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Tanzania Non - Detriment Report presented to CITES is highly detrimental! - Part One

With many thanks to Matthew Smith, I now have the Tanzania official Non-Detriment Report presented at a CITES meeting in Cancun, Mexico in 2008. The report, authored by Dennis K. Ikanda of the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute (NON-DETRIMENT REPORT UNDER CITES REGARDING THE EXPORT OF AFRICAN LIONS PANTHERA LEO FROM THE UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA) is an embarrassment to the Institute, the author, the Tanzania Wildlife Department… but was accepted by CITES and was recently trotted out to “satisfy” concerns by Minister Benyon when his officials queried lion offtake rates.

I will abstract some of the contents, and pose a much better reality for Tanzania’s rate of trophy hunting, which, as you will see, is highly detrimental to the survival of lion populations.

Statements in the “Non-detriment report”:

• Mr Ikanda acknowledges that lion numbers have greatly declined on the continent, but then proposes on no known basis that Tanzania has a “minimum” of 18,215 lions. This is the highest number ever proposed for Tanzania, and even exceeds the greatly optimistic number of 16,800 lions proposed by a recent “survey” where lions were proposed to be occupying over 92% of Tanzania…

• Trophy hunting is “regulated” and “affects a demographic segment of the population, thus having minimal impacts”. Mr Ikanda is attempting to convince us that since only male lions are hunted, the rest of the population is not affected.

• Mr Ikanda proposes that instead of trophy hunting (an offtake of 161 male lions over the past years), problem animal control due to human and wildlife conflict is much more important to the decrease of lions in Tanzania. He then says that “approximately 73-77 lions are persecuted annually through PAC in high-conflict regions of Tanzania”. So… 73-77 lions of all sexes and ages  by PAC versus 161 male lions via hunting… what could have the higher impact?

• Then a swipe at the Maasai and the Barbaig pastoralists who carry on “ritual hunting” that goes on “unabated due to high secrecy behind these communities”. No figures are presented for what he calls “the single-most illegal form of lion harvest in Tanzania”, while he ranks it as one of the most serious causes of lion decline.

• Mr Ikanda says that “the Wildlife Division monitors harvesting through its quota system…[and] is also monitored though a trophy export system… [that] also enables monitoring for quality of trophies using several viable indicators (e.g. trophy quality, age etc)”. More on that below.

• “Wildlife Division has many years of cumulative experience of setting quotas that relies on several verifiable indicators (population estimates, trophy quality, age, abundance, offtake levels etc.) that can demonstrate little or no significant detrimental impacts on the wildlife populations provides the bench mark that allows for the confidence of setting future hunting quota through an adaptive management approach.” More on that below…

• Mr Ikanda says that 6% of the male population is harvested annually – based on his complete invention of 18,215 lions. Mr Ikanda does not mention other estimates available to him at the time – 7,073 lions (Bauer and van der Merwe 2004) and 14,432 lions (Chardonnet, 2002). And as mentioned above, does not present the means by which he arrived at 4,000 more lions than any previous estimate.

• Mr Ikanda says “approximately 320 lion quotas in total are issued to hunting block concessions annually”. Actually, Department of Wildlife numbers indicate an average of 512 lions over the past 5 years.

• “A mean number of 192 lions, under mean quota of 320 were harvested in the period meeting 63.3 % of harvest requirements.”  In actual fact, an average of 161 lions was harvested over the past 5 years, or 31.5% of the quota. Not because hunters were absent, or did not try hard enough – but because there were simply not enough lions there to be hunted – hence the trend towards harvesting more and more sub-adult males.

• “Review panels rely on the recommendations…[of] professional hunters and hunting outfitters who have the best local knowledge on local lion abundance. These recommendations then provide the basis for setting future quotas”. Read that and weep.

 “The extent to which past quotas have been met (harvest levels) are assessed effectively and the cumulative experiences obtained over past years form criteria of setting future ones.” Quotas set over the past five years have no reality in any kind of scientific assessment. Quotas set remain almost 70% above harvest and have remained so over the past five years.

• Then Mr Ikanda provides this statement that nullifies all he has said previously: “No proper quantitative data exists within the Wildlife Division on lion population abundance. This is due to the fact that the primary method of animal census by the Wildlife Division is aerial surveys, which are inconsistent due to costs, are ineffective for species such as lions and are only useful in providing population trends. Few hunting outfitters have attempted to census lions on their concessions, but the figures represent too small sample proportions of ecosystems to provide for any meaningful statistical analysis.” So actually, nobody knows anything?

• “Likewise, no proper quantitative data on trophy quality is available at the moment. As such, this type of data was excluded from the analysis. The data is strictly maintained by the Wildlife Division and is not accessible to the public.” So what exactly is the Non Detriment Report based on?

• And then, out of the blue comes this statement: “These findings suggest current harvest levels have had no detriment effects to the lion population in Tanzania. In conclusion, the requirements for a non-detriment finding are met with the management regime put in place by the Wildlife Division.”


 This is the information with which Tanzania would like to convince CITES that present levels of lion trophy hunting are non-detrimental to lion populations in Tanzania, and that trophy hunting should therefore continue. The report is pathetic, self-contradictory, distorting of statistics, unrealistic… but the main criterion was met – it was ACCEPTED by CITES, and now will stand etched in the rock against which all critics will have to dash themselves.

Let me present a more realistic picture of what is going on in terms of Tanzania’s lion hunting excesses. Using actual biological data from a lion population, I estimate that based on a the total reproductive capacity of 3,334 females in all the hunting areas of Tanzania (based on Chardonnet’s 2002 estimate of 14,217 lions in Tanzania), the yearly recruitment of prime trophy males to the concessions will be 70 (you can follow my mathematical reasoning in the next post). That means that the yearly quotas issued by the Tanzania Wildlife Department exceed recruitment by a factor of 7.3, and the average harvest exceed recruitment by a factor of 2.3. Is it surprising that hunters are shooting subadult males? Will it be surprising that hunters will invade protected areas to find their bigger males as already suggested by Baldus (2004)?

As a final comment, Mr Ikanda takes no heed of social complexities among lions, for example that incoming males are infanticidal when they take over a pride. He treats lions like cattle and goats in terms of “sustainable” offtake. I would suggest to Mr Ikanda and CITES that the lion populations in hunting areas have already collapsed due to trophy hunting, and that a ban on trophy imports from Tanzania (and other lion range states) are much needed to restore lion populations. Right now, a feeble CITES, a corrupt Wildlife Department, and avaricious hunting operators are only contributing to one thing in Tanzania – the cycle of extinction.

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Read Part Two of this important blog!

Posted by Pieter Kat at 14:21

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