I must admit that I missed this publication when it first came out in 2016. Mea culpa, but I would still like to bring it to your attention as it will likely be influencing the strange and largely inexplicable decision by CITES to continue to justify lion trophies to be exported from Benin and Burkina Faso. Strange, as the IUCN said these lions in their few remaining numbers are now so endangered as to be practically in the category of ghosts.
So what publication are we talking about?
It is called "Embargo on Lion Hunting Trophies from West Africa: An Effective Measure or a Threat to Lion Conservation?" published by pro-hunting authors from France in an online journal.
Read the article, and then question why this publication ever saw the light of day. Scientific journal articles are "supposed" to go through a rigorous evaluation process as to methods, results, and conclusions.
The two "reviewers" mentioned were Kevin Morelle and Clark Lungren. Morelle is at the University of Liege in Belgium and publishes on wild boar damage to crops. Lungren is a game ranch operator in Burkina Faso and runs an organization called Burkina Faso Wildlife Production Development Centre.
You can be the judge as to whether these reviewers are suitable to review a paper about continued trophy hunting of wild lions in Benin and Burkina Faso...
The authors did some "track" surveys on roads and came up with a population of 418 lions in the national park and surrounding hunting areas. Counting lion tracks is probably the least effective method of counting lions in an area - and the cheapest.
And now here come the "conclusions".
1. The "survey" was conducted between late February and early April. The driest of the dry season in the area. In fact, between November and April, the area gets about 55mm of total rain on average. That is not mentioned in the paper, but has big consequences on the authors' data and conclusions.
2. The authors said that there were more lions in hunting concessions than in the national park during that time. The implication was that lions are better "protected" in the hunting areas despite being shot. BUT - the hunting areas provide lots of water via artificial means to attract "game" for the hunters and predators also. To me, this is just another example of hunting concessions luring predators out of national parks - in this case via water in the dry season.
3. There was no survey of lions in the rainy season when their distribution might well change.
4. The authors say that without hunting, these areas will revert to cattle and agriculture. Botswana said no more trophy hunting in 2014, and the dire predictions of trophy hunters that all would go to ruin have not materialized. Those types of dire predictions suit the trophy hunters but are not based in reality.
Overall, this "publication" was aimed at convincing EU regulators to reinstate trophy imports of highly endangered western African lions. The EU suspended imports from Benin in 2015 (SRG 69) and from Burkina Faso in 2015 (SRG 71). The USA banned all imports of lion trophies from western Africa in recognition of the parlous state of lion populations there. There should be a complete cessation of lion trophy hunting across Africa as there is ZERO evidence that such hunting has in any way, shape or form has "benefited" the survival of the species.
Biased publications should not be taken as "scientific" evidence and online "Journals" need to take a better duty of care to ensure that such articles are much better edited. PLoS earns at least $5,000 per published article, but money should not motivate publication?
This article is so biased towards continued trophy hunting that one wonders about the "objectivity" of scientists like these authors. They did sign a declaration that "The authors have declared that no competing interests exist" - but clearly these authors wrote this paper with a considerable bias towards continuation of trophy hunting of a highly endangered population of lions...
Articles like this are a form of "lobbying" to keep lion trophy hunting alive. It is to be hoped that Brussels will not be convinced.
Picture credit: africanecho.co.za