And it worked – for wolverines, brown bears and lynxes. But not for wolves. Another study concluded that 51% of Sweden’s wolves had been killed illegally by individuals between 1998 and 2009. So reindeer herders basically accepted payments to tolerate predators that do not have much of a negative impact on their “livestock” – but wolves were still being killed.

The authors then mention that such compensation programmes need to be supplemented by social change – quoting a joint programme in Kenya where (partial) compensation is matched by community guards urging no retaliation. While this programme doubtless performs better than locations where there is no compensation in preventing killing of predators, the results need a more robust evaluation. For example in Sweden, 69% of the wolves killed by communities were hidden.

The authors then move on to another important subject – what they call the “influence of peers and social norms”. Here they use an example of jaguars in Brazil – and conclude that ranchers kill jaguars because their neighbours do. Also they mention that if there are government eradication schemes in place – like for wolves in Wisconsin – tolerance of wolves greatly declines. This makes sense – if the government wants to get rid of wolves and peers want to get rid of jaguars, why should individuals tolerate them?

The authors not surprisingly conclude that mixed messages are dangerous. But the authors also do not address many other important points. One of which, to be sure, is that perhaps predators prey on livestock (and reindeer) because their natural prey base has been significantly destroyed. In Sweden, wolves cannot exist on rabbits alone, and while compensation might be available to reindeer farmers, what is the government doing to ensure that wolves do not, out of increasing necessity, need to turn to farmed reindeer for their sustenance? Similarly, in Kenya, has rampant bushmeat poaching reduced natural large predator prey populations to the extent that they need to turn to cattle to survive?

In which case compensation and social education has a very limited prospect of success. The very basic tenet in Kenya and Tanzania is that pastoralists like the Maasai have traditionally tolerated (some) predators on their land. Maasai, for example, have a long and existing cultural relationship with lions – but not so much with leopards and cheetah and not at all with hyenas. And even with lions, a Maasai Elder recently said – “I like lions but not when they are near my boma”.

The authors also, and perhaps unsurprisingly, do not address tolerance schemes proposed by trophy hunters. That scheme says that by allowing trophy hunting to take a few predators, and paying communities for hunting concessions on their land, there will be increased tolerance. Or did the authors not find much supporting evidence for this scheme? See our blog on the minimal returns to communities from hunting concessions on their land.

Clearly much more needs to be done to improve tolerance for predators. These animals have a high “existence value” for some and a negative existence value for others.

It is imperative and overdue that the communities themselves have to be involved in designing tolerance programmes – conditions, effectiveness and relevance – as the communities are the ones who will ultimately decide on the fate of very many surviving predator populations.
Community involvement in wildlife conservation has long been “promoted” by conservation agencies but we have yet to see significant involvement of grassroots initiatives being taking seriously.

We have proposals for such a programme and are seeking funding.

With existing tolerance programmes predator survival rather significantly remains in the balance.


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




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 14:18

Black gold or white gold of jihad?

Thursday 26th June 2014

Black gold

An Al-Shabaab collection centre just down the road


Recently, I wrote a blog questioning the involvement of ivory as a major source of income for terrorist groups in contrast to local militia groups. Doubtless both are dangerous and cause much instability, but the alleged involvement of “terrorist” groups like Somalia’s Al-Shabaab in ivory trafficking sent alarm bells ringing across the world.

The information about Al-Shabaab’s significant involvement in ivory trading (reportedly worth 40% of their income came from a report by the Elephant Action League and was picked up after some time by the New York Times. The NYT article ends with this call to action:

“… the U.S. military [should] join the fight to save elephants in Africa. We will all be safer if they do.”

No mincing of words there – send in the Marines!

But - are terrorist groups (as opposed to militias) involved in illegal ivory trafficking?

Vanda Felbab-Brown of the Brookings Institution says no:

“… terrorism is not proliferating because of poaching. Terrorism is driven by its own enabling factors, which are varied and complex. Poaching has nowhere is the world generated new terrorists … it is equally crucial to acknowledge that much poaching – in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa – takes place in the absence of violent conflicts and are not carried out by terrorists or other armed groups”.

The Elephant Action League says yes. In fact, they say -

“In effect, ivory serves as one of the lifelines of al-Shabaab, enabling it to maintain its grip over young soldiers, most of who are not radically motivated. According to a source within the militant group, between one to three tons of ivory, fetching a price of roughly US$200 per kilo, pass through the ports in southern Somalia every month.

A quick calculation puts Shabaab’s monthly income from ivory at between US$200,000 and US$600,000.”

That would translate to $2.4 million to $7.2 million annually.

Most recently, the UN says no. A report entitled “Illegal trade in wildlife: the environmental, social and economic consequences for sustainable development”, mentions the following:

“Ivory … provides a portion of the income raised by militia groups in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and is probably a primary source of income for the Lord’s Resistance Army currently operating in the border triangle of the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan. Similarly, ivory provides a source of income for the Sudanese Janjaweed and other horseback gangs operating between Chad, the Niger and the Sudan. Given the local abundance of elephants and the estimated number of elephants killed within striking range of these militia groups, the likely annual income from ivory for such groups in the whole of eastern, western and central sub Saharan Africa is probably in the order of $4 million–$12.2 million.”

“Al Shabaab’s primary income appears to be from informal taxation at roadblock checkpoints and ports, and they have been known to make up to between $8 million and $18 million per year from charcoal traffic at a single roadblock in Somalia’s Badade District. The export of charcoal from Kismayo and Baraawe ports in particular has increased since the institution of a Security Council charcoal export ban. Al Shabaab retains about one third of the income from that export, which represents between $38 million and $56 million. The overall size of the illicit charcoal export trade from Somalia has been estimated at between $360 million and $384 million per year. Although further investigation is needed into the role of charcoal in threat finance, for African countries in conflict, including the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Somalia and the Sudan, a conservative estimate suggests that the militia and terrorist groups in the regions may earn, depending on prices, from $111 million to $289 million annually from their involvement in taxing and their control of the illegal or unregulated charcoal trade.”

This is a massive trade, but who in the world cares about charcoal? It’s not like chopped trees generate as much public concern and interest as slaughtered elephants. But the impact of the removal of that number of trees must be having devastating consequences on the environment.

Doubtless Al-Shabaab earns some money from the illegal ivory trade – but let’s not send in the Marines yet. As I mentioned in the original blog, ivory trading is very likely much more under the control of criminal networks than terrorist groups. Hence the recent seizure of a significant pile of ivory stored in a local company warehouse in Mombasa.

If we are to realistically design a strategy to combat illegal wildlife trafficking, we need realistic information and not scare tactics. Implicating terrorist groups like Al-Shabaab might be good for donations, but distracts from what local businessmen in Mombasa (and politicians) are doing under our noses.

It should be pointed out that the Elephant Action League has recently started an information network called “Wildleaks”. People with information about illegal wildlife trafficking can contribute details anonymously. Let’s hope some clarity will emerge about the real extent of involvement of Al-Shabaab in the illegal ivory trade.

And meanwhile, let’s concentrate on the real kingpins.


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 18:18

Hunting benefits communities

Each of you earn $7 per year


There are those who say that Namibia is on the right track, and that their model of “involving” communities in wildlife conservation has led to a considerable recent increase in wildlife in the country and especially in the concessions. I guess other factors contributing to wildlife increases, such as weather, were discounted, although rainfall in Namibia was above average for 2000-2009. It would be interesting to see how the recent drought of 2012-2013 affected these optimistic estimates.

But let’s ask how communities are actually benefiting.

Doubtless the overall model of community conservancies is doing well. There are a series of yearly reports that show this. But that is not the question.

Taking information from a 2010 report as an indication, the following numbers are reported:

  1. 34 conservancies (at that time) were engaging with trophy hunting. Namibia somewhat devolved wildlife ownership on their lands (conservancies) so the communities could take decisions on how to earn money from wildlife. I say “somewhat” because the communities are not the actual “authorities” in any real sense. That remains with government.
  2. The overall income from trophy hunting activities by communities in 2010 was $1.04 million, so on average each conservancy was paid $30,718, translating to an estimated $7 per community resident per annum.
  3. Looking at the 2010 CITES export records of trophies for just three species (lion, elephant, leopard) and combining that with the trophy fee (to the government) and the total daily rates to hunt such species (to the operator, but a this is only a minimum estimate of profit as it excludes operator profits from local airline charters, tips and gratuities, rifle hire, ammunition fees, etc) the government earned $2,516,281 and the operators $ 5,115,548 from just those three species.
  4. Those profits will be much higher for government and operators as a much greater number of species is hunted – cheetah, caracal, buffalo, zebra, kudu, giraffe, eland, oryx, wildebeest etc – and birds. The three I listed are only the most “expensive” on the list. It was estimated that the trophy hunting industry was worth about $45 million in 2007 by the Namibian Professional Hunting Association.
  5. Taking $45 million to be the minimal worth of the trophy hunting industry in Namibia (to government and operators and other stakeholders), the conservancies being paid $1 million would amount to about 2% of that total. That number is well in line with the estimated 3 or 4% that communities earn from hunting across Africa compared to what operators and governments earn.
  6. These are highly preliminary estimates based on information available to me through the internet, published reports and scientific journals. I stand to be corrected by an independent evaluation of what the government and hunting operators are actually collecting from wildlife versus what the communities are paid. And what the community perception of such relative distributions might be. However, anyone undertaking such evaluations should be aware of this warning recently issued by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism Mr Simeon Ngumbo – “Any work being done … in the region by these NGOs and individuals is illegal and cannot be relied on. I urge them to refrain from this irresponsible behaviour before action is taken against them.”

So overall, it would seem that the Namibian conservation success story needs a Chapter 2. The community programmes are now “mature” enough to be subjected to a comprehensive independent analysis of benefits both to the communities and wildlife. And the communities themselves should be “mature” enough to evaluate whether their 2% return on “their” wildlife is acceptable to them.

Only then can Namibia’s community programmes be called a “success”.


 Picture credit : Beck


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 11:53

Are we chasing our tails?

Friday 20th June 2014

Chasing our tails

Once I catch it, all will be well


It is a source of amusement when dogs chase their tails. They run round in circles, but hardly ever manage to catch them.

Sadly, this analogy seems to apply to much that is going on in wildlife conservation today. Some examples:

In December last year, the IUCN organized an urgent meeting in Botswana to address the elephant poaching crisis. Present were some high-level officials from African elephant range states including Gabon, Kenya, Niger and Zambia; ivory transit states like Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia; and ivory destination states including China and Thailand. The meeting was immediately hailed a success although only six of the countries represented signed the agreement drafted by the Summit.
Of the fourteen measures proposed at the meeting the most urgent was the need to classify wildlife trafficking as a ‘serious crime’ – a move that will supposedly unlock international law enforcement co-operation provided for under the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. This co-operation includes mutual legal assistance, asset seizure and forfeiture, extradition and other tools to hold criminals accountable for wildlife crime.
Other measures agreed to include engaging communities, strengthening national laws to secure maximum wildlife crime sentences, and mobilizing financial and technical resources to combat wildlife crime and reducing demand for illegal ivory.


Hot on the tail of that conference came the London Summit on Illegal Wildlife Trade in February this year. The aim of that conference was to agree a high level of political commitment to take urgent action. 

The London conference, which focused on elephants, rhinos and tigers, aimed to tackle three interlinked aspects of illegal wildlife trade:

1. strengthening law enforcement and the criminal justice system
2. reducing demand for illegal wildlife products
3. supporting the development of sustainable livelihoods for communities affected by illegal wildlife trade.

A recommendation of the London Summit was to organize a follow-up meeting in Botswana next year to gauge progress.


This month a workshop was organized for Mozambique. The conference looked at the causes of wildlife crime such as weak enforcement, vulnerable borders, corruption, a lack of institutional co-ordination, the existing legal frameworks, human/elephant conflict, human activity within conservation areas and a lack of appreciation for wildlife by the general populace.


Another conference this month organized by the very good Rosa Luxemburg Foundation stated that:

“What is clear from the discussions generated in the workshop is that organized crime in Southern Africa is evolving from a crime issue into a governance issue, and that this may require a different toolbox from the one currently being employed. With the tight triumvirate of political elite, business elite and criminal actors (including foreign actors) becoming a dominant feature of organized crime, there is a clear challenge in mobilizing political will to establish the state institutions and regulatory frameworks that would need be required to respond effectively.”


Richard Leakey in Kenya recently revealed that the poaching kingpins are well known to the Kenyan authorities but that they enjoy a great level of political protection and could well remain immune from prosecution.


There can be no doubt that international conferences on the issue of illegal wildlife trade are welcome. But it would seem that delegates are talking past each other. The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation delegates clearly indicated that organized crime has become so well established in governments that no progress is likely to be made by calls for better law enforcement and improving the criminal justice system. If there is no political will to halt poaching and trafficking we can organize conferences well into the next century.

But those will be about how to protect zoo animals from being poached – all those in the wild will be long gone.

Picture credit: http://bit.ly/1ir74SL



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

“United for Wildlife”

Wednesday 11th June 2014

Prince William

He could be a positive kingpin 


Many of us will have recently been notified of the formation of a new “umbrella” organization called “United for Wildlife”. Joined together are now Conservation International, Flora and Fauna International, IUCN, the Nature Conservancy, the Wildlife Conservation Society, WWF and the Zoological Society of London. This alliance was partly formed as a result of the recent London Summit on Illegal Wildlife Trade – and the umbrella organization will now therefore address illegal wildlife trade in all its dimensions. Or perhaps just the ivory trade and maybe the rhino horn trade – certainly not the pangolin trade.

Doubtless these organizations have significant “brand recognition” and are international in scope. For example, WWF was formed in 1961. Conservation International in 1987, FFI in 1903, IUCN in 1948, Nature Conservancy in 1951, Wildlife Conservation Society in 1895 and the ZSL in 1826. These organizations together earn revenues in the billions annually, derived from public donations, governments, and corporations. And inter-governmental organizations like the United Nations and the European Union.

Also doubtless these organizations have influenced conservation policy and application for decades and in some cases for over a century. Large corporations (that those conservation organizations have become) are not usually the source of innovative ways forward. Assembling a consortium of the “big players”, despite their financial resources and already well-established connections (FFI, for example, is already linked to the formation of WWF, IUCN and CITES, WWF and IUCN are closely united in “sustainable utilization” policies for wildlife, etc) does not project hope for implementation of new ideas. Also, many same individuals populate their boards.

Also doubtless is that Prince William, Prince Charles and celebrities like David Beckham want to dedicate their influence to take best efforts forward.

But history shows us that large corporations are not particularly inventive or responsive. Railroad companies did not develop new transport options like the automobile and the airplane. Energy companies have not been primary players in the development of “green energy” options. Telephone companies were not instrumental in developing cell phone technology.

It is politically correct to develop alliances between major players. But such players also need to demonstrate a willingness to deviate from past policies that, perhaps regrettably, have not worked well and maybe have little realistic future of ever working with desired levels of effectiveness.

Better law enforcement will not work in countries where corruption has become institutionalized and kingpins are immune from any prosecution. Demand reduction will not work in consumer countries where ivory is a much revered and highly socially-acceptable status symbol, and where authorities allow illegal ivory to be “laundered” through state-approved selling organizations. What will work is a solution that does not receive very much funding – affording rural communities the means to earn living wages without having to supplement income via poaching.

Best practices for wildlife conservation need to be highly nimble and responsive to ever-changing challenges. Among those is the need to effectively incorporate a great diversity of associated fields that even ten years ago were largely ignored. Economics, Sociology, Anthropology and Criminology just as a start.

Consequently, I would rather call for a joint venture called “Effective for Wildlife” with measurable priorities and outcomes. United for Wildlife “Ambassadors” David Beckham and Andrew Murray have long enough been involved in professional sports to realize that every match needs a game plan. And if that game plan does not work, there should be needed options to reassess and change strategies.


Picture credit : http://bit.ly/1kn1ew6   



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 18:08

Recycle your lion trophies

Monday 9th June 2014

Grisholm Lion

A good taxidermist could work wonders with this 1731 lion in a Danish museum


These days, we all do our bit for the environment by recycling. By putting things in the right bins, we achieve a much lower rate of stripping the planet of natural resources – we just use the same materials again and again. Why, just today I noticed a cardboard box that said it was made of 100% recycled materials. And a bottle that said it was made from 100% recycled glass. The concept of recycling, in fact, has been around for millennia.

Go to any recycling centre and there are receptacles for glass, paper, cardboard, clothes, metal, garden waste, clothes, cooking oil, plastics, etc. Metal recycling alone in the UK is a £5.6 million per annum industry.
We recycle precious metals – gold, silver, platinum, palladium and coltan. We recycle jewels.

We even recycle water. And human and animal waste to become fertilizers.


So here’s my proposal. Recycle trophies. Just look up “lion trophies for sale” on the internet and you will find many taxidermists offering just such opportunities. Any competent taxidermist can make a rather “scruffy” trophy look like new – just apply some new (faux) hair, a bit of dye, some dentures and off you go.

Grisholm lion 2There is a huge supply of trophies that can be recycled. CITES records show that the USA alone imported 12,167 lion trophies and 3,058 lion skins between 1977 and 2012. How many of those have been needlessly thrown out?

Why go through all the bother of travelling to Africa, paying all those fees, getting bitten by tsetse flies when you can arrange a recycled trophy to be delivered to your door? You don’t have to tell your friends that it is recycled and you are free to invent whatever tall tale hunting stories. With photoshop you can even show your friends a photo of you smiling over a carcass. With a bit more money you can also have a hunting video made to “show” that you shot the lion. Discounts if you already resemble Melissa Bachman.

I’m sure there are entrepreneurs out there that can profit from recycling a whole new product?

And meanwhile, let’s ensure that recycling becomes an even better option by banning the import of any further lion trophies from Africa.

Picture credit: Mona Skoglund



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 17:11

Melissa minus lion


In a recent ruling against the Safari Club International, USA Federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson said trophy hunters were free to travel to Africa to “remember, recount, and record any success they achieve” without bringing home a trophy.

Judge Jackson said that US hunters were free to travel to Africa and assist in anti-poaching activities, community projects, and conservation of wildlife without bringing home trophies.

She basically threw down a gauntlet to the hunters – you always say that your activities greatly assist in conservation of wildlife. Given your overwhelming interest in conservation, would you travel to Africa without bringing home a trophy?

So here is the LionAid/Judge Jackson challenge to US hunters....

If wildlife conservation and community assistance is so key to justifying your activities, spend your money for all those good goals: remember, recount and record your activities on video, but consider not pulling your trigger. You still get to dress up in camouflage, stalk prey, carry a rifle, and record everything on camera.

I have taken the liberty of altering the trophy hunting pictures of two of the most recent infamous hunters that visited Africa – Melissa Bachman and Juan Carlos (former King of Spain and WWF patron). This is what it looks like to go to Africa and do all the good for communities, anti-poaching, and conservation and pose for pictures with no trophies. Hunters seem to have lots of money to bring lawsuits, so how about paying to maintain hunting concessions where you visit but do not kill?

Or just admit that all your justification about helping communities and assisting conservation is just nonsense? You just want that trophy in your trophy room?


King of Spain minus lion


 Picture credits: http://bit.ly/1kaieFH    http://bit.ly/SFP7nx 




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Add a comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 20:25

Tedious and boring

“Totally disappointing”?


As with the now-infamous Melissa Bachman gloating over the carcass of a captive-raised lion, considerable outrage has been expressed all over the internet about a video showing a hunter killing an elephant that had to be woken from a deep sleep. No sooner had the animal begun struggling to its feet than it was shot from close range. The footage featured on a US TV hunting show (Mojo Outdoors TV) but has since been removed from YouTube. Still pictures are available here.

The graphic video showed the “hunter” talking about elephants coming out of the “park” in Zimbabwe into the hunting area before the stalk begins. The first elephant they encounter is standing, but soon lies down and goes to sleep. The “hunter” then moves to the second elephant – also sound asleep. The Professional “Hunter” whistles a few times from 25 yards away, but the elephant continues sleeping. The tracker is instructed to break a stick – and then finally the elephant awakes. It begins to stand, and the “hunter” shoots it dead.

Out the window immediately goes the concept of “fair chase” supposedly espoused by all hunters – basically meaning that the animal stands a chance of evading the hunter. Also out the window go concepts like “ethical hunting”, just as a start. The “hunt” is merely slaughter.

Interestingly, a survey was conducted recently on a hunting forum, asking members to give their opinions on the “most overrated” dangerous game animal they had hunted. The choice was among buffalo, elephant, lion and leopard – basically asking which species was the most boring to hunt.

The results from 83 respondents were as follows: 48% said leopards were most boring, 19% said buffalos, 19% said elephants and 13% said lions. Leopard hunting was described as “tedious and boring”, “like fishing for catfish with chicken liver on a hook”, “shoot bait, hang bait, check bait”, “long boring days in a blind” (leopards in Africa are most often shot when they come to a bait hung in a tree). Buffalo hunting was described as “easy”, “uneventful”, “totally disappointing”, “danger factor over-rated”, “like shooting cattle”. Elephants were described as “easy to shoot/kill” and there seemed to be complaints about the amount of walking involved. Lions were judged pretty easy to hunt (they are also often shot off a bait from a blind), but the “very best is a wounded lion” – meaning the “hunter” probably could not shoot straight with the first shot.

Some commented that all the animals were “extremely over-rated for danger” as the hunters these days were equipped with powerful weapons, good ammunition, and “a professional hunter or two” at their shoulder.

So this begs the question – why do it if it is so “easy”, “uneventful”, “tedious and boring”? Certainly the “hunters” cannot claim that there is any “sport” involved, that it pits their cunning against that of the animals hunted, that it is “dangerous” in any way. Like the video of the elephant hunt showed, it is actually pretty easy these days – especially with baited predators and high-powered rifles that can kill from long distances.

The comments actually make the whole thing sound rather mundane. So why do it? These days with all the accompanying videos of hunts it is not even possible to exaggerate the hunting stories back home.

Is trophy hunting just about the trophy that these days is so easily collected? Is it just about the thrill of the kill rather than the skill of the kill? If this is the way hunters themselves describe hunts of “dangerous game” (rather than the more tame sounding “plains game”) why do it? And more importantly, why go back for more?


Unless you think shooting sleeping elephants is unusual, here is another video of two elephants being shot, one awake, followed by one sleeping. Beware, graphic content.

Picture: pinterest.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 14:43