Dr Pieter Kat, The Rt Hon David Jones MP & Chris Macsween
In a ground breaking Adjournment Debate last week about declining lion populations, delivered by The Rt Hon David Jones, MP Clwyd West, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Rory Stewart, responded to LionAid's concerns by promising a through review of future lion trophy hunting imports into the UK.
LionAid was very pleased that the Minister was more than open to further discussons and was keeping an open mind as to the benefits or otherwise of lion trophy hunting as a conservation tool for the species.
He said that he was completely convinced lion populations are tragically declining and added that scientific consensus was needed on best path to conservation.
The Minister has invited LionAid to further discussions with him this week.
We are hopeful that progress can be made in banning lion trophy imports into the UK, at least for Zambia and Mozambique in the short term and to effect a total ban (like Australia and France) once further discussions have been completed.
You can read the entire debate here and you can watch it on parliament TV here(from 15.59). Meanwhile, we provide you with some important abstracts:
From The Rt Hon David Jones MP:
1. "The lion is important to us in Britain and I believe that we as a nation can and should do more to safeguard its future. For example, given the declining trend in lion numbers, it is astonishing that the despicable sport of hunting lions for trophies is still allowed. No other species in such worrying decline has been allowed to suffer additional mortality for commercial purposes. A particular concern is that trophy hunting targets male lions, a very small part of the lion population."
2. "I believe that Britain should be exerting its influence to help to reduce the level of sport hunting that goes on in Africa."
3. "The truth is that trophy hunting is a nasty, despicable business that contributes to the depletion of lion numbers."
4. "We should also bear down on the import of lion trophies by banning it. Australia recently imposed such a ban, the first in the world, and I am delighted to say that last week France followed suit. We in Britain should not lag behind."
5. "I would like to mention the loathsome practice of the so-called canned hunting of lions, which is practised mainly in South Africa. Lions are reared from tiny cubs by paying volunteers who are recruited by agencies, some of which are based here in the United Kingdom. The volunteers believe that they are contributing to the conservation of the species."
6. "Finally, may I commend the activities of the British charity LionAid, which has done much to help focus international attention on the crisis that threatens to wipe out this important species. Christine Macsween and Dr Pieter Kat of LionAid are both here today, and I thank them both for the help that they have given me in preparing for this debate. I am also pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for North East Hampshire (Mr Jayawardena) has been able to attend the debate, and I again wish him well in his new role as chair of the all-party group on endangered species."
Rely from Mr Rory Stewart MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs:
1. "I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend for raising the issue as a way of getting us to think about it, and because, to some extent, lions have been underrated in comparison with other animals in recent studies on conservation and extinction."
2. "The big case study that we need to look at is Botswana. Botswana has now banned lion hunting and will be the litmus test of whether the previous hunting areas will now be protected—indeed, the President and the Minister for Environment, Wildlife and Tourism are heavily committed to protecting those areas—or whether, with a change in Government, the pressure, particularly from the cattle industry, will mean that in three, five, seven or ten years’ time, that land is given over to farmland instead of being protected as national parks. That is relevant because it is predominantly because of farming practices and human population pressure that lions are now largely constrained to areas such as Tanzania and southern Kenya, and have been lost across a great deal of west Africa. That has been the major reason for the decline in African lion populations across the continent. Botswana will be a key litmus test."
3. "The challenge for the United Kingdom, Europe and the United States is, above all, to conserve lion populations. What we should be doing—the end for all of us to bear in mind—is trying to ensure that we end up with a stable, serious, resilient lion population in 25, 50, 100 and 500 years’ time."
4. "I use this opportunity to state that the Government will ban the importation of trophies into Britain unless we see very significant improvements in what is happening in Africa. We will look closely at key indicators, including the age of the lions involved—the latest scientific research pushes for that to be over six. As an interim measure, we will look closely at quotas and at international verification.
The Government have already moved to take Benin and Ethiopia off the list of countries from which we are prepared to import lion trophies, and we will be moving against Zambia and Mozambique. We are working with our European Union and American partners to make it very clear that, unless there is a significant improvement in the performance of the hunting industry and of those countries, this Government will move to ban lion trophies."
5. "As the Minister, I would like this to happen in a short timeframe. I am looking at something in the order of two years, but we need to pin that down."
6. "I thank LionAid for its work in raising the issue in our consciousness. I look forward to continuing this serious, scientific discussion to achieve what we all want—the preservation of lions."