Trophy hunters can help lion conservation so says a UK government commissioned report. This has made animal advocates very angry. And when I think about it, I am drawn to one conclusion: if killing lions for trophies helps to protect the lion then the world has to be in a mess. Conservation has come down, in a desperate last stand, to killing the animals that humans are meant to protect as a way of protecting them. Mad? Well no, more like corruption.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the UK commissioned David MacDonald, director of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) to review trophy hunting and the importation of trophies into Britain. A key failure in commissioning this organisation is that it has received donations from organisations that supported trophy hunting. For example, in 2012 a WildCRU researcher received funding from the Dallas Safari Club for work in Tanzania (source: The Times).
MacDonald concluded that trophy hunting “has the potential to contribute to lion conservation” provided it is well regulated, transparent and “devolves sufficient authority to the land managers”.
Further he says that the money from shooting lions provides a financial incentive to maintain lion habitat. Yes, I agree that when shooting lions brings in a lot of money the people making the money will ensure that there are lions to shoot and that means breeding them and providing habitat for them to live in. But this is not conservation. This is creating a kind of shooting range park where lions are kept to be shot.
True conservation is protecting wild lions in the habitat of their choosing. It means leaving them alone. It also means protecting their prey. On a common sense basis shooting lions can’t be good for conservation. And in any case the money does not always (if ever?) go into conservation. It often goes into the pockets of business people to invest in ventures other than conservation.
There is too much corruption in Africa for this sort of money to be used properly in the interests of wildlife.
MacDonald says that trophy hunting does not have a substantially negative effect on lion population size. I am not sure that that is true. But even if it is true, surely to encourage trophy hunting of lions is to encourage sport hunting generally in Africa of all kinds of large “game”. If you encourage this killing for pleasure it cannot contribute to conservation in the long term. One likely outcome is that sport hunting will be expanded in Africa and through corruption and malpractice it will, in time, have a substantially detrimental effect on wildlife. It is already happening as far as I am concerned.
There is also the negative impact that trophy hunting has on people’s relationship with wildlife. If experts say it is okay to shoot endangered wildlife for fun then we are diminishing the value of wildlife on the planet. This can only lead to further abuse and unethical use of wildlife.
Pieter Kat, director of LionAid said that the report gave a false impression that trophy hunting could be sustainable. It can’t be when it is contributing to the decline in lion numbers.
The truth is that the sport hunting organisations are scared of increased restrictions and are fighting back by corrupting what appear to the public to be neutral and respected scientists in an effort to support their activities. These scientists are being bought it seems to me.
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