The following was written as a response to Christopher Clark’s recent post, ‘Lifting the big cat hunting ban: Some thoughts and a call’ after it was republished on Untold Africa.
Pieter Kat is a trustee and co-founder of LionAid. He has a PHD in ecology and evolution from John Hopkins University in the USA. He worked in the field in Kenya for ten years before he was invited by the Government of Botswana to study lion populations and to make recommendations for their conservation. He has authored more than 70 academic papers to date.
Your article falls short of understanding the real issues involved, but you do reach some good conclusions.
Let me explain.
LionAid visited Zambia in June 2013, and we had discussions with many stakeholders about the lion hunting issue – that was then subject to a moratorium. We spoke with the then Board of ZAWA, the then Minister of Tourism and Arts (Sylvia Masebo), the Permanent Secretary of Tourism and Arts, trophy hunters, various NGOs, the heads of tourism organizations etc.
We later spoke with two Zambian High Commissioners in London in 2013 and 2014. LionAid continues to be in close contact with a number of Zambian NGOs and some highly placed politicians in the country.
The results of all our discussions were as follows.
1. Sylvia Masebo promised an independently monitored lion population survey in Zambia before there was going to be any discussion of resumption of trophy hunting in Zambia. She also ordered the ZAWA Board to meet with us. At the ZAWA meeting we were told that lion hunting would resume “soon” regardless of what the Minister said and the complete absence of any national lion management plan. As you point out, ZAWA is broke – not only because they do not have reasonable income streams, but also because a number of foreign donors (like Norway) had withdrawn all funding because of “financial irregularities”. Also, ZAWA had made a big mistake in past years to derive income largely from consumptive tourism (trophy hunting) while not seeking to expand and facilitate the photographic industry.
2. The lion population count was never undertaken. Indeed, current Minsiter Jean Kapata invented some numbers based on a nonexistent “aerial survey” to indicate that there were 4,000 lions and 8,000 leopards remaining in Zambia. Embarrassingly, ZAWA had to correct the Minister to say that basically, they had no real idea of how many lions there were in Zambia, but “estimated” about 1,800. Also embarrassing was that even that number is not based on any real counts. The President of the major Opposition party, Hakainde Hichilema took the Minister to task in the national press about the decision to rescind the moratorium by caving in to the professional hunting lobby.
3. Meanwhile, Minister Kapata indicated that she would allocate a Zambian quota of 46 adult males in 2016. Based on zero information about the source population in hunting concessions that is supposed to “sustainably” support this annual offtake – it is our opinion that to be able to “supply” this number of trophy lions, Minister Kapata would need to make deals with South African lion breeders to import a very high percentage of this proposed quota.
4. Also meanwhile, Zambia has done very little to broaden their tourism base and the income stream to ZAWA. Both London High Commissioners we talked to said they did not have a single member of staff dealing with promotion of Zambia’s highly underutilized tourism potential. Well over 90% of Zambia’s foreign tourists now head for Victoria Falls – and for their “wildlife” experience have to cross into Chobe National Park in Botswana.
5. I agree with you that a boycott of Zambian tourism is not going to be constructive. But meanwhile Zambia must devolve from the rather exclusive dependency of ZAWA’s income from trophy hunting concessions. The same Economists at Large report you refer to indicates that 67% of Zambia’s hunting concessions are already commercially non-viable. An earlier report by the IUCN indicated that the yearly income from hunting concessions to communities was $6 per square kilometer annually to use their land. This is the LEAST commercially viable income for any land use in the world. Meanwhile Zambia continues to set aside over 21% of her land for hunting concessions.
6. Before resuming the status quo of hunting lions and leopards, Zambia needs to engage in proper population counts and a real plan to diversify the tourism industry. Clinging to failed formulas will not work. And that’s where the Government needs to seek assistance to improve tourism infrastructure and begin to realize Zambia’s enormous potential.
Much needs to be done in Zambia and it is possible with the right people and political will.
We want to hear from you. Do you think lifting the big cat hunting ban is a good or bad move for Zambia? Will it effect your desire to visit the country? Tick a box below and we will do our best to ensure that the Minister of Tourism, the Zambian Tourism Board, Zambia Wildlife Authority and any other parties concerned in this decision know about it. We want to be at the forefront of promoting ethical and inclusive tourism in Zambia and your input is invaluable in this regard. Thank you.
Many good points from everyone,
Cliff Tulpa – I believe it’s more a case of government resorting or resting on hunting as a form of income – it certainly isn’t about true conservation of a species, otherwise why would Zambia’s initial ban have been implemented? Pressure from the hunting community has meant Zambia has bowed to their requests, because they’re not willing to spend the money to develop or protect those buffer zone areas or those outside national parks. Developing areas is key, to let those areas simply fall away from the National Park set up is sad and opens it up to being exploited by hunters.
Your definition of community involvement is also backwards, we can take good heart from the likes of Rwanda of how community involvement in protecting their assets (the wildlife) can aid tourism, so other countries must adopt this stance.
Ashok – those lion losses outside parks is due mainly to human wildlife conflict as you’ll know – but this is something we must work on. Allowing hunting in these areas doesn’t achieve anything as Cliff suggests, it evades the problem and it’s a problem we need to resolve and work on.
Simply bowing to hunting group pressure is weak from Zambia and shows no forward thinking towards saving a species – which will only be done through eco tourism.
Pieter Kat is talking rubbish. He knows nothing about conservation. Hi organization has an annual budget of $35,000. Staff is paid $8,000 for the year!
That shows the real insignificance of Kat’s role in lion conservation.
The fact is that everywhere that lion hunting has been banned, the lion numbers have declined radically. Botswana is a great example. They banned lion hunting and the anti poaching patrols stopped in all the old hunting concessions. The local people then started poisoning the cattle killed by lions and the killed off entire prides including breeding females and cubs. So lion numbers have plummeted in Botswana outside the parks!
Why will Kat not recognise this ridiculous situation and why does he agree with the poisoning of females and cubs?
I applaud Zambia Wildlife authority for making the correct decision to allow hunting of the the big cats for sustainable use and promoting community involvement in wildlife management.
It is because of these types of good decisions, that there will be much more wildlife including the Big Cats for the future.
What most people do not understand, is that the high end photo tourist would not want to go and spend their time in the areas that are most used for hunting. Those areas are not full of wildlife to photograph and may have to go days before seeing animals. The tourist wants what is in the National Parks to photograph all the animals. But hunting is done outside those parks and in areas without those populations of animals. Hunting is done in “buffer zones” between the Parks and developed land, so as to generate sustainable use and benefit for land that otherwise is not utilized for wildlife management.
Anybody willing to hunt lions and leopards in Zambia are just straight out bloodthirsty killers. You can talk in circles to try to mask the truth if you like. Killing that last few remaining of this species in that country will not aid conservation and hurt tourism. There’s estimated to be only 400 lions in Zambia. Tell me how hunting and killing these beautiful creatures will aid the economy?I’d say the economy of this country will tank if it loses its tourism. They should develop other long-term smart economic solutions that will make the country prosperous.