Trophy hunting

Recent studies have shown that areas in which trophy hunting has been permitted by government authorities, lion populations have severely declined even in the absence of other threats.

Commercial utilization of wild lion populations is a highly political issue with many proponents and dissenters, but is largely allowed by governments as a venture to deliver capital.  Despite some scientific efforts to ameliorate rates of offtake and (doubtful) guidelines for hunters to identify “post reproductive” males, trophy hunting has never been shown to be a sustainable venture, and is known to have many abuses. These include luring lions out of protected areas, exceeding and influencing quota systems, ignoring consequences on reproduction of lion populations by destroying pride males, and taking young males out of the future reproductive pool. 

If we assume a continent-wide lion population of 25,000, this means that there are about 3,000 adult trophy males in Africa.  If we estimate that 40% occur in strictly protected areas, this leaves a “huntable” total of around 1,800 male lions.  Trophy harvests have averaged 665 exports per year, an unsustainable off take.

Proponents of trophy hunting have used three main arguments to continue the practice:

  • By giving “value” to lions, of which African rural communities receive a share, they will be more amendable to conserve them;
  • By generating revenues trophy hunting makes the maintenance of large tracts of land for wildlife viable;
  • Considerable revenues are generated for African nations and as such, consumptive use of lions is part of an overall conservation strategy for wildlife.

Various analyses have shown that these arguments are largely fictitious in practice.  African rural communities receive a pittance from turning over their land to hunting operators.  In Zimbabwe, a community household (average 10 people) will intermittently receive $1 to $3 per annum.  In Tanzania communities receive $4 per annum per square kilometre whilst the hunting operators receive $110.  The average contribution to GDP from hunting is 0.06% for 11 Africa nations that participate in trophy hunting, whilst 15% of their land is set aside for the practice.

Of seven countries that engage in trophy hunting, 696,708 km2 of land is set aside for the practice but employs a total of just 9,703 people, and most of them for six months only.  Given such weak returns for communities the incentive to stop poaching is little.  The bushmeat trade in Ghana alone is estimated at $250 million per annum.

A new, associated threat, that has recently received media attention is the trade in lion bones.  At the moment the bones are a by-product of the hunting industry, but many fear that poaching wild lions for the trade could follow.  Watch this film for more information.

Further Reading

For an article on the issue of hunting as conservation click here

For an article on canned hunting vs the hunting of wild lions click here

For an article on the socio-economic impacts of trophy hunting click here

Sport Hunting, Predator Control and Conservation of Large Carnivores (html)
Packer C, Kosmala M, Cooley HS, Brink H, Pintea L, Garshelis D, Purchase G, Strauss M, Swanson A, Balme G, Hunter L, Nowell K (2009) PLoS ONE 4(6): e5941

Impacts of Trophy Hunting on Lions in East and Southern Africa: Recent offtake and future recommendations (pdf)
Packer C, Whitman K, Loveridge A, Jackson J, Funston P (2006) IUCN

Effects of Trophy Hunting on Lion and Leopard Populations in Tanzania (pdf)
Packer C, Brink H, Kissui BM, Maliti H, Kushnir H, Caro T (2010) Conservation Biology 25: 142–153

African lion trophy hunting policy cannot be based on a site-specific model (pdf)
Nicholls K, Ward JL, Kat PW. Okavango Lion Conservation Program

Potential of trophy hunting to create incentives for wildlife conservation in Africa where alternative wildlife-based land uses may not be viable (pdf)
Lindsey PA, Alexander R, Frank LG, Mathieson A, Roman ach SS (2006) Animal Conservation 9: 283–291

Economic and conservation significance of the trophy hunting industry in sub-Saharan Africa (pdf)
Lindsey PA, Roulet PA, Roman ach SS (2007) Biological Conservation 134: 455-69