By Dr. Rolf D. Baldus, with a contribution from Editor-in-Chief Barbara Crown
Although US hunters are currently limited to South African wild and wild-managed lions for importation, members of the European Union (EU) are now able to import lion trophies from Tanzania
. This past November the European Union's Scientific Review Group (SRG) issued a positive finding for African lion from Tanzania at the 77th Meeting of the Scientific Review Group on Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora. The SRG manages the non-detrimental findings for the imports of trophies from CITES-regulated wildlife species into the EU.
A group of three SRG experts traveled to Tanzania in August on a field mission to assess the sustainability and management of lion and elephant trophy hunting first-hand. While the SRG has not yet changed its negative opinion on Tanzanian elephant issued at the 76th Meeting on June 27, 2016, the visiting group did make some important conclusions that may lead to a positive finding in the near future. Those conclusions will hopefully be mirrored by FWS as well.
Among the SRG team's findings were high levels of political support to fight corruption and tackle poaching and wildlife trade in Tanzania. Lack of political will is among the numerous accusations launched by opponents of consumptive use of wildlife in Africa, and has also been mentioned by US Fish & Wildlife among the reasons for its current policies on lion and elephant.
The in-field visit also allowed the EU team to make on-the-ground assessments of Tanzania's hunting areas, noting that the size and structure of habitat in the areas present considerable management challenges in staffing, finances and logistics for surveying elephant and lion populations and to combat poaching. Despite the challenges it observed, the team reports that new enforcement measures introduced in 2014 appear to be bringing poaching and illegal wildlife trade under control.
Hunting is a well-regulated industry in Tanzania, according to the review team. The economic viability of hunting concessions is, however, being compromised by import bans on lion and hunting trophies by different countries, including the United States. The continued functioning and success of Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA), the newly established agency now responsible for tourist hunting in Tanzania, relies heavily on income derived from the hunting sector, and the team analyzed those revenues. The SRG team reported that significant revenues go to the Districts and that procedures are in place for sharing benefits with the local communities. The hunting industry also provides additional voluntary contributions for anti-poaching, conservation and community development....