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Economics and consequences of lion hunting in Tanzania  


Mr Tarimo, Director of Wildlife in Tanzania, recently replied to questions posed by Richard Benyon MP, Minister of Natural Environment and Fisheries (UK) concerning sustainability of lion trophy hunting in Tanzania.

Minister Benyon recently shared some of the contents of Mr Tarimo’s letter with us, including the following:

  1. Mr Tarimo professed to understand concerns about the decline in Africa’s lions, and pointed out this was mainly caused by loss of habitat and retaliatory killings.
  2. Within nominally protected areas lion populations are stable and/or increasing according to Mr Tarimo.
  3. Mr Tarimo strives to assure that in Tanzania, all wildlife is harvested sustainably according to the Wildlife Conservation Act 5 2009, and Hunting Regulations 2010. In addition, he points out that there is now a six-year age rule for trophy lions, that hunting outfitters have been educated on trophy selection and encouraged to use camera traps and video to record what lions come to baits, and that there was a Tanzania-wide lion survey conducted in 2009.
  4. Mr Tarimo mentioned that the Wildlife Department had cooperated with the study on which the BBC based its website article, but does not support the conclusions, rather accepting those of the lion population survey of 2009. (Craig Packer’s study that showed lions were being overhunted as the reason why younger and younger males were being taken as trophies (see pictures above) and that the main reason why trophy lion harvests had declined was simply due to overhunting)


Our reply – the lion “count”

We have now sent Minister Benyon our reply on the above, thanking him for his continued interest and urging him to seek more relevant answers from Mr Tarimo.

Mr Tarimo puts great stock in the results of a lion “population survey” conducted in 2009. On investigation, this report (by Mesochina, Mbangwa, Chardonnet, Mosha, Mtui, Drouet, Crosmary, Kissui (2010 - Conservation status of the lion (Panthera leo Linnaeus 1758) in Tanzania), though glossy, can be largely dismissed for the following reasons:

  • The Report “data” was gathered between 19 October and 22 December 2009 (two months!) and the lion “survey” was based on questionnaires – 282 out of 311 responded positively to having seen lions (daily, weekly, monthly, yearly sightings) and so lion range in Tanzania was extrapolated to 816,790km2 or 92.4% of the country. This is nonsense.
  • The Mesochina et al lion survey is unpublished and not peer reviewed. Funding and support came from the Tanzania Professional Hunting Association, Tanzania Hunting Operators Association, Safari Club International, IGF Foundation, and Tanganyika Wildlife Safari (who control more than half the hunting in Selous). These are all vested-interest groups, and doubtless had input. The Report thus cannot be considered in any way unbiased.
  • Mr Tarimo assures that lion populations in nominally protected areas remain stable and healthy. In fact, the report mentions that within protected areas, 35% of respondents (regardless of expertise) considered lions to be increasing and 33% of the respondents said they were decreasing.
  • The report also acknowledges that the level of knowledge of lion populations is considered “high” for 42% of the protected areas without hunting, vs 1% of areas with hunting; “medium” for 32% and 33%, “poor” for 5% and 41%, and “questionable” for 21% and 17%. In other words, 74% of the information about the status of lions in protected areas could be considered to have some measure of reliability versus 34% for the hunting areas. If Mr Tarimo indicates lion population stability in hunting areas, he would thus be between 1% and maybe 34% right.
  • The report acknowledges that “since most lion populations are not yet documented in terms of abundance, the population size proposed in this survey is considered as tentative and subject to refinement”. Nevertheless, based on two months of “research”, the authors propose that there might be 16,800 lions in Tanzania. Other estimates say 7073 (Bauer and van der Merwe, 2004) and 14,432 (Chardonnet 2002; an author of the 2010 report).


Our reply – “sustainable harvest”


Mr Tarimo seeks to assure that wildlife in Tanzania, and lions in particular, are harvested “sustainably” in hunting areas. Evaluating the number of lion trophies allowed each year, the realized harvest, and a very basic evaluation of the number of trophy males “available”, we come up with this table:


Tanzania lion quota and harvest per year, % quota based on an available male lion population of 1663 (a), 1429 (b) and 700 (c), and % harvest based on 1663 (d), 1429 (e) and 700 (f) male lions in hunting concessions. All figures are minima as it is assumed for this analysis that there is no diminution of male lion populations due to previous years’ harvests. Bottom line – bold figures are total quota and harvest summed over 5 years, bold italic figures are averages of percentages.
































































Note – we assumed, based on lion studies in Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Tanzania that adult male lions comprise about 15% of the total lion population. Therefore, there would be 2,520 adult males for a total lion population of 16,800; 2,165 for 14,432 (Chardonnet, 2002), and 1,061 for 7,073 lions (Bauer and van der Merwe, 2004). In Tanzania, 2/3 of “nominally protected areas” are set aside for trophy hunting vs 1/3 in national parks and reserves where no hunting occurs. Therefore, we made the assumption that the total numbers of male lions should be reduced by 1/3 to come up with a rough estimate of “available” lions to hunters. These are the numbers of male lions used to calculate the percentages above, and as mentioned, we make the very simplistic assumption that male lion numbers are not affected by previous harvests.

Given these assumptions, which actually err on the side of being very conservative, we can note several patterns:

  • Nobody really knows how many lions there are in Tanzania, especially in the hunting concessions. All “surveys” are based on estimates and extrapolations.
  • Accepting that those estimates are the “best” data we are likely to get (a proper survey that actually seeks to count individuals is prohibitively expensive), the Tanzania Wildlife Department has set quotas over the past five years that would allow between 31% and 73% of available male lions to be hunted each year. Sorry Mr Tarimo, this does not work.
  • In terms of actual harvest, hunters achieved between 10% and 23% of “available” males each year. This is not sustainable in any fashion, and is a good indication why male lions between 2-3 years old were shot in concessions.

Lion males are being killed for money for the Wildlife Department and the hunting operators

In 2004, Baldus and Cauldwell (Tourist hunting and its role in development of wildlife areas in Tanzania. GTZ, 2004) produced a scathing report on hunting practices in Tanzania. While earning an estimated $27.7 million that year, communities (42 district councils) received about $1 million. In addition, the report indicated the following:

  • Non-effective control by the Wildlife Department;
  • A lack of professionalism among the hunting operators;
  • A lack of ethics and the absence of standards;
  • Disregard of quotas;
  • Lack of respect for environmental standards (especially in the camps);
  • A decline of wildlife populations in hunting areas;
  • Misplaced influence being exercised by the operators and highly placed officials in government;
  • Resistance to make positive changes and truly involve communities.


Why has this been allowed to continue by Tanzania authorities? The answer is money.

  • Trophy fees for lions in Tanzania were $2,000 for 2002-2003, $2,500 for 2005 to 2007, and anywhere from $4,900 to $7,000 from 2008 to 2009. In 2010 Tanzania announced increases will take place, and there are indications that lion trophy fees might increase to $12,500.
  • This means that Tanzania earned $876,000 for lion trophy fees for 2002-2003, $1,335,000 for 2005-2007, and a minimum of $1,318,100 and a maximum of $1,883,000 for 2008 to 2009. If trophy fees are to be raised to $12,500, and if the 10-year average of 192 lions per year is maintained, Tanzania could earn $2.4 million per year from lion trophy fees alone in the future.
  • Based on these figures, one could perhaps realize why Mr Tarimo would like to present his view to Minister Benyon without addressing the real facts?

Where to go from here?

Clearly, there is something rotten in the State of Tanzania. It remains to be seen whether the “assurances” Mr Tarimo gave to Minister Benyon will actually be implemented, or whether the comfortable status quo that financially benefits operators and government officials will continue as before. Faced with an EU import ban and possibly CITES sanctions, Mr Tarimo might actually make some real changes? And the hunting operators might then actually allow an independent assessment of the real numbers and state of the lion populations in their hunting concessions? Until that time obfuscation and a lack of any transparency will rule the day.


Posted by Pieter Kat at 13:42

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