A social media user called Simon Espley has suggested that lions within the Ngamo lion release site are being given over to trophy hunters to shoot. Mr Espley has contacted at least one volunteer from the program with some misinformation, the basis of which appears to be a website for a hunting company called Ngamo Hunting Safaris, which clearly states that they operate in the north west of Zimbabwe. The Ngamo lion release site, adjacent to Antelope Park, is in the Midlands province in central Zimbabwe. The name Ngamo is commonly used in Zimbabwe, and indeed other African countries, including a village, a waterpan, a forestry area, a school and railroad station near Hwange National Park. Ngamo is the legal name of the land on which the Ngamo lion release site was built, and the use of the name does not imply any connection with any other person, place or organization that utilizes the same name.
No organisation party to this press release has any connection with Ngamo Hunting Safaris, and no lion currently in the Ngamo lion release site, or any other part of the African Lion Rehabilitation & Release into the Wild Program will be provided to a hunting organization, of any kind, to be shot.
Mr Espley further states “some of Africa’s specialists all agreed that the lions taken through the process at [Antelope Park] are hunted”. He appears to base this comment on posts he has read on a forum web site that includes a discussion of the African Lion Rehabilitation & Release into the Wild Program. The truth about the content of this forum discussion is that some interested parties - whose expertise or knowledge is not apparent – suggested that lions going through the release program might be hunted. This suggestion is fundamentally inaccurate, and no evidence to support these claims was presented. No evidence can be presented to support these claims, as they are false, and as such, no evidence exists.
In 2008 a UK newspaper published a similar claim. Following legal action through the Press Complaints Commission the claim was proven to be false and the newspaper ordered to retract the story and publish an apology (see http://www.pcc.org.uk/news/
No party to this press release will ever knowingly allow a lion in the program to be shot within the canned hunting industry or by a trophy hunting organization. We will not release a lion onto an area, either private or state owned, whether fenced or contiguous to a national park (as in game management areas) where the land use is for trophy hunting. However, what we cannot avoid is that in some countries where hunting continues (11 nations - constituting +- 75% of all remaining lion populations) a lion released from the program into a national park will not move into a contiguous hunting block where it might be shot. As the purpose of our program is to release lions into the wild, we will do our utmost to ensure that released lions will not be hunted, but movement of wild individuals will be out of our control
The parties to this press release invite Mr Espley to contact us about his queries, and will be taking legal advice regarding his claims. Any person receiving contact from Mr Espley on this matter should refer Mr Espley to the parties to this press release.