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.

Another happy hunter

Wednesday 8th October 2014

Elephant tusker 

One less tusker in Africa


This elephant, with “record” tusks was shot recently in Zimbabwe by an American hunter. It appears that the elephant came across the border from Mozambique where poachers had been setting a lot of fires.

It is doubtful, with the current USFWS moratorium on elephant hunting trophies placed on Zimbabwe and Tanzania, that this hunter will be able to place these tusks in his trophy room anytime soon. But that’s another matter.

The real concern is that this hunter shot one of the few remaining large bulls in a large area spanning Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Elephant biologists know these large bulls are very important in their populations as they are responsible for most of the breeding. That’s the real matter.

“Conservation hunting” of elephants should no longer be allowed not only because there are fewer and fewer elephants left in Africa, but also because scientific studies have shown that removing the prime breeding males from ANY population of wild animals has detrimental effects on reproduction and stability, and could have long-term effects on the rate of any future recovery.

It is high time that trophy hunters integrate some basic biological principles in their activities if there is any credence to be placed on their claims that hunting aids conservation. They claim to be only removing post-reproductive males from the population, but this is clearly nonsense. Trophy hunting means that hunters want the best trophies – meaning males in their prime.

Some sort of “control” has been placed on lion trophy hunting by some sort of “regulation” on the age of male lions that can be shot. Not only is that age completely misplaced thanks to a highly flawed computer model, but it makes no biological sense. A male lion aged 6yrs is in his prime, not an excess non-reproductive male.

Just like so many other “trophy” animals are in their prime – like this elephant.

At the end of the day it is not “just” the numbers of trophies taken by hunters that governs the impact they have on wildlife populations. It is also the great damage they do to population structure, social structure, reproductive consequences and indeed – the natural balance in hunted populations.

If African nations want to conserve their wildlife heritage, trophy hunting of a number of vulnerable species should go. It financially benefits the few and damages, in this case, remaining elephant populations for decades.


Picture credit: http://bit.ly/1saiv3E 



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 12:11

Spare a thought for hippos

Friday 26th September 2014


Best lie low


Hippos have decreased hugely in Africa – they are a popular bushmeat item and cause much conflict with humans as they destroy crops. Consequently, it is difficult to find many hippos in large stretches of African rivers and lakes where they used to occur in numbers. You would be very hard pressed to find a hippo on the three largest lakes in Africa – Victoria, Tanganyika, and Nyassa (Malawi). I did biodiversity research on all those lakes in the 1990s and travelled huge expanses of the lake by boat but hardly saw a hippo.

Hippos are also unfortunate that their teeth are increasingly used in the legal and illegal ivory trade (ivory is not just about elephants!).

And the trade in hippo ivory is perfectly legal, although there is also a significant illegal trade of poached animals. How much legal hippo ivory enters the market? Over the ten years 2003-2012 exports from African countries indicate that 93,445 kg of hippo ivory and 35,763 teeth (mostly the large canines of which hippos have four) were exported. As a conservative estimate, I would say this represents about 27,000 hippos. These hippos came largely from the usual suspects like Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Tanzania – but significant numbers were also exported from Malawi, Uganda and Mozambique. By far most of this ivory ends up in Hong Kong.

There is also a major skin trade involving hippos. From 2003 to 2012, African nations like Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, among others, exported 13,996 skins, 46,305 square feet of skins, and 7,367 square meters of skins. Are all those skins from the hippos killed for their ivory?

In addition, hippos also seem a popular trophy for trophy hunters. In the 20 years 1993-2012, a total of 11,444 hunting trophies were exported, mostly from Tanzania, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Of that total, 30% came from Tanzania, a seemingly popular destination for hippo trophy hunters.

Hippos are not particularly difficult to hunt – with a powerful rifle and an accurate telescopic sight, all you need to do is sit by water and wait for them to emerge. The only difficulty posed is that if you only wound a hippo they will run back into the water and die there. Difficult to then recover your trophy, and perhaps necessitating shooting another one.

How many hippos remain in Africa? Good question as nobody really knows. Anyone ever heard of a hippo survey? One that was conducted in the DRC in 2003 showed that the Virunga population had been decimated from 29,000 thirty years ago to 1,300. One wonders, over ten years on, how many of those remain.

Current estimates vary, but a conservative estimate would indicate that not more than 70-90,000 hippos remain on the entire continent. The IUCN classifies hippos as valuable and CITES lists them on Appendix II – without much knowledge of their current populations and rates of decline. In addition, western African hippos deserve their own taxonomic status.

The high level of hippo ivory involved in trade, trophy hunting offtake, habitat loss, human conflict and bushmeat offtake all add up to a sad future for hippos – and I would argue in favour of adding Hippopotamus amphibius to be added to our list of gravely threatened animals.

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


Add a comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 18:49

Lion trophy 


A comprehensive report was published by the Controller and Auditor General of the United Republic of Tanzania in December, 2013. 

The Auditor General identified these shortcomings:

  1. Tourist hunting generated more than 91 billion Tanzania Shillings in three years between 2009 and 2012 (about $18 million annually to Government coffers). Despite this contribution realized from the wildlife sector, a number of problems make wildlife a concern, especially to the socio-economic status of the communities in bordering wildlife protected areas. These problems include: conflicts with other land uses, poaching, habitat loss, pollution, global warming and introduction of exotic species;
  2. Patrols are not regularly conducted during the rainy season, despite consistent poaching events. Surveillance coverage was 37% and 47% in 2010/11 and 2011/12 respectively. This is far below the set target of 60% coverage;
  3. Annual assessment of hunting companies was based on 40% utilization of quota and omitted other performance measures. There were incidences of non compliance with the trophy criteria set. There were no actions taken to non compliance or substandard trophies. 49% of the 108 hunting permit forms were not filled at all to indicate the habitat or ecology where the animals were hunted. A total of 366 wild animals in 2009 and 2011 were killed without quota allocation;
  4. None of the hunting companies submitted annual contribution of 5000 USD during the interim period (this is a fee charged for development of communities living with wildlife).
  5. Not all stakeholders are fully involved in law enforcement [anti-poaching, preventing illegal wildlife trafficking]. Hunting activities are not monitored.

The report ends with a number of recommendations.

Overall, this is indicates a very poor performance of the Tanzania hunting sector in terms of conservation of wildlife. It should be noted that the Tanzanian hunting sector has come under criticism for at least ten years now (e.g Baldus.R. D and Cauldwell A. E (2004), Tourist hunting and its Rolein Development of Wildlife Management Areas in Tanzania), and that this is the latest in a number of negative performance reports.

It is high time that reform is taken seriously and conservation of wildlife in Tanzania is accepted to take precedence over all forms of utilization.


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. 


Tags: Tanzania,

Categories: Lion Trophy Hunting

Add a comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 18:19

How easy it is to hunt a lion....

Saturday 13th September 2014

How easy it is to hunt a lion 

 Baited and in the bag


This is taken from a hunt report involving Neil Duckworth, a professional hunter with Mokore Safaris in Zimbabwe and the woman hunter pictured above:

“We were able to take [a] nice buffalo cow on the first morning. By the afternoon hours she was hanging in two locations for lion bait after a lot of time and effort was put into selecting the perfect bait / blind sites.

On day 2 we spent most of the day trying for a zebra to add to our lion baits and building blinds at the existing bait sites from the day before. With all set all we needed was for a lion to show.

On day 3 … we saw a big lion track crossing the Sengwa river going away from the bait site. We kept our fingers crossed and on arrival at the bait we could see a big male with 10" mane hair had fed. Fortunately the blind was set up already so we left with the plan of being in the blind late afternoon. 5 pm saw us back in the blind, at first glance all looked quite [sic], Jordan the camera man was setting up the camera and on zooming in on the bait noticed that the lion was there but sleeping in the grass behind. Daylight was fading fast and we prayed he would get up. With maybe 10 minutes of shooting light he finally got up,, walked behind the bait roaring going to the left. Due to the low light through the scope I was struggling to pick him up under the shade of the bait tree. Fortunately he moved around to the right side of the tree and stood perfectly broadside under the bait. With a solid rest and a squeeze on the trigger of my 375 Dakota the lion jumped into the air growling ,bit the bait and then came growling straight towards the blind, stopping 50 yards directly to our left. After 5 minutes of growling it went quiet [sic]. We inched out to the truck, all climbed in and went to the bait. From the bait we could see a large blood trail. After a very nerve wracking [sic] follow up in the dark and thick cover we found him stone dead in a thick bush. This was a massive relief that he was dead and no one got hurt. It was a very fine trophy with an exceptional mane. I was over the moon. So by the end of day three I had my main trophy down. It was a dream come true to take this beautiful maned lion in the wild!!”

And so it goes. Lions are baited everywhere wild lions are hunted – and very often shot from blinds.

The Tanzania Wildlife Act specifically forbids baiting unless with an individual permit from the Director of Wildlife. That same act also prohibits shooting female animals. The Tanzania hunting operators say, however, that baiting for lions has been given a blanket permit. The legality of this is questionable, but nobody has chosen to challenge this in Tanzania. The Wildlife Act also specifically prohibits hunting from blinds.

Are there such rules in Zimbabwe?

The Zimbabwe Wildlife Act has lots of rules and regulations, but does not include any regulations about how animals are allowed to be hunted.

So why all this baiting?

In short, it brings the lion to the hunter. All hunting organizations supposedly espouse the principle of “fair chase” for free-ranging wildlife. Fair chase means that the prey has the ability to elude the hunter, and challenges the skills of the hunter.

But that is just a romantic notion these days it would seem. Hunters spend considerable sums of money to “collect” their trophies, and the hunting operators compete with each other for clients. Those operators who deliver the most trophies to their clients do best in this competition, and baiting is now part of the formula. Is it legal? That is arguable. Is it ethical? That is even more arguable. Is it hunting? That is not arguable – the answer is a clear NO.

But “recreational hunters” are not really hunters are they? They want their trophy and are willing to take whatever shortcuts are offered.

And yet they still say it aids conservation? As they cannot help themselves in publishing these hunting reports, we have long known how trophy hunts are conducted. And we can make up our own minds.


Picture credit: http://bit.ly/1pe3uYV 



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.

2 Comments | Posted by Chris Macsween at 16:58

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

  Lion trophy hunting and range state population numbers

Please click on this link to see a country by country assessment of lion trophy hunting for African nations that permit(ted) the practice. This is the most up-to-date analysis, and includes CITES export numbers, threat assessments for lion populations in each country, a summary statement for each country, and a conclusion on trophy hunting offtake.

Please bring this report to the attention of members of Congress, Senators, Members of Parliaments, and Members of European Parliament who represent you. It is a document that all decision makers need to see to end lion sport hunting. We need your active participation to circulate this report. Thank you.


Picture Credit : Chris Harvey



Add a comment | Posted by Pieter Kat at 17:45