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Polar bear skin

No more of this in the EU?


The EU Directorate of Environment has now submitted draft changes to the EU Council and Parliament that will require import permits for hunting trophies of the following species:

White rhino
Argali (a mountain sheep from central Asia)

Polar bear

The Council and Parliament are expected to approve the changes before the end of 2014.

As we explained earlier , this gives the EU member states much greater independent control over existing CITES regulations, and allows member states to refuse imports of hunting trophies of those species for which the EU Scientific Review Group is not satisfied that the offtake is sustainable and/or that insufficient information is available about population numbers to justify continued trophy hunting offtake. In addition, existing “negative opinions” arrived at by the EU Scientific Review Group will now carry over to all hunting trophies from those listed species as well.

This greater latitude over imports of what were once items (hunting trophies were considered “household and personal effects”) exempt from trade considerations under CITES is meaningful and encouraging to say the least.

It is highly interesting to us to see inclusion of the Polar bear on this list. As you might remember, during the last CITES Conference of Parties in March 2013, the EU joined the USA and Russia among other nations to support listing of Polar bears on CITES Appendix I. This would have halted all further trade in Polar bears – but ALL EU votes were then nullified by resistance from Denmark (the EU votes as a bloc but all member states need to agree, otherwise the entire EU has to abstain, a loss of 28 votes).

The uplisting of Polar bears was defeated, but now, as with lions, the EU can make decisions independently (and more stringently) than CITES. It will be very interesting to follow the future changes of Polar bear trophies into the EU.

The USA has already banned Polar bear hunting trophies. Within the EU, Denmark (perhaps the reason for their objection) is the largest importer of Polar bear products with 150 skins alone over the five year period 2008-2012 – from a rapidly declining species? Was the information that Denmark had to resist the uplisting based on better information about the status of Polar bears not available to other nations or did the Danes bow to pressure from vested commercial interest groups in their Greenland Dependency?

These sorts of self-interested decisions will hopefully now not be able to influence trade in significantly endangered species by continued commerce, as any EU member state has the right to raise objections to further imports of products from the species now listed. That objection will now need to be dealt with scientifically rather than politically.

The EU Environment Directorate is to be thanked for this positive development, and we urge them to consider the entire issue of “sustainability” of trophy hunting offtake of a greater variety of species in the future.

 The relevant text of the EU is as follows :

“The European Commission has proposed to introduce changes to Commission Regulation 865/2006 and to Commission Implementing Regulation 792/2012.
Those changes are designed to:

introduce the requirement that import permits would need to be issued by EU Member States for the first introduction into the EU of hunting trophies of specimens of six species or populations included in Annex B of Regulation 338/97 (Ceratotherium simum simum, Hippopotamus amphibius, Loxodonta africana, Ovis ammon, Panthera leo, Ursus maritimus);

clarify that import permits should not be issued by EU Member States in cases where, despite a request to this end, they do not obtain satisfactory information from the exporting or re-exporting country as to the legality of the specimens to be imported into the EU.
In accordance with Article 19 of Regulation 338/97, the Committee on wildlife trade has given a favourable opinion to those changes.

The text of the draft Regulation amending Regulation 865/2006 has been subsequently sent to the Council and the European Parliament for their right of scrutiny. Unless the Council or the Parliament objects to the adoption of this Regulation (which can be done within a period of three months after receiving the document), the changes to Regulation 865/2006 will be adopted at the end of 2014. The adoption of the changes to Regulation 792/2012 will occur at the same time.”

Picture credit: 


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Add a comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 17:27

US recreational hunters

No longer welcome in Oz


LionAid congratulates the Australian government for announcing yesterday that it will ban the imports of all lion parts in the near future. This comes on the heels of a similar announcement banning the imports of all rhino parts.

The ban will include lion hunting trophies, and was announced by Minister of Environment Greg Hunt. 

The action resulted from the sponsorship by Jason Wood MP (La Trobe, Victoria) who has been highly critical of canned hunting and the industry in South Africa that supports it. Mr Wood goes even further as he states that:

“I firmly believe we should change the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to not only to stop imports of canned hunted African lion body parts but stop all species listed under CITES Appendix I, Appendix II, and Appendix III from being imported unless specifically approved by the Minister for the Environment (such as for non-commercial conservation breeding, research or education)” (

This proposal is likely to be controversial , not least because it indicates that Australia would distance herself from CITES regulations and impose much stricter import requirements based on her own biodiversity conservation statutes. Such stricter measures have already been adopted for a number of species by the USA and the EU for example. It might even be construed as a disappointment about CITES’ trade regulations compared to biodiversity conservation necessities and ethical trade requirements. I hope John Scanlon, CITES Secretary General and himself an Australian, is paying close attention.

Picture credit: Rann Safaris


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Add a comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 15:25

Captive breeding of lions in Botswana destined for the canned hunting industry in South Africa


                                Doesn’t captive breeding of lions fall under my Ministry?



Please see this article written by Lawrence Seretse, an investigative reporter for the major Botswana newspaper Mmegi. It reveals how the Minister of Agriculture in Botswana, Christiaan de Graaff, has become involved in captive breeding of lions in Botswana, and then exporting these lions to South Africa to end up in the multi million Rand canned lion hunting industry. It made front page news today.


It is a testament to Lawrence, the newspaper, and the democratic system in Botswana that such an article could ever come out. I know of few countries in Africa, and indeed the rest of the world, where this kind of news involving a senior Minister would be published. 


Please be sure to thank Lawrence in the “comments” section of the online article and by sending him a congratulatory e-mail via  – reporters like him do a huge amount for wildlife conservation. 


Photo credit: Mmegi Online


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Add a comment | Posted by Pieter Kat at 14:06

African lions are not endangered and should continue to be trophy hunted?


                                                 Unless this continues, lions will go extinct


On September 2nd, Melissa Simpson (Director of Science-Based Wildlife Conservation at the Safari Club International) placed an Opinion Piece in the National Geographic Daily News entitled “African Lions Should Not be Listed as Endangered"


Already roundly and justifiably criticized by other commentators on the National Geographic site, the article was clearly yet another attempt by SCI to influence the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s deliberations on whether to list lions on the US Endangered Species Act. This would prevent further imports of lion hunting trophies into the USA, a possibility that sends shudders through the ranks of US lion trophy hunters. After all, these USA hunters are responsible for about 60% of the lion trophy hunts in Africa, and they dearly would like to visit the continent in the future in search of more trophy room decorations. Despite the havoc among lion populations they leave behind.


The article is not only a typical SCI rant about how hunters “conserve” wildlife in Africa, but is also very imaginative with the truth. It is surprising that the National Geographic, an organization that seemingly had some standards in the past about what was published under their logo, allowed this unedited and factless pretentiousness to be given publicity. 


So let’s look at some facts first. Melissa quotes an article written by Jason Riggio and others to say that all is well with lions and they can continue to be hunted. That publication uses very controversial  data to estimate a total lion population of 32,000. What the authors did was use satellite images of the African savannah habitat, overlay that with human population density in those habitats, and then come up with a theoretical estimate of how much land was still available for lions. They then “extrapolated” lions into those areas. 


To their credit, the authors keep repeating caveats about their methods. They say that there is abundant evidence of widespread declines and local extinctions among lion populations. They say that their maps are their best estimates of lion areas (not lions), that, as ”best” as they can tell, “likely” have lion populations. They base their lion population extrapolations on data they admit is shaky. They admit that independently verified census data, using statistically repeatable techniques are the rare exception for current lion population estimates. They say that the lack of such census data is a striking omission in lion conservation and one that must be rectified if we are to assess not only the trends in lion numbers but our success in reversing their declines. In other words, their estimate of 32,000 lions is to be judged by the various categories of reliability of the data they used and should not be construed as what lion populations are actually on the ground.


However, the authors make a grave mistake in defining what they consider a “lion stronghold”. They base their number of 500 lions on a publication by Bjorklund in 2003 who mentioned that “…to sustain a large out-bred population of lions, a continuous population of at least 50 prides, but preferably 100 prides, with no limits to dispersal is required”. The authors then make two leaps of faith – they assume that an average pride contains 5 adults. That is a bit low, but let’s continue. They therefore define a “lion stronghold” as containing 500 individuals. However, the African lion population estimates are based on lions of all ages, not only adults. From my estimates, an average pride contains 15% adult males, 35% adult females, and 50% subadults and cubs. This would mean that a lion “stronghold” as defined by Riggio and co-authors would contain only 250 adults, a far cry from Bjorklund’s definition of 100 prides. 


Basically, a lion population of fewer than 1,000 individuals is not a stronghold. That would reduce the number of lion strongholds to seven and not seventeen as Riggio et al’s maps suggest. Further, the authors include highly dubious areas as lion strongholds – Angola (nobody knows how many lions are there), Chad and Central African Republic (failed states), South Sudan (???), the border between Kenya and Somalia (???) – wishful thinking. 


Undaunted by such detail, Melissa pushes on with her agenda. She quotes Dennis Ikanda of the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute as saying that between 2008 and 2011, lion hunting alone generated $75 million for that country. Strange that, as CITES official records show that during that period 465 lion trophies were exported. That would mean, according to my calculator, that each lion hunted was worth $161,290 to the country in terms of income. Now that is a real eye opener. Have a look here for the trophy fees that accumulate to Tanzania for lions in 2011. Basically, the government earns between $7,000 to $8,000 per lion trophy, depending on the area where it is hunted. So the most the Tanzania government could have earned is $3.72 million for those 465 lions shot 2008-2011. A bit different from $75 million? Perhaps Mr Ikanda is confused about what his government earns versus what the hunting operators earn – the most expensive rate is a 28 day Rungwa “Lion plus full bag safari” at $105,950. That goes to the hunting operators Mr Ikanda, not to the government. 


Melissa then states that hunting employs 3,700 workers annually in Tanzania, and that those workers supported 88,240 families. Another eye opener! That would mean that a single worker in the hunting industry supports 24 families? How many people in a family Melissa? Shall we say 6 in Tanzania? So one worker supports 144 people? Please Melissa, tell us how that works because that could solve all the world’s unemployment problems at one stroke. Especially, Melissa, as those workers employed by the hunting companies are only employed during the 6-month hunting season – part time employees in other words. 


Melissa also states that hunting operators assist communities by sharing their hunting revenues. Actually, hunting operators maximally pay communities $4 per square kilometre per year to utilize their land for hunting. That is a pittance as those same hunting operators are estimated to earn about $110 per year from that same square kilometre in Tanzania. 


She then says that the Safari Club International has sponsored the annual African Wildlife Consultative Forum, bringing together representatives from sub-Saharan African governments for a week to discuss wildlife issues. I must admit that I only did a short search on Google to attempt to find proceedings and publications from these meetings but there are none. Such important meetings should surely be minuted and the results made public? 


Overall, this Opinion Piece lacks in rigour, truth, correct evaluation of papers quoted and goes wild on numbers. I agree with many of the people who posted opinions that this is pure propaganda. I would hope to see National Geographic do better in the future in terms of accepting such drivel. Or can we perhaps expect similar irritatingly shallow Opinion Pieces in the future about the need to hunt whales and revive the fur trade? 


Picture credit:


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Add a comment | Posted by Pieter Kat at 11:48

Trip report: LionAid in Zambia and Kenya

                                             LionAid meeting with Kitengela Elders in Kenya


Over an 18 day period in June and July, LionAid invested considerable time, funds and energy to promote improved lion conservation programmes in Zambia and Kenya, meeting with communities, grassroots organizations, individuals, researchers, NGOs, government representatives, and the wildlife departments. 


Lion conservation issues in Zambia and Kenya are similar and different. Lions are declining in Kenya largely due to loss of habitat and lion/livestock conflict. Zambia is losing lions due to a highly active bush-meat market destroying the lions’ prey base and unregulated lion trophy hunting. In both countries, there is emerging evidence of lion poaching for body parts and cub smuggling for the pet and captive breeding trades.


Both countries need independent lion population surveys to assess what populations remain and how to concentrate conservation efforts. Zambia proposes to survey lions along with elephants, buffalos, etc via aerial surveys – not a good plan. In Zambia, WWF, the Zambian Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) and lion researchers put together a survey plan that has not been made public, and LionAid was not provided with the information requested during a meeting with the ZAWA board facilitated by the Minister of Tourism and Arts. We call on ZAWA to ensure the lion counts can be independently verified and do not rely on vested interest participation.   


Kenya is now conducting a survey of lions using indirect techniques such as spoor and scat evidence, and we look forward to the results.


Zambia’s challenge


In Zambia we met with Sylvia Masebo, the Minister of Tourism and Arts. She stated lion conservation would be guided by best scientific information in the future. She is under considerable pressure from the pro-hunting lobby to reverse her decision to ban lion and leopard trophy hunting. She is steadfast and is supported by grassroots organizations like our local partners the Lusenga Trust and the Zambian media.  ZAWA Board Chairman Guy Robinson mentioned that conservation programmes for lions would include trophy hunting, a rather surprising opinion given the unknown status of Zambia’s remaining lion population.  


It is our informed opinion that Zambia’s lions are not doing well. Trophy hunting of lions has been ongoing for the last 35 years and has only contributed negatively to lion populations in hunting concessions. Indeed, a recent publication indicates that such negative effects are even apparent in nationally protected areas with bordering hunting zones – lions have been lured out with baits and perhaps other methods. 


Interestingly, ZAWA put together Zambia’s Conservation Strategy & Action Plan for the African Lion in 2009, which has not been enacted. The document states that:


•Zambia is a potential stronghold for remaining lion populations in southern Africa, and additional data is required to comprehensively understand the current status of lions.

•2002 lion estimates for Zambia – 1,500 (Bauer & v.d.Merwe) and 3,575 (Chardonnet). 

•2006 IUCN regional lion range state conference estimates: 1,000-1,850.

•2009 ZAWA Conservation Strategy and Action Plan: 2,105-3,809.

•These conflicting estimates clearly demonstrate the urgent need for investment in scientific studies to determine the country’s lion population.


Based on our estimates using a diversity of information before our visit, we believed that Zambia’s lion population numbered about 850 lions of both sexes and all ages. As an indication of the extent of the discrepancies, the 2009 Zambia lion action plan estimated that between 128 and 238 lions were present in the Lower Zambezi National Park and surrounding GMAs (Game Management Areas, aka Hunting Concessions). Local operators established in the area for many years informed us that they estimate a total of 36 lions based on consistent sightings. This means that there could be an overestimation of about 80% in numbers. By extrapolation of other numbers presented in the Zambia lion action plan, it could mean that the total lion population might be between 414-750, a clear indication that President Sata and his government were entirely correct in announcing a lion trophy hunting ban.


We presented to the ZAWA board that CITES export data indicates that an average of about 60 adult male lion trophies per annum were exported between 2006 and 2011. We requested the scientific basis for ZAWA issuing the following lion hunting quotas: 2003: 112, 2004: 130, 2005: 122, 2006: 91, 2007: 99. In addition, we requested the number of trophy export licenses issued for 2012 and the quotas issued for 2008-2012.   


We also requested ZAWA to provide us with all information on illegal lion killings and numbers of lions killed by ZAWA staff as problem animals. The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Tourism and Arts expressed to us his concern about commercial lion poaching and cub smuggling to South Africa. 



Kenya’s challenge


In Kenya, lions have been declining most due to loss of habitat, livestock conflict and retaliatory killings. We met with a number of stakeholders including communities, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), NGOs, researchers and private individuals. We were privileged to have been accorded a 2 hour meeting with the KWS Director to discuss ways forward. 


We presented a report to the KWS with the following observations/suggestions:


1.Lion numbers


We are encouraged to have heard several reports from interviewees that lion populations in Kenya could be increasing even in conflict areas. We are also encouraged that the Kenya Wildlife Service is undertaking a lion survey across Kenya, with good progress being made to complete the Tsavos as an initial focus. While we could question the particular methodology being used, it does represent an accepted means of surveying large areas in a minimum amount of time. We note that standardization of survey methods was one of the Action Plan points called for at the 2012 LionAid Johannesburg conference of representative range states, and we trust that a diversity of additional information can be included in areas with researcher presence/known lion populations. Such areas could also be used as a test of the survey method when areas with known lion populations are surveyed. 


We note that while the protected areas cannot contain resident lion populations year-round due to prey movements in wet and dry seasons, these protected areas provide the greatest permanence for Kenya’s lions in terms of stable pride structure, reproduction, and consistency of lion presence. We note that outside protected areas and within conflict zones, lions tend to occur as small groups or individuals, some of which travel very large distances. This is expected from dispersing lions seeking suitable territories.


2.Habitat loss


While it is generally acknowledged that most of Kenya’s nationally protected areas are too small to contain the lion numbers in the country, and that wet season/dry season movements occur across protected area boundaries, it is also apparent that there are increasingly limited opportunities for such movements and an increasing lack of existing corridor maintenance. This is largely attributable to a severe lack of land-use planning and unregulated settlement/land subdivision and plot sales. For example, the wildlife migration in and out of Nairobi National Park now has to wind its way through very small corridors and could become entirely blocked in the near future. It is abundantly clear that Nairobi Park’s wildlife (and that of a diversity of other nationally protected areas) is greatly dependent on the availability of large stretches of communal land/private land (ranches). There is therefore an urgent need for regulation of land use that ensures the maintenance of corridors at least. 


On the subject of corridors, it was noted by the KWS that there was a plan to designate land outside nationally protected areas as Lion Conservation Zones, using lions as a flagship species to encourage conservation as a viable land use. In addition, there was an identified need to mainstream lion conservation into national landuse plans, and to ensure greater tolerance of lion/livestock conflict by adding positive value for lions through ecotourism. Others mentioned that while corridors still facilitate wildlife movements and seasonal dispersal, there is a considerable distinction between accessibility of corridors by carnivores that are less well-tolerated than herbivores. The corridors are therefore increasingly unavailable to predators as they enter zones of conflict immediately after exiting the nationally protected areas and conservancies. 


It was mentioned that a potential means of ensuring durability of land suitable for wildlife is by establishing conservancies if landowners can be convinced that the value of wildlife is greater than that of other land uses. It should be up to the KWS to reach out to communities to advise and encourage such land use, and to facilitate the process of establishing conservancies. There exists great potential for the establishment of conservancies on the southern border of Nairobi National Park, and our discussions with area residents indicated a will to do so, but without direct guidance and facilitation from the KWS such a move might not happen until well into the future. Avoiding such delays is crucial, and perhaps the KWS could engage immediately in a form of Community Based Natural Resource Management programmes as a means of ensuring a future for wildlife outside the protected areas as indeed the viability of the protected areas is highly dependent on these lands.


In addition, the establishment of conservancies should not be done piecemeal, resulting in areas perhaps too small to meaningfully impact on the overall goal of maintaining land for significant numbers of wildlife. There should be considerable encouragement to ensure connection of neighbouring conservancies to ensure future viability.


While wildlife occurs in large numbers outside the nationally protected areas, such wildlife at present does not constitute a positive value for the landowners. Indeed, communities have consistently mentioned that this wildlife overall has a negative value because it competes with livestock for grazing resources, spreads diseases like Malignant Catarrhal Fever, destroys crops and fences, competes with livestock for water resources in the dry season, and of course, results in livestock losses through predation. This has been a long-standing problem in Kenya and one that yet remains to be adequately addressed, as maintenance of significant wildlife resources depends to a great extent on a fragile tolerance by communities. 


It was stated that KWS has made significant investments for communities in terms of providing training, infrastructure, schools, cattle dips etc, but the communities remain largely unconvinced that many programmes are adequately addressing their needs and feel that such investments have been made without adequate consultation as to community priorities. The KWS could impact very positively on wildlife tolerance by engaging nationally with communities and coming up with a common way forward.      


3.Lion conflict


There is a diversity of opinion on lion/livestock conflict mitigation. It was noted that such conflict takes on very different dimensions in different areas, and that there is a strong seasonal component on incidence of conflict. For example in the Tsavo West area it was noted that predators can be involved in up to 13 incidents per day. Lion predation mainly occurred during the day when cattle were taken out to graze. There was therefore little interest by the communities in paying for reinforced bomas as they felt that there was no value in such investments. Eleven such bomas established by Born Free (and not subsequently maintained) have been allowed to fall into disuse as a consequence. In other areas, lions attack livestock mainly at night, and there reinforced bomas and the use of night lights was very much seen as a useful deterrent. However, there is evidence that lions are adopting new techniques to circumvent existing deterrents, and a greater diversity of techniques is called for.


It was noted that lions overall are not habitual stock raiders although livestock can become a significant part of their nutrition during wet/dry seasons. Research in Amboseli indicated that lions return to taking wild prey as soon as numbers increase within lion ranges in the dry season. 


It was also noted that in many cases presence of herders was inadequate to prevent conflict. It was noted that with compulsory schooling there was often a shortage of herders, and that some communities could not afford to maintain dogs.


Communities were overwhelmingly insistent on compensation/consolation schemes as mitigation for lion conflict, and were insistent on full market value compensation. There was also concern that consolation schemes might not be a durable means of conflict resolution, and many have already failed due to inconsistent payments and/or shortage of funds. It is our opinion that compensation/consolation has many potential pitfalls and should not be considered the prime mitigation scheme in any area.  


It was also noted that there was a significant and consistent request by communities for more consistent and reliable KWS engagement. KWS is presently seen as a reactive organization rather than a proactive organization, and the communities requested considerable improvement in outreach schemes. These included the need for conservation education, assistance for better management of wildlife populations living among livestock populations, advice from KWS about how to prevent wildlife conflict, and greater responsiveness to incidents. It was also felt that incident response teams should include more senior KWS officers in a position to give advice and guidance. 


It was generally suggested that KWS should establish a dedicated conflict mitigation unit separate from the existing PAC units, as the latter respond only to incidents that have already occurred. Overall, it was suggested that there should be much better dialogue with communities to ensure confidence and trust, and that such meetings should occur on a regular basis especially during seasonal times of heightened conflict. 


As mentioned above, much of Kenya’s wildlife currently exists with the tolerance of various categories of landowners. Apart from the conservancies, and even perhaps including some conservancies, there is a general lack of good wildlife management techniques on such lands. This could be significantly improved with a good wildlife education programme emanating from the KWS and flexible enough to incorporate regional differences. 


4.Suggested ways forward for lion conflict mitigation


Currently, lion conflict mitigation lacks innovation and is dependent on the established reinforced bomas concept and the recent introduction of predator deterrent lighting systems. Singly or in combination such protective measures have resulted in a decrease in predation on livestock in some areas although there is evidence already that lions are adjusting their techniques and are becoming used to the deterrent lights. 


In terms of improvements, deterrents should include a greater diversity of techniques including the use of motion sensors, sound deterrents, etc in addition to existing measures. 


Overall it was felt that investing in predator “proofing” and other simultaneous deterrents would work much better than compensation/consolation measures, even those that encourage better herding practices by only awarding partial compensation.


Two innovative compensation measures were suggested by various parties.  There was general agreement among the chiefs and elders that such innovations would circumvent cumbersome and argumentative partial compensation schemes, would provide a much better alternative than continuous and expensive compensation/consolation programmes, and would be well-received within the communities. 


Modalities remain to be worked out, but pilot programmes could be established in short order once private investor/donor funds can be mobilized. We expect such programmes to prove highly effective with communities, to cost almost nothing compared to compensation/consolation programmes, and to be applicable throughout lion conflict zones in Africa. 


5.Other matters


a)The Kenya Lion Conservation and Management Plan is due for review and we note with appreciation that such a review will be undertaken shortly.

b)Much better dialogue should be established among researchers to ensure sharing of information, identification of common problems, etc. We note that there is an annual predator researcher meeting under the auspices of KWS and we are appreciative of the Director’s invitation to attend.

c)Research should be encouraged in areas where lion populations occur but information is scarce, such as the Tana River Delta, Meru/Kora, etc. 

d)The KWS is requested to place much greater emphasis on lion conservation through participation in awareness schemes, involvement of the media, calling for greater donor investment in the species, and continuing to work with international agencies like CITES and the IUCN to ensure lions are placed in the highest appropriate category of protection. This would include insisting on progress by CITES on a periodic review of lions using scientific data.

e)The KWS is requested to carefully monitor illegal killing of lions by establishing a MILK ( Monitoring Illegal Lion Killing) database that can be readily accessed.

f)The KWS is also requested to carefully monitor any emerging trends in illegal trade in lions and their derivatives including live animals, lion bones, teeth, claws, skins, etc. 

g)The KWS is requested to engage especially with Tanzania on transboundary lion conservation issues at the highest levels.


We were delighted with the welcome we received in both Zambia and Kenya and look forward to returning to both countries in August to continue the work started.



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Add a comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 16:49

A short history of Kenya's proposals to CITES

 At the ongoing CITES Conference, Kenya submitted two proposals for consideration. The first was a proposal to place a moratorium on rhino trophy hunting in South Africa – Kenya was of the opinion as echoed by very many in the world community that the “legal” exports of trophy rhino horns was a means to leak illegal horns onto the market. There was considerable evidence for this, as South Africa had long allowed “pseudo hunting” of rhinos whose horns entered commercial markets against CITES regulations. The second proposal was to place a ban on all further ivory trade initiatives from CITES member states until 2017.

 Kenya withdrew the rhino trophy hunting moratorium and also looked to withdraw the ivory trade proposal.


History repeats itself.

 In 2010, Kenya proposed to have no further submissions for ivory trade for the next 20 years. Withdrawn.

 In 2007, Kenya proposed no trade in raw or worked ivory for 20 years. CITES instead allowed a “one off sale” of many tons of ivory to China and Japan from Namibia, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

 In 2004 at CITES CoP 13, Kenya proposed uplisting African lions from Appendix II to Appendix I based on concerns about trade and the declining lion populations. Kenya backed down, accepting conferences among the lion range states to determine population numbers and national conservation action measures. Nine years on, no substantive progress has been made. Indeed, Kenya and Namibia were charged by CITES in July 2011 to produce a Periodic Review of lion populations. All reporting dates have been missed.


Kenya is seen by many as a conservation-minded African nation. Indeed, many western Governments and many NGOs put their faith in Kenya with programmes and dollars. Whenever Kenya announces their conservation stand to upcoming CITES conferences, many come knocking on the door of the Kenya Wildlife Service to express solidarity, support, and funding.


Does Kenya deserve this status? CITES recently included Kenya in their Gang of Eight nations involved in and facilitating illegal ivory trafficking. CITES say trade sanctions might result.


Can Kenya continue to be taken seriously? Is Kenya really a nation that we can look to for progressive wildlife conservation formulas? Does Kenya really have the backbone to push through proposals at CITES or, as evident once again at CoP 16, does Kenya always fall at the last hurdle?


Ever since 2004 Kenya has significantly failed to progress on any of her very good agendas. That is to be regretted, decried and perhaps carefully assessed as to the reason for constant failures. CITES does unfortunately not consider much science, but they do respond to effective lobbying. 

 Shouldn't Kenya learn to play the game better and meanwhile cease to submit half-hearted proposals?


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Add a comment | Posted by Pieter Kat at 13:31

Polar bear uplisting defeated by EU abstentions - again.

Early this morning, the vote was taken on uplisting polar bears from Appendix II to Appendix I (no more international trade, greater conservation measures, more available funding for research). The proposal was brought by the USA and the Russian Federation, and opposed by Canada, WWF, Norway, Denmark and even the CITES Secretariat. Polar bears lost by a vote of 42 to 38 with 46 abstentions. Many country delegates did not show up for the vote – CITES has 178 members.


As with the vote in 2010 on the same issue, it was ultimately the EU that can take the blame. There have been proposals that the EU Member States (27 now, soon to be 28) vote as a bloc, as after all they are a united trading group in terms of wildlife products. The bloc vote proposal remains without progress, but meanwhile the EU Member States have decided to discuss CITES issues internally and then come up with a consensus decision counting for 27 votes.


On the polar bear issue, the UK, Germany, Poland and Belgium were pushing other member states to vote for uplisting. Denmark (that administers Greenland and therefore could somehow be called a polar bear range state though the only polar bears in Denmark are at places like the Copenhagen Zoo and feature as rugs on floors) opposed as they stated Greenland already has sufficient protection measures in place. Strange that Denmark did not see value of expanding similar levels of protection to other polar bear populations?


Denmark indicated their delegates would vote against the uplisting no matter what, and therefore seemed to throw the EU vote into disarray - there could now be no consensus opinion. It begs the question why this needs to happen anyway as the EU consists of a diverse array of sovereign states with different opinions on a number of matters. Citizens of Greece might expect their Government to take stances on environmental and conservation issues that could perhaps be different from citizens in Romania, Hungary, Lithuania, Sweden, etc. Greece does not import polar bear skins? The insistence on a unified vote on any issue therefore leads to anaemic  and pathetic actions rather than what is urgently required, and is not even a reality within the EU as the necessity of a bloc vote remains in bureaucratic limbo.


But that confusion seemed to strangely dominate the polar bear vote. Denmark somehow took the entire EU out of voting, and all other Member States could do little, according to them, but abstain. If the EU states had wanted to counter the Denmark vote they could have under current legislation, and thus voted with their conscience. That is what their citizens would have wanted, and now we hope the EU CITES delegations will be held to task by their taxpaying funders for their lack of backbone.


Canada, meanwhile, ran a big PR campaign. They dragged out representatives from their indigenous Inuit (Eskimo) communities to speak at the Convention. They said their children would starve if their right to sell polar bear skins and trophies was taken away from the impoverished communities. Nobody seemed to be capable of asking Canada, a wealthy nation, why they were not providing adequate Government funding to prevent children in their indigenous communities from starving, but perhaps that was not allowed under CITES rules.


Meanwhile, Danes should hang their heads in shame. Once again, it is politics and not conservation that drives the CITES process.


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Add a comment | Posted by Pieter Kat at 17:42

The CITES Party

Sunday 3rd March 2013

The CITES Party

It all starts on the 3rd March with a Grand Opening Ceremony. The CITES party conference is then off and running.


There will no fewer than 476 NGO representatives according to the list published by CITES. WWF will send at least 34, IFAW 17, IWMC 11, the Pew Trust 13, TRAFFIC 23, the Environmental Investigation Agency 13, the Wildlife Conservation Society 10. Among the biggest NGOs in terms of delegates is the Precious Coral Protection and Development Association (Japan) with 11 representatives.


There will also be representatives from perhaps lesser known NGOs like the Japan Federation of Ivory Arts and Crafts, the International Caviar Importers, the All Japan Seamen’s Union, the China Arts and Crafts Association, and the China Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine.


The trophy hunting lobby will be well represented by organizations like Conservation Force, the Federation of Associations for Hunting and Conservation of the EU, the International Professional Hunters Association, the Safari Club International, the IGF and the CIC. Interestingly, CIC, a pro-hunting lobby, has representation on their delegation by Willem Wijnstekers, the former CITES Secretary General. Revealing to see that when his term was up he would so clearly reveal his true colours?


What is the overall cost to the NGOs to send 476 delegates to CITES? Very conservatively I estimated this absolute minimum expenditure (hoping that NGOs would be concerned about spending donor funds):

Travel to Bangkok: $1,000
Hotel for 15 days: $1,800
Food for 15 days: $750
Local transport: $100
Contingency: $350


This amounts to a very minimum of $4,000 per NGO representative. It is likely to be more than double this for many, but I estimate the NGOs will spend a minimum of $1.9 million combined over their two weeks of attendance.


Will it be worth it? We shall see. The total amount spent on the CITES party (delegates, semi-delegates like the UN agencies, World Bank, IUCN, official observers, NGOs, press, the CITES Secretariat) will likely exceed $9 million. Will it be worth it? 


We wait with bated breath but are not holding our breath as the CITES Secretariat has already advised against many good proposals. Nevertheless we hope all partygoers will have a productive time.


Picture credit:


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Categories: CITES

Add a comment | Posted by Pieter Kat at 17:00

European Parliament Workshop on Wildlife Crime

We were delighted to be invited to participate in a new, innovative workshop, organised by Mr Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy ((MEP, Netherlands) and Mr Kriton Arsenis (MEP, Greece), on the subject of Wildlife Crime.

"The EU does not tackle the problem of wildlife crime sufficiently. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put the issue high on the agenda of the USA. It's high time for the EU to also develop  an action plan to fight wildlife crime" said Mr Gerbrandy.


The event took place on the 27th February in the European Parliament in Brussels and lasted for 2.5 hours.  Our 16 minute presentation can be viewed by clicking the link here.



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


Add a comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 19:17

South Africa and Kenya

                                                                What is going on here?
The Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Director was recently visited by a delegation from the Department of Environmental Affairs, South Africa. 

In a statement, KWS said:

 “Mr. Marumo [the DEA head delegate] exuded confidence that South Africa and Kenya will speak with one voice during the upcoming CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP) in Bangkok, Thailand next month”.
Meanwhile, back in Pretoria, Minister of Environment Edna Molewa on 13th February

“welcomed the recommendation by [CITES] Secretariat that Kenya’s proposal to the upcoming 16th Conference of Parties (COP16) to halt the trade in rhino trophies and rhino products until COP18 [2019] be rejected”

according to the DEA. Similarly, South Africa is expected to vote against a proposal by Kenya and other African elephant range states to defer any proposals to allow ivory trading until 2017.

So, to “speak with one voice” does that mean Kenya will abandon those proposals at the upcoming Conference? Or is this just the usual political posturing rather than the necessary straight talk much needed at CITES conferences?


Can the KWS provide clarity especially since the Kenya proposals have already been supported by the EU Parliament and CITES authorities in the Netherlands, the UK, and Chile?


Picture credit:


 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, financially support us to conserve the remaining fragile lion populations. Thank you.

Add a comment | Posted by Pieter Kat at 18:02