Everyone believes action plans at the national level are critical to save African lion. Absolutely everyone. On April 1st, IGF (the International Foundation for the Conservation of Wildlife founded by Prince Abdorezza in Paris), the Masion de la Chasse et de la Nature (Hunting Museum) and Conservation Force held a fundraising luncheon at the national Hunting Museum in Paris. We collected $60,000 in funds and pledges, half from the museum that hosted the luncheon, a delightful affair that made headlines in the local press.
At that same luncheon, Conservation Force delivered $40,000 more for the national lion action plans. To date, Conservation Force has collected and contributed $103,200, plus the IGF/Museum luncheon’s $60,000 and other revenues totaling $194,000. All of the money collected went to the project. We are still approximately $60,000 short to complete the three national action plans.
On May 2nd, the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) at its 56th General Assembly passed a Recommendation entitled Long-Term Conservation of the African Lion. It recognized the role and responsibility of sustainable hunting and was mindful of the Regional Lion Workshops recommendation for “national action plans for the conservation of lion.” The Recommendation “ENCOURAGES every lion range state to adopt its own national plan for the conservation of the lion, as suggested in the regional strategies with the cooperative help of the international hunting community” and “URGES the hunting community to support the lion range states in their efforts to adopt and implement their national action plans for the conservation of the lion….” It also congratulated the Niassa National Reserve of Mozambique for its lion management strategy. All of the lion taken in the Reserve last season were six years of age or older. The population is considered to be increasing. Aging of trophies can be done.
Of course, the African Lion Working Group and the Cat Specialist Group of the IUCN have been keeping track of the development of national action plans. They do a quarterly progress report to the IUCN on the development of national action plans in which they duly credit IGF and Conservation Force.
Other acknowledgements include, the article Lions Make Headlines, published by SCI, in which that organization also “considers the development and implementation of the national lion management plans in all lion range states top priority.” Conservation Force’s partner Osprey Film Company created a Safari Newsreel DVD (posted at http://www.safarinewsreel.com) calling attention to the critical need for national action plans now and for funding through Conservation Force. Also, The International Professional Hunters Association (IPHA) and the African Professional Hunters Association (APHA) have both contributed and issued special press releases on the lion effort. Sports Afield magazine sent out Notes from Afield: Lions Need Your Help stating that “countries need to have conservation plans in place.” The African Sporting Gazette issued a newsletter stating that “[w]e must help Conservation Force save lion hunting in Africa!” It too calls for the completion of the national action plans. And of course, The Hunting Report distributed an E-mail Extra bulletin entitled, African Lion Hunting In Crisis, calling for tax-deductible donations to Conservation Force to fund the national plans.
The protectionists and antis had been building their CITES listing proposal upon the failure to have national action plans in all regions. We are closing the gap, but we still need another $60,000 to complete plans in the key countries across Africa.
Now the antis’ listing strategy is changing, as it must, because they have lost their best card. Still, the very fact that the hunting community is documented to have played such an important role in developing the national action plans leaves a positive trail. Moreover, the studies are demonstrating that there are more lion than previously thought and that its range is greater. Those are useful incidental benefits from the preparatory fieldwork being done.
Despite those findings and the pending completion of national lion plans across the range nations, the antis are now circulating a new listing proposal making astounding representations. These alarming claims are contrary to the ground truthing we have been doing for the national action plans. While lion populations are not secure, they are not down 50 percent, as the antis now allege.
This has created an urgent need to update the 2002 “Chardonnet Lion Study,” as it is popularly called. A revision would show stable populations overall. It was the most comprehensive lion study ever done on any wild cat in the world, but it would be most useful to update it before the next CITES CoP, which has been rescheduled for March 2010.
In summary, we have beaten the antis to the punch by doing state-of-the-art action plans. We need to finish paying for that and do a revision of the Chardonnet Lion Study. We can save the lion. In fact, we are saving the lion. Won’t you help? You can make tax-deductible contributions by credit card to Conservation Force at PO Box 278, Metairie, LA 70004-0278, or on our web site at http://www.conservationforce.org/donateonline. Help us successfully complete the job we started. You would be donating to a very efficient organization, as 100 percent of the funds go to the projects. A donation now would be much cheaper than attempting to import a lion if it is listed on Appendix I of CITES. The crisis is real. We need your help now.