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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Conspiracy theory: Walter Palmer was stitched up by conservationists

I have decided that it is just about possible that Walter Palmer, the instantly infamous dentist and father of two from Minnesota who took pleasure in killing Zimbabwe’s most famous male lion, was stitched up by the guides who led him into shooting Cecil, the lion, outside of his protected area, a national park. The objective: to highlight the unacceptable nature of lion hunting when they are a vulnerable species rapidly heading towards extinction in the wild.

I regret killing the lion
I regret killing the lion

You may know that the guides lured this tiger from the National Park where he resided and was protected thereby placing him in a vulnerable position which gave the impression to the hunter that he could legally shoot him.

As it happens the news got out that he was lured away from the park with bait being dragged behind a vehicle and shot illegally and there is now a clamour for the perpetrators to be prosecuted and Palmer is being vilified.

This story is big news and there are calls across social media and on petition sites for greater restrictions on big-game hunting in Africa. There are 150 lion hunting operations in South Africa making good money some of which are involved in canned hunting. In canned hunting, lions are bred solely for the purpose of being killed by rich Western hunters. Five thousand lions are bred this way.


Perhaps conservationists realised that the only way to highlight the problem of excessive lion hunting in South Africa, and I presume across other countries on the continent of Africa, was to sacrifice Zimbabwe’s most famous lion in order to benefit the others in the future. That would account for the fact that Cecil, a very well-known lion with a big following was selected by the guides for Walter Palmer. Of all the available lions why Cecil? It is seems extraordinary.

If the guides are prosecuted and genuinely punished then this theory can thrown out but let’s wait and see. I doubt whether anyone will be prosecuted despite what the authorities are saying.

There is another aspect of this notorious example of big game hunting which is intriguing. Walter Palmer paid £35,000 for the privilege and the pleasure of killing this lion. I wonder whether other people believe, as I do, that this is a cheap price for the life of such a magnificent creature. If people are intent and insistent upon killing lions in S. Africa and it cannot be stopped then surely the price should be much higher; somewhere in the region of ten times that figure would be more applicable and it would certainly put the brakes on this obnoxious practice.

P.S. Cecil’s cubs are in danger of being killed by an incoming male lion: infanticide.

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Man wiping out the lion in the wild in Africa

The African lion is being pushed off the planet by humankind. Put it another way, it has been projected that within 40 years humankind will have wiped out the African lion, in the wild, if we carry on as we are. There simply hardly enough space left in Africa for the lion and the situation is rapidly deteriorating.  Its habitat has been decimated and utterly fragmented over the preceding hundred years. The rate of despoliation of habitat is accelerating.


Distribution today:

View Lion Range 2009 in a larger map

Historical distribution:

Historical African Lion Distribution

Because of a much reduced habitat the lion sometimes wanders into human settlements such as the suburbs of Nairobi where rather than being captured and relocated they are shot. Why should the authorities shoot lions who walk into suburbia when they are so endangered? The answer is that there is nowhere to put them which is safe any more, so they’re simply shot instead.

Why and what?

So why is humankind pushing the lion off the planet in Africa? Well, it’s because of a human population explosion in sub-Saharan Africa which has led to growing competition with lions for land. Humans simply cannot control their breeding.  People complain about out of control feral cat breeding, well this is an example of humans doing the same thing but with a far more devastation effect.

It isn’t just about competition for land, though. There is poaching and farmers kill lions who kill their livestock because lions are forced to live on farmland because there is nowhere else for them to live.

In Africa, they have reached the bizarre situation where the money raised by a hunting lions helps to maintain reserves in which lions are protected. So you have to kill lions to save lions which I find utterly bizarre. It is the kind of human distortion and madness which seems to be accompanying wildlife conservation nowadays. There is still a thriving trade in canned lion hunting which devalues the lion. It becomes a commercial product to be used and abused.

Also, there is a gradual decimation of natural habitat because of commercial activity. You get more people who are more commercially active which creates a sort of double whammy against the survivability of the African lion. China is also very active Africa, fuelling increased commercial activity and I suspect poaching.

The number of African lions, in the wild, has dropped by more than 50% in the past three decades.  There are an estimated 30,000 remaining today.

About 70% of the remaining lions live in only 10 regions in southern and eastern Africa.  Lions in other regions such as West Africa have been almost wiped out.

In another bizarre twist of wildlife conservation, where lions thrive they face another threat from conservationists trying to protect other endangered species such as the rhino and a rare species of zebra. Lions kill rhino calves which threaten the species’ survival. As a result, conservationists are considering neutering male lions to stop them breeding! This is speciesism.

This is another almost ridiculous state of affairs and it does not address the underlying issue that rhino horn is a reason why the rhino is poached in Africa. Rhino horn is shipped out to China where it is eaten in order to give men a better erection! How mad does the world have to become before we wake up to what we are doing?

Silver Lining?

There’s an interesting and surprising benefit to the dire state of affairs regarding the African lion’s survival.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed listing lions under the American Endangered Species Act because analysts have warned that they are in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future.

“Demographers believe the human population in sub-Saharan Africa will double by 2050….Unless things improve lives will face extinction.  It’s up to us and not just the people of Africa to ensure that lions will continue to roam.” (Daniel Ashe director of USFWS)

If the African lion is listed as suggested it would make it illegal for Americans to kill or hunt captive lions without a permit or to sell lions or lion parts.

It will also become much harder for big-game hunters from America to import lion trophies from Africa. Hunters will have to prove that the lions had been killed in an area with a “scientifically sound” approach to managing lions. It is already illegal to import lion trophies into Australia.

This, at least, is to be welcomed because to be brutally honest the number of lions in the USA and the way they are shipped around and used and abused or kept in backyard zoo’s is not conducive to successful lion conservation. It totally undermines it, in fact, and I’m pleased that the US authorities have decided that they have to play their part in trying to remove the threat of extinction of the African lion.

The truth of the matter is that humankind has to decide whether it really does want to have lions living in the wild on the planet. Clearly, at present, that is not the case.  People are simply disinterested.  Big business and human population explosion and a disregard as to how that affects wildlife take precedence over everything.

Warning articles like this about impending extinction of species actually does very little to change the inevitable course which sadly is the foreseeable extinction of the African lion in the wild on the continent of Africa.

It is not just lions, rhino, elephant and other iconic species are equally threatened. The situation is becoming desperate.

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Another Sanctuary For The Asiatic Lion

Hundreds of villagers are being forced out of their homes in central India to make way for a new Asiatic lion sanctuary in an area where the animals were hunted to the brink of extinction in the nineteenth century.

Asiatic lion Gir Forest
Asiatic lion Gir Forest. Photo by Rupal Vaidya (Flickr)

The reason why it has been decided to create a second sanctuary for the Asiatic lion is because it is believed that the Gir Forest sanctuary where there are now around 400 Asiatic lions is overcrowded with lions and there is a fear that if the animals are stricken with a disease it might devastate the population and it is unsatisfactory for India to have all their eggs in one basket meaning all the Asiatic lions on the planet residing in a single sanctuary.

The biologist involved in the project, Faiyaz Khudsar, said that around 200 members of a tribal group would need to be relocated from the edge of the Kuno wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh to make way for the animals. Apparently, thousands of members of the Sahariya tribe from 24 villages in the Kuno Park have already been moved to other areas.

He states that as they live in remote areas this should be no problem. Last week, India’s highest court overturned objections to the initiative from Gujarat. Gujarat considers the lion to be part of its heritage and a major tourist attraction. No doubt they are worried that they will lose revenue from tourists to the Gir Forest reserve.

This project has been in the pipeline since the 1990 but has been mired in legal disputes. The Indian government has done well to maintain a stable population of lions in Gir for many years bearing in mind that the population fell to just 18 in 1893.

It seems that this is another classic conflict between people and wildlife. I’ve always said that there are too many people for the big wild cats to survive in India but this is an instance where the big cat is taking precedence over people.

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Kendall Jones: Show-off Sport Hunting Teenager

Is Kendall Jones the world’s most insensitive teenager? Perhaps the word “insensitive” is too mild for this woman. She likes to shoot large wild animals including iconic species and post photos of herself with her trophy on Facebook

Perhaps she’s just ignorant of the need for conservation of wildlife or perhaps she doesn’t care as she gets too much pleasure out of shooting beautiful animals such as the leopard, the wild cat species that you see her with in the photograph below….

Kendall Jones likes to shoot big game for fun

The leopard is considered as “Near Threatened” by IUCN Red List. The lion is rated as “Vulnerable”.

There was a widespread protest against her showing off her kills on FB. We are told that Facebook removed photos of Kendall with her trophy kills but this one of deer on FB today:

Sport hunting teenager

There is a petition which has gathered together 141,240 signatures at the date of this post to stop a TV show being aired in 2015 on the Sportsman Channel in which she features.

She likes to kill lions, tigers, buffaloes, leopards, rhinos and even the threatened white rhino. The white rhino is another endangered species with a population of 20,000.  She also likes to show a compassionate side:

Kendall jones with young deer

In denial? Fake personality?

What can you say? I know there are many people who support her. There are people who admire and want to do the things that she does. In fact, there are many people like Kendall Jones in the world which is why there is a gradual reduction in the population sizes of threatened and endangered wild species.

Two FB comments show us the polarised viewpoints and the third is nonsense:

I love how the left claims to be enlightened while calling for the death of a young lady. The crazy thing is, if she had killed a human fetus instead of a deer, they would praise her. Time to check your priorities (James C Norman) – this received 1,836 thumbs up.

If you are killing deer for food, that is acceptable. But if you are doing it for sport. please explain to me where the sport is – a high powered rifle against an innocent animal with no way to defend himself – the world is full of sick people. Animals have families too just like you and I. How would you like it if someone killed your mother because they like human meat? Think about it. (Cathy Zellers) – this received 471 thumbs up.

You guys don’t understand that hunters have probably more love and compassion for wildlife than you will ever have. (Alexander Chen) – How does this person square up shooting animals for fun with compassion for wildlife?

Fortunately, there is also a sizeable percentage of the world population who strongly dislike what she does. No doubt she has paid for the privilege of shooting these animals and therefore we also have to blame the organisers of these hunts.  It is quite possible, but I don’t know, that she indulges in canned hunting.  Canned hunting of the lion in South Africa is quite popular.

People organise these hunts justified the conservation reasons but these people will always find a way to justify something even if it is objectionable and totally unacceptable in the modern world.  It is time to conserve wild species particularly iconic species like the ones mentioned but no doubt proper steps will only be taken when it is too late.

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