Can hunting save the lion?

The answer to the question in the title is, No and I attempt to explain why below. It is ironic, though, that the story of Cecil the Zimbabwean lion killed by Dr Palmer and his cohorts has generated so much publicity online and in hard copy newspapers that quite unexpectedly his death has probably, for the time being, helped to save lions. However, this is a one-off event and cannot be used as a reason why hunting saves lions.

Palmer on the left

Dr Palmer on the left. Trophy hunting makes a lot of people very angry.

The trophy hunters say their exploits help conservation. This is a desperate attempt to justify their appetite for killing animals for pleasure. Paying African officials large sums of money for the privilege of hunting lions is meant to provide an income which can be used in conservation. However, the hunters do not pay enough money.

“Hunters have access to a large area of Africa for not a whole lot of money…The system has become so incredibly corrupt, I’m really puzzled how to go forward…” (Craig Paker, the American director of the Serengeti lion project)

Two reasons, then, why the money of trophy hunters in Africa does not help save the lion: they don’t pay anywhere near enough and the money is lost in corruption. Also the money paid goes into the pocket of businesses who have little interest in lion conservation. Finally, hunting is a smallish part of the overall lion conservation picture.

If hunting was good for lion conservation as is so often stated by the hunters, why has the African lion population dropped so dramatically over the past 20 years from around 250,00 to a mere 20-30,000?

It is not true that where people live alongside lions the hunter’s money provides an incentive to tolerate the lion. This is because of corruption as mentioned and because in many African communities eco-tourism and photo safaris are not possible.

The major problem is that the world as a whole outside of Africa wants to protect the lion. People want the wild lion on the African continent to exist indefinitely. For the people of Africa living side by side with the lion the attitude is different. They have to earn a living from farming and the lion is a mean, viscous, terrible, horrible, awful animal (Craig Paker).¬†Well so are many humans…¬†Lions disrupt a farmer’s income and occasionally kill people.

Historical African Lion Distribution

If the world wants to see the lion roam freely over the remaining parts of Africa where it is still found then they will have to pay for it. African governments are not in a position to do it alone.

“…If lions belong to the whole world, it shouldn’t just be Africa that has to bear the cost” (Paker)

Trophy hunting is a contributor to the extinction of the lion in Africa. Logically, killing a lion means one less lion doesn’t it? Also trophy and sport hunting is now deeply unfashionable due in part to the rapidly declining numbers of animals that hunters like to kill. There is also the moral dimension. It is simply wrong to hunt for a lion’s head on a wall. Even hunters can understand that.

The biggest problem is the rapidly expanding human population in Africa which causes habitat loss and the interaction and conflict between Africans and the lion.

There is no possibility of slowing human population growth. Therefore farmers need to be involved in lion conservation through innovative schemes which compensates them for loss of livestock when lions wander out of protected parks. Also schemes which help the local farmers protect themselves and livestock from predation by lions. The objective is for the African people and lions to live together. Money from countries outside of Africa should be spent on this.

The presence of the Chinese in Africa for mining is not helpful to lion conservation. It means more habitat destruction. But then again we are back to the real issue: how local people can live and improve their livelihoods within a continent where a terrifying predator lives side by side with them.


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Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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1 Response

  1. Michele S. says:

    Michael and I fully agree with your reasonings as to why trophy hunt does not benefit conservation organisations or local residents. The money goes directly to greedy fellow hunters who organise these trips and the corrupt officials.

    I’m a long-time fan of British comedian Eddie Izzard. Back in 1993 he talked out trophy hunting and Prince Phillip’s ludicrous role as President of the WWF. I think others might enjoy this clip;

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRBr9ksVQ2s

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