The 70-member African Lion Working Group (ALWG) held a meeting in Etosha National Park in Namibia in mid-February. Yours truly and Philippe Chardonnet, Ph.D. of Conservation Force’s Board of Directors, are members and attended as participants. Both Chardonnet and I chaired sessions and made presentations, then participated heavily in the discussion session on various topics. We were joined by Pascal Mésochina of IGF and a Tanzania Wildlife Department representative.
Two expatriate scientists from Ethiopia and one from Cameroon were hell-bent on stopping lion hunting.
Paula White, Ph.D. described her lion aging study in Zambia in detail. Though the average age of harvested Zambia lion had been increasing in the voluntary program, recently the age of lion began sliding back. It is suspected that the gloom from possible uplisting and insecurity as concessions were up for renewal partially reduced the positive trend towards harvest of older aged lion.
Chardonnet made a presentation to the group on behalf of the Cat Specialist Group of IUCN on the proposed world cat population status database. He also made a presentation on the CITES Periodic Review of lion that is being done by the African range nations upon the motion of the USFWS at the last CITES Animals Committee meeting. It will not be completed by the next Animals Committee meeting in mid-March. He invited input from all present.
Yours truly explained the consequences of uplisting the lion to Appendix I of CITES. First, it may not stop the feared medicinal trade of lion bone from RSA because parts from registered, captive-bred facilities are treated as Appendix II for trade purposes. The same is true of hunting trophy parts. If the African lion is listed on Appendix I, then only captive-bred lion from RSA would any longer be importable into the United States. I made a separate presentation on the failed Cheetah Initiative in Namibia because of its CITES and ESA listing.
An Appendix I listing would not stop import of lion trophies to the EU because trophy trade is exempt by Resolution 2.11, and the EU treats trophies as personal goods as well. It would stop import into the US of lion trophies from the wild. The US is the largest safari marketplace. Safari hunting provides for two-thirds of lion habitat and crucial funding of the operating budgets of wildlife departments, and is crucial to a host of communal-based conservation strategies that are working. I reminded the group that American hunters had invested more than 1.25 million dollars in the Regional and National planning workshops in the last six years and that the hunting community has been the greatest funder of lion conservation for decades. Although National Geographic’s Big Cat program and Panthera are two recent organizations showing great promise, they are new to the scene: it is the hunters that have been providing the most for the longest.