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The African Lion Working Group and the Panthera Foundation say Lion Trophy Hunting Should Continue

               If the hunters would only reform, this will all be good for conservation

In response to a call for public comment by the US Fish and Wildlife Service following a petition by a number of conservation organizations to list African lions on the US Endangered Species Act, there are contributions from the African Lion Working Group and the Panthera Foundation in the USA. In essence they came out against the proposal to list lions, saying that lion trophy hunting should continue, albeit with “better” practices. 

The ALWG describes itself as an organization that “brings together lion experts from all over the world, with differing perspectives on what is required to secure the future of African lions”. In fact, the organization has had only two meetings in the past fifteen years and is largely defunct as can be seen by a simple visit to their website. It has also devolved from a group initially established to promote and fund lion research and conservation into a discussion group. Members include pro-trophy hunting individuals from organizations like Conservation Force and the IGF in France. The AWLG mentions that their statement represents the “prevailing views” among members, but they state that there are others who did not support trophy hunting as part of the solution. We would call on the ALWG to tell us how members voted for and against, and who did not vote, to assess whether there was indeed a majority view rather than a “prevailing” view which is a rather meaningless term.

The Panthera Foundation, a conservation organization based in New York, has long stated they are pro-trophy hunting of lions. They do not promote this “conservation” solution for any of the other large cats they are concerned with including jaguars, leopards, etc. In a submission to the USFWS, Luke Hunter (Vice President of Panthera) assembled a number of like-minded associates and Panthera fund receivers under an article titled “Urgent and Comprehensive Reform of Trophy Hunting of Lions is a Better Option than an Endangered Listing”. And then comes the rather surprising second part of the title: Panthera states that this is “A Science-Based Consensus”. Perhaps it was a consensus among a few, but is certainly not science based and does not represent a majority of those carefully examining the impact of trophy hunting on lion populations.

In fact, there is no “science” at all behind the view that lion trophy hunting is good for lion conservation – as there is no evidence that lion populations have thrived under a regime of trophy hunting offtake across the many hunting concessions. The “science” is based on the very loose assertion that if lions are removed from the trophy hunting menu then hunting companies will fail, hunting concessions will become unviable and become used for agriculture, poaching will increase, and lions will lose even more of their geographic range and population numbers.

Let’s look further at some of the justifications that the ALWG and the Panthera Foundation give to justify their stance:

“Lion hunting assigns an important financial value… Lion hunting provides revenue to wildlife authorities…

Rural communities should be the primary beneficiaries from lion hunting…

 Lions are the single most valuable trophy species…

there is a risk that effectively removing lions from quota would promote over-reliance of other species…

 we know of no case where trophy hunting has caused or contributed to the extinction of a lion population…

we believe that reforms [of current hunting practices] are preferable to trade restrictions due to the long-term risks associated with the latter”.

Both the Panthera Foundation and the ALWG admit that despite their support in the past, lion trophy hunting as currently practiced has not contributed to lion conservation. This is a bit of a breakthrough, as trophy hunting proponents like them have always said that hunting was a good conservation measure.

Despite over a decade of publications showing that trophy hunting contributed peanuts to African governments, a few cents here and there to African communities, many calls over those years to reform the hunting industry -  Panthera and the ALWG are still saying we should continue to support a failed formula. Trophy hunting operators are hunting within national protected areas and luring lions out of national parks with baits and calls. Their excesses have been legendary and despite all good cautions provided in the past not a single voluntary reform has been made.

The Panthera Foundation also says “The failure of African Governments to adopt the necessary reforms in rapid and reasonable time (for example, three years) would create a strong case for trade restrictions”.

But then when Botswana and most recently Zambia decided to place indefinite moratoria on lion trophy hunting based on their assessments that trophy hunting (allowed in both countries for decades) directly contributed to lion population declines, where was the support from ALWG and Panthera?

So we should now trust that the trophy hunting operators will now be kinder and gentler and more conservation minded?

Not one hunting company has agreed to voluntary measures to reduce their lion quota, blaming instead government quota setting.

Not one hunting company has agreed to a comprehensive and independent assessment of the status of lion populations remaining in their concessions.

Only by African Government regulations to impose an age-minimum on lion trophies in some countries has the hunting industry agreed to conform to slightly better standards, and those regulations were put in place because the hunting operators were allowing clients to shoot lions barely 2 yrs old.

Despite evidence of clear excesses, no hunting company has in the past agreed to forego their quotas – even though they were often depended on to set those quotas themselves.

And yet we are supposed to believe that trophy hunters have been conservation minded all along?

Trophy hunters have failed in their formula. The calls by the Panthera Foundation and the ALWG to give them yet another chance both ignores past excesses and a very doubtful willingness on the part of hunting operators to reform, to come clean, and to acknowledge they have failed lion conservation over all those years. The Panthera Foundation also ignores a statistic by IFAW showing that 96% of the US population opposes trophy hunting of imperilled African.

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Please support us if you can to conserve the remaining fragile lion populations. Thank you.

Posted by Pieter Kat at 13:56

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