In a joint meeting between the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism and the Tanzania Hunting Operators Association (TAHOA) a resolution was passed imposing new substantial limits on harvestable lion. The resolution was passed in June, 2009 and will govern the action of the Ministry as well as all the professional hunters and safari operators in the country.
The resolution provides that everyone should strive to limit trophy-hunted lion to those six years of age, but in no case should lion less than five years of age be taken. This means that five-year-old lion will be tolerated, but should not be targeted as such. Trophies of lion four years old or less are no longer exportable and a $5,000 penalty will be assessed in such cases. In the event lion less than four years old are taken, the professional hunter will lose his PH license.
This is a very serious step taken by the country with by far the greatest wild lion population in the world. The top operators have been following the six-year-old best practice for several years, but the operators and Ministry now have grown intolerant of those operators that have not.
The end result will be higher trophy quality in Tanzania and virtual assurance that hunting is having a minimal impact on the lion populations. It will, at least intially, reduce the offtake of lion. It has been unfair to all that some PHs and operators have for whatever reason continued to take juvenile male lion. Advertisement photographs of juvenile lion have not helped the situation at all. Studies have shown that the taking of juvenile lion has an exponential effect on lion populations.
Conservation Force fully supported this move and furnished 25 copies of our Hunter’s Guide to Aging Lions in Eastern and Southern Africa (available from The Hunting Report) to TAHOA for the meeting. Its time has come. A proposal to uplist the lion to Appendix I at the next CITES CoP has surfaced for introduction. The adoption of the higher age limit disposes of most of the assertions made in the draft uplisting proposal.
Though the tourist hunting communities’ support of regional and national lion action plans provides the first line of defense against such a listing, the actual regulatory implementation of this step is advisable as well. The whole hunting community is being maligned because of the acts of a few, so, I am sorry to state, it was time for stern regulatory measures.