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LionAid's political approach gaining acceptance?

On November 17th, 2010 Andrew Turner MP (Isle of Wight) delivered a Member’s Debate to Parliament on urgent issues involving lion conservation. Mr Turner had been working closely with LionAid on the planning and content of his speech. Richard Benyon (Minister for Natural Environment and Fisheries) received the debate and promised to look into the issues raised. Mr Benyon subsequently received much additional information from LionAid, and subsequently wrote to Andrew Turner on 20th December stating that:

“You have set out very clearly fears that although hunting of lions and the resulting trophies may be perfectly legal, the way in which the individual targets of those hunts are selected may be placing individual populations under increasing strain. My officials are seeking the reaction of Tanzania to these claims, as this country was the subject of concerns raised in a BBC article and recent study. Unless we receive compelling reassurance to this enquiry we will seek to gain the support of the EU to raise this at the next CITES Animals Committee [meeting July 18] with a view to seeking a Review of Significant Trade. Subject to the response from Tanzania and the views of the UK’s statutory scientific authority, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, such a review could be widened to cover all lions. We could either take this action ourselves or, if we can reach agreement, through a like minded lion range state. Such a review should lead to corrective actions where necessary or, if the necessary assurances are not forthcoming, to trade restrictions.”

In other words, Mr Benyon continues to move forward on the issue, and LionAid would encourage him to seek all possible avenues to hasten his review – the 2011 lion trophy hunting season is either already underway or will soon to start in lion range states.

Consensus required

LionAid is encouraged that a number of organisations in the USA have taken a similar approach. They very recently wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Interior, Mr Ken Salazar, to protect lions under the USA Endangered Species Act, thereby hopefully disallowing any future lion trophy imports into the USA – by far the largest consumer of such in the world. These organizations included the International Fund for Animal Welfare   , the Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife,and the Born Free Foundation. These have all been lightly dismissed by the President of Safari Club International (a hunting lobby) as “animal activists” and the Panthera Foundation (a conservation organization) urged caution as they say - "If you remove hunting, the very real risk is that you force African governments to generate revenue from that land and the obvious thing is cattle and crops which just wipe out habitats."



But removing lions, as they should be, from the trophy hunting menu is not going to cause a collapse that will allow cattle to move in. Botswana has had a moratorium on lion hunting since 2008 and the trophy hunting industry is alive and well.

Also, given Mr Salazar’s record of action in office so far; the strong lobbying influnce of SCI (“The SCI Foundation has given financial support to CITES efforts, including hosting CITES officials at workshops…”); and Panthera’s statements, it seems the petition will remain a petition. It is a gallant effort, but not a well thought-out move in the complicated chess game that seems to constitute conservation in the vested interest environment.  



LionAid has aready embarked on a very considered course to achieve maximum effectiveness on this particular issue. A growing number of UK MPs are supporting the LionAid initiative, and we are now seeking the support of Members of the European Parliament. With the future decision of the EU to impose a trade ban on lion trophies and parts, the USA will need to carefully examine their current stance on allowing imports. It might seem a slow route, but it will be carefully and scientifically guided (as opposed to lobbied for or against) and thus will have a better chance of success than a simple petition.
Remember that EU planned action and perhaps USA following action are all considered under national wildlife trade regulations. Minister Benyon is embarking on an equally considered course of factfinding and subsequent action on the international scene.

We are well beyond the Born Free Foundation deciding to write Mr. Benyon on March 1st, urging him to take action on the part of the UK.

LionAid appreciates similar sentiments among conservation organisations, and we would say join with us to have a much more informed discussion about what has already been done and what can be the best effective course henceforth. Charging at windmills is dramatic but not productive…

Posted by Pieter Kat at 21:42

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