In response to the growing attacks on safari hunting of African lion, Panthera (www.panthera.org) funded a study to estimate the loss of habitat and other negative consequences if lion trophies were prevented from importation into the United States. In the countries included in the study (Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe), lion hunting generated 5-17 percent of gross trophy hunting income. If lion hunting was effectively precluded, trophy hunting could potentially become financially unviable across at least 59,538 km² that could result in a concomitant loss of habitat. However, it could have other, far broader negative impacts, including 1.) reduction of competitiveness of wildlife-based land uses relative to ecologically unfavorable alternatives, 2.) reduce tolerance for the species among communities where local people benefit from trophy hunting, and 3.) reduce funds available for anti-poaching. The report recommended instead of listing lion, it would be better if “interventions focused on reducing off-takes to sustainable levels, implementing age-based regulations and improving governance of trophy hunting.”
The study is important, timely and conservative. The study was performed by Peter Andrew Lindsey, Guy Andrew Balme, Vernon Richard Booth and Neil Midlane and published in Plos One on January 2012, Volume 7, Issue 1, e29332, www.plosone.org. It can also be found on our website at http://www.conservationforce.org/news.html. The study is 10 pages in length and full of interesting data. Though it concludes that lion hunting revenue will also be less if the offtake is more conservative, we note that can be offset by higher prices for trophy quality lions that should arise from age-based management and lower quotas. The survival of lion will not be free.
The study mentions that Mozambique operators are already operating at a loss. They are holding on to their concessions with the expectation that revenue will increase as the general game base recovers from the war years. Of course, this in part is because of the low elephant quota and inability to import those trophies into the United States. But for leopard imports, Mozambique would be even less viable. The loss of lion could be the death toll.
“If lion hunting were precluded, trophy hunting could become potentially financially unviable across 43,828 km² in Tanzania, 10,280 km² in Zambia, 3,310 km² in Zimbabwe and 2,120 km² in Mozambique (or 59,538 km² in total) which is equivalent to four times the area of Serengeti National Park… Reducing offtake to .5 lions/1,000 km², however, would only potentially render trophy hunting financially unviable across 7,005 km² (affecting only Tanzania and Zimbabwe)….”
“With the exception of rhinoceroses…in Namibia and South Africa and exceptionally large elephant trophies, lions generate the highest revenue per hunt of any species in Africa.” “Temporary moratoria on lion hunting could be used to allow recoveries in areas where hunting is implicated in negative lion population trends. Lion populations recover quickly when the pressure for excessive harvest is removed. Consequently, overhunting is likely to pose little threat to the long-term persistence of lion, so long as interventions are made to address excessive quotas where they occur. Conversely, if lion hunting was banned, and wildlife–based land uses were replaced by alternatives in some areas, the long-term prospects for lion conservation in these areas would be poor and reversing negative trends would be unlikely. Precluding lion hunting may therefore be a greater long-term risk to lions than overhunting. That said, urgent efforts are needed by range states to reform lion hunting management and temporary moratoria could be considered for use as leverage to promote such changes.”
The authors acknowledged Dallas Safari Club and Houston Safari Club who opened their convention floors to the surveyors. Both organizations have been significant contributors to Conservation Force’s leadership in age-based harvest management, which is cited above as a better alternative than uplisting lion. Of course, age-based hunting will reduce the overall harvest, but it can make the harvest almost biologically inconsequential and, just as importantly, further raise the esteem of the lion to that of the true King of Beasts.