(After review, the CIC takes a clear position in favor of lion hunting.)
The present efforts by a number of European and US-based animal rights groups to stop selective and sustainable lion hunting is counterproductive for the survival of these magnificent large cats in the wild.
On a global scale, the lion population has decreased in recent years even though some populations remain in good shape at the local level. This decline also affects many national parks. The main reasons are habitat loss, competition with livestock husbandry, revenge killings by livestock herders, and a lack of proper wildlife management by the authorities, including anti-poaching. It should be noted that lions have fared much better in a number of gazetted hunting areas where more care is taken in their management and where the proceeds from lion hunting have been effectively used for conservation.
The countries and areas with the lowest conservation status of lions appear to be the ones without hunting! Two examples:
• Kenya lost most of its lion population since 1977 when it banned hunting. Less than 2,000 are remaining today. Tanzania in contrast always had lion hunting and still holds the largest population today with more than 15,000 lions in the wild. CITES parties should actually acknowledge and promote the Tanzanian model of lion conservation with sustainable hunting as one of the pillars of lion management.
• In the Far-Northern Province of Cameroon, the lion population of Waza National Park is on the verge of extinction although no hunting has taken place for decades in the whole buffer zone and surrounding areas. By contrast in the Northern Province, far south of Waza National Park, the lion population has been maintained in the whole region, in particular in three national parks that are surrounded entirely and protected by operational hunting areas that act as (i) buffer zones against agricultural and pastoral encroachment and (ii) ecological corridors linking national parks.
Nowhere has legal lion hunting been the reason for lion populations going extinct. There are many practical conservation and governance problems in all lion range states that need to be resolved. All parties interested in lion survival should cooperate and seek for best lion management practices instead of fighting ideological battles against the sustainable use of natural resources, which is one of the pillars of the Convention for Biological Diversity (CBD).
It is symptomatic of animal rights’ organizations to ally themselves with certain wildlife administrations of a few African states that have no lion hunting and at the same time have a particularly poor track record in the conservation of lions. The same has happened with the elephant. The attempt to have the lion listed in Annex I at the next CITES Conference of the Parties is not in line with CITES scientific criteria for up-listing. The objective, rather, is simply to stop lion hunting. However, this would severely damage lion conservation in those states that retain significant lion populations. An Appendix I listing would in principle not prohibit hunting. It risks, however, an import ban of lion trophies by some countries with resultant loss of hunting revenues. Lions breed fast and hunting them (1) provides a valuable means of using their natural habitats in a sustainable manner and (2) avoids that these wilderness areas are converted to intensive agriculture and mining, land deprived of biodiversity and other ecosystem services. Well-controlled and managed hunting generates social, cultural and economic benefits for lion protection. This creates incentives for communities to protect them and adequate justification for politicians to resist land encroachment and to maintain or to set aside large tracts of wild land for biodiversity and ecosystem services.
The tolerance of local communities for these large carnivores, which are often responsible for the loss of human life and predation of livestock, is indispensable for the survival of lions in the wild. The use of chemicals to poison lions is on the increase and reprisal killings are much higher than reported. If rural communities do not see any benefit from this resource, they will destroy it. Nobody is able to stop them; certainly not cash strapped governmental wildlife administrations. Living with lions is a cost to rural people – so why should they not benefit? The CIC therefore encourages not only national governments to maintain or improve local livelihoods from sustainable use of species, but also CITES to take rural livelihoods and poverty reduction through sustainable use of natural resources stronger into consideration in the future. A strategic cooperation between CITES and the CBD would be beneficial to address this biodiversity-poverty conflict.
It is shameful that animal rightists from developed and relatively wealthy countries endeavor to deprive poor local communities in African countries to benefit from lions and other wildlife on their land.
It is regrettable, but typical, that in their battle against sustainable hunting some animal rights activists resort to a dubious use of literature and misinterpretation of scientific publications. A particular UK-based organization with a strong protectionist agenda has addressed British and EU parliamentarians in an attempt to convince them that they should advocate the banning of the import into the EU of legal lion trophies.
In their blog the organization claims that several publications, which have been co-authored by a CIC-member and which present a critical analysis of cases of corruption and of hunting management in need of improvement, allow the conclusion to be made that hunting per se is detrimental to the well-being of wildlife populations. Quite to the contrary, the authors conclude that in the case of practical deficits, the solution is reform of the hunting industry. Hunting bans only deteriorate the situation further. In one of the publications mentioned, the authors explicitly say that: “without the income generated from tourist hunting, many important wildlife areas would cease to be viable.” This is quite contrary to what the blog claims. The CIC is dedicated to sustainable hunting in line with the CBD. Such hunting is a strong instrument to ensure that large tracts of land are kept under conservation regimes, despite the competition with land uses that have negative environmental impacts; has conserved wildlife, even if hunting management regimes sometimes needed reform and hunting practices needed improvement.
The CIC promotes a critical analysis and debate on sustainable hunting in order to achieve and safeguard best practices. The CIC would like to see the animal rights organizations show the same willingness to critically analyze the results of their protectionist campaigns, which are, more often than not, negative for conservation and wildlife.
At the 59th General Assembly in Cape Town, the CIC will continue its debate on best practices of hunting and how sustainable hunting in line with the CBD principles can contribute to the survival of Africa’s unique wildlife.