The sad and, more importantly, unlawful killing of one of Africa’s best-known lions, Cecil, in neighbouring Zimbabwe has taken social media by storm in the last few days and has done serious damage to the “cause” of the pro trophy hunting community.
But while Cecil’s death has prompted considerable reevaluation and debate about the role of hunting today across various parts of the African continent, so far the recent decision to lift the big cat hunting ban just across the border in Zambia has not, to my knowledge, been directly brought into the conversation, despite its renewed relevance.
As with Cecil’s death, the decision by Jean Kapata to lift the big cat hunting ban was met with considerable outcry and vehemence across social media. As I mentioned in my previous post on this topic, a number of commenters said they would now boycott Zambia. This sentiment was later supported by an online vote on the decision which showed that a large majority of voters would boycott Zambia so long as the decision stood, despite my attempts to persuade readers that this was a short-sighted approach that would potentially only further afflict the same wildlife that the prospective boycotters claim to care so much about.
Either way, with the Cecil storm raging I’d wager that now even more prospective visitors will be boycotting African countries that allow trophy hunting.
My previous post also tried to somewhat dismantle the stock hunter’s defense that hunting is in fact good for conservation and/or for local communities and can help prevent poaching.
I went on to say that although there is some credible evidence that with proper management and administration controlled hunting could indeed benefit wildlife conservation for certain species, bad administration and management and the scourge of corruption mean that in practice it is often a very different story, as has been made so glaringly obvious by the whole Cecil debacle.
This is something that has been overlooked by pro-hunting commenters, some of whom have, bizarrely, tried to capitalize on Cecil’s death to try to draw attention once again to the apparent validity of trophy hunting, seemingly without seeing what a self-defeating approach this is.
Whatever the claims made by the hunters, there is no denying that trophy hunting’s reputation must be at an all-time low in light of Cecil’s death.
There is also no denying that wild lion numbers have declined drastically in the past few decades, primarily due to loss of habitat and human wildlife conflict, but also either because of or in spite of hunting, depending on which way you want to look at it. Current estimates count around 30,000 wild lions left across the whole African continent, though some say it might actually be much less than that.
Returning to Zambia, LionAid co-founder Pieter Kat has noted that no proper lion count was conducted in Zambia before the recent decision to lift the big cat hunting ban, with “rough” lion population estimates varying wildly, from somewhere in the vicinity of 8,000 to ZAWA’s more realistic “guess” of around 1,800.
Kat went on to say:
“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.”
None of this is going to happen overnight. It’s going to take time and lots of diligence and hard work from all the different stakeholders, otherwise there is a good chance we are only going to end up with more Cecils on our hands.
Let’s hope then that the furor around Cecil’s death might encourage a change of direction by the Zambian government. The country’s reputation can ill-afford its own version of the Cecil tragedy. Perversely, if the Zambian government sticks to its guns (pun intended) and such an incident were to happen, the already cash-strapped wildlife administration may well have to put even more emphasis on hunting revenue to fill the void left by the ever-increasing number of “antis”, which would then continue to deplete the country’s lion numbers which would then bring more boycotts and so on and so on ad infinitum.
If the lifting of the hunting ban remains in place, at present only the hunters stand to gain, and as I said last time, as far as I’m concerned they’ve had their day.
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.
When I read this “…although there is some credible evidence that with proper management and administration controlled hunting could indeed benefit wildlife conservation for certain species, bad administration and management and the scourge of corruption mean that in practice it is often a very different story….”, I thought Christopher was on the right track.
Conservation in Africa is suffering hugely from bad policy, admin and management as well as self proclaimed experts from countries outside Africa. Look at the dilemma with elephant and rhino conservation. Outsiders, coming from countries with virtually no wildlife left to speak off, are pressurizing African governments to ban hunting and trading in ivory and rhino horn.
The net effect is that elephant in well managed areas (Botswana and South Africa) are destroying their own habitat and that of countless other animals – the latter suffering most. This is happening simply because trade is forbidden – destroying much needed revenue that could be used for sensible conservation.
Rhino, which can easily be integrated into game farms, are suffering because they have no commercial value to game farmers as well as smaller game reserves, which could earn revenue from them. The only people benefiting is poachers and cartel members dealing in illegal trade. The net effect is that legitimate private money, which could be used to protect these very vulnerable animals are diverted to other animals such as antelope (ex. roan and sable) whose numbers have benefited hugely from hunting.
My view of a solution for Zambian wildlife (including lion) is to ban hunting in proclaimed national parks – which are very thin on animal numbers due to poaching – not hunting. Issue hunting licenses only to people (individuals, communities or organisations) with access to land which are properly fenced, have sufficient water and proven wild life management and hunting skills. This can be done anywhere in this beautiful country, but will have the most impact on the fringes of national parks, where they will help to keep poachers out.
Lastly, increase roads and lodging infrastructure in national parks to make it more accessible – more tourists deter poachers. Special focus is needed on camping and lower end accommodation. The extravagantly expensive lodges are keeping locals out of national parks, leaving them with little appreciation of their wild life heritage and questioning the value of these parks.
If we do this our hyper critical friends will come back to an abundance of wildlife which is managed professionally inside and outside of the parks.
This article by the Jouberts says it all except that hunters also bribe their guides and professional hunters to burn lesser lion trophys when they find a better one this doubles the collateral damage.
I love to travel and to see animals especially in the wild but will never visit Zambia now that the big cat hunting ban has been lifted. I feel such sadness that Zambia does not value its wildlife and allow it to live in peace. I will visit countries that respect and care for the wildlife they have been blessed with.
That’s the arrestingly small number of territorial male lions — dominant pride male lions who protect their territory and prides— left in the world.
Lions just like Cecil. ” (https://www.thedodo.com/3500-male-lions-africa-1285671071.html)
“Live animals, particularly the Big Five, attract a steady stream of tourists seeking to experience these amazing species up close and personal. Their money, spent on accommodation, food and safaris, creates countless skilled jobs, which provide consistent income and opportunity to local communities. We’ve experienced this firsthand at our Virgin Limited Edition game reserves, Ulusaba in South Africa and Mahali Mzuri in Kenya. Safari tourism is an economically viable approach to conservation.” (http://www.virgin.com/richard-branson/big-game-is-worth-more-alive-than-dead)
“How can we reconcile the needs of human progress and development with the need to protect Zambia’s wilderness and keep its animals alive? The answer lies in tourism that creates jobs and revenue for the communities living near Zambia’s national parks and game management areas. This is also the answer to reducing poaching. These communities must see the wildlife for the precious and renewable resource it is.” …”This is what tourists pay to see: animals in their natural habitats. To experience Africa’s nature is what motivates people to fly to Zambia from across the world. This is Zambia’s greatest natural resource, which – if protected – can help provide a bright economic future for all Zambians.” (https://www.lusakatimes.com/2015/06/0
“Killing animals purely for the “thrill” is barbaric and wasteful, and can’t be justified on economic or conservation grounds. Studies show more money can be made from people who want to view and photograph them. Research also shows very little money paid by trophy hunters benefits the local economy.” (http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/david-suzuki-cecil-the-lion-s-killing-shines-spotlight-on-barbaric-trophy-hunting-1.2503039#_gus&_gucid=&_gup=Facebook&_gsc=mDqgiSa)
“Hunting in the countries that still allow it contributes less than 0.27% to the national GDP. In Botswana ecotourism is the largest employer in the northern districts and hires 40 percent of the working population.
Every time one hunting license is issued, a male lion is shot. However, males often work and live in groups of two like Cecil and his partner male. They need these partnerships to defend their territories and the females in the prides. When one is killed, the remaining male is left vulnerable to attack, and is most often ousted by marauding males.
Males coming in to a pride have one desire, to start their own families, not to raise the ousted male’s cubs. So they immediately kill all the cubs in the pride. On average a pride may have between 10 and 20 cubs (if the average pride is 8 females.) One license kills one male and his partner, as well as about 20 cubs, and often a mother who wants to defend her cubs. Total tally for one license: 23 lions!
One Hunting License May Kill 23 Lions.” (http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2015/07/31/hunting-lions-for-fun/)
“I encourage the government to look for new ways to support the communities around its national parks, and I encourage all stakeholders to work together with the Zambian government and communities to support their efforts.
We have a chance to turn the tragic poaching crisis trend around and for Zambia to establish a framework under which both local communities and the entire economy will profit from Zambia’s wilderness treasures for generations to come. But the time to act is now. Once elephants are nearly extinct or gone from Zambia, it will be too late. We must all work together with ZAWA to combat this crisis.” – A Call to Action by United States Ambassador to Zambia Eric Schultz
Please ask that the hunting ban remain in place:
I have previously been to Zambia and found it to be such a beautiful country and have in the past encouraged others to visit if they want to see Africa. However, along with South Africa, I no longer feel I can travel to Zambia again. What a shame. Botswana it will be.
I wish these governments would understand viewing their Wildlife is what brings in the tourists. We have all grown up watching the programmes on tv and want to see it for ourselves. It’s about time the tour operators and reserves gave money directly to the local people so that they know from every visitor they will benefit and hopefully help to protect their Wildlife. The Wildlife is worth more alive, to be photographed again and again rather than shot dead once. Who knows what these countries will become when they’ve sold off and killed all their Wildlife.
I lived in Zambia for 4 years and loved the people and the country. I often went into the bush and saw big game, elephant, lion, sable etc. I used to help with anti poaching but to be fair the poaching was mainly small animals for bush meat. Now poaching has changed to bigger animals (probably due to the Chinese influence) and if the hunting ban was lifted then even more animals would be killed which I don’t think Zambia could sustain. People want to come to Zambia to see the beautiful country and the wildlife and will bring more money than hunting does. Please do not lift the hunting ban as then you will lose your main income in tourism. South Africa and Namibia are losing their tourism due to poaching and hunting, people want to see wild animals in there natural habitat and want to see plenty of them. Botswana have taken the lead in banning trophy hunting please let Zambia do the same. Trophy hunting has no ethics now it is just about how many big game they can kill, hunters don’t care about the animals or the people and they certainly are NOT conservationists.
I am a Zambian and when we see people make comments of such matters expressing their views its good and we know that there people out there who care concerned. May I start by say, while the issues of hunting brings a lot of emotion in may forums, the reality on the Zambian side is either hidden or those who have the means to tell the truth opt to remain silent. Example given that 100 visitors a day at $50 entering Luangwa is good hypothetical example. In Zambia the benefit that rural communities get from tourism directly is only in hunting. Did you people know that all the many collected by Government agents from National parks goes to central treasure or to the Zambia Wildlife Authority and no such MONEY is shared with the communities despite many time them suffering depredation of their livestock and crop damage for these animals.Its true to say the communities living next to National Parks bears the cost of conservation and no one cars to state this and pay them for this.I will give an example from Tanzania sometimes in the late 90s they had a program called Support for Communities Initiated Project. ( out of the total the each park was raising, a 25% was ploughed back into communities. The communities saw the benefits and remained faithful and cooperating stakeholders. In Zambia you live next to a park you are not any factor and even if your crops are damaged by animals Government doesnt give it a thought let alone make it a concern. These are the people who .lived and given up these lands for protection of these animals. Is it fair really to treat them like this ? On the other hand, communities in other categories of protected areas like Game Management Areas ( GMAs) Government has given some limited power to the communities to benefit but much of the benefits are held and used with impunity by Government agents. Zambians communities with GMAs have complained some many times that they are getting a low deal and not even government has listened. In these GMAs lions are also found and hunted and does the hunting of these lions really add value to the communities and conservation? To the communities, these lions hunted they would have added value but today even if they are hunted, communities are just cheated and get nothing. As to conservation, hunting in my view would add value but there are so many things that need to be made straight. Today Botswana is rated high and a reference point and a preferred destination for wildlife lovers. Is I may ask, where has Botswana come from with its good wildlife population today? Those areas that today President Khama has stopped hunting from had nothing to talk about. It was the hunting operators who protected them, hunted sustainably and grew the wildlife population to where now even the photographic safari want to go and take clients. In Zambia we simple lack Political will, sense of responsibility and seriousness by Politicians.Check with our current Revised National Development Plan (2013 to 2016) on Tourism Development. Government’s plan is to increase airport arrivals. They have no single plan on how to rehabilitate our depleted protected areas which are the backbone and the very home of resources/wildlife that brings in visitors. We as a country we have lost it, a lion shouldnt be put as an icon when that which keeps it alive is plundered and no one say anything about is.Go to any National park maybe 4 of the 20 can be called parks the rest they exist by name.When we bring such opinion lets check other cardinal aspects too.We have lost direction on this subject as a nation and Zambia cant pretend to protect lions when the rest of the protected areas are shadows of themselves.Today , communities have seen them used as rubber stamps and many of them have refused to sign hunting concession. Why havent you asked them why and given them the credit for it? 90% of GMAs surrounding the Kafue National parks have refused to sign the 10 year lease for thei GMAs. These are the buffer areas for the parks that ensure the inner protection of our icons like lions. You are not raising these key impasses why? I though you would also tell the Governement and the Party in power that the people of Kasempa GMA, SIchifulo, MUmbwa, Sandwe, Upper Lupande, Kasonso Busanga and many more have refused to sign and allow hunting in their area. While this is a good decision, Government is not even aware yet the killing of animals continue. Yes lions and yes as a species but they are party of a living community that we are not talking about.S we do this for the lions, lets talk about the Zambian bigger picture. There is Political failure here. No one is really concerned even Government which has a mandate to these people are just nowhere to being responsible.One lion hunted responsibly is better than many poisoned by frustrated people.Even if they banned lion hunting anyway our lions will keep being killed illegal.The capacity to protect them is not there in many cases.Good idea but there more to it than meet the eye. Our Government are just a let down on this sector, even if you inform them, they dont know what to do period.They would have put in place a robust plan by now.Its a shameful situation but that is reality on the ground.
Thanks Kalaluka for your considered insight. It’s not a straight forward problem to solve but I cannot believe allowing foreigners to come into a country and hunt the wildlife is acceptable in 2015. It’s wrong on so many fronts: it creates demand for more killing, it goes against conservation and if local people aren’t allowed to kill nuisance animals or eat them, it’s obscene for foreigners to be killing the wildlife for the fun of it, putting pressure on locals to get them s trophy kill at any cost and then not facing the music along with the locals when it goes pear shaped and they get caught. That’s not the sort of tourism anyone needs. America has enough trouble domestically with their gun crime, African countries shouldn’t import it. Gameviewing in Zambia can be outstanding, as good as Botswana, the Masai Mara, Sabi Sands or any of the iconic safari destinations and safaris in Botswana etc are more expensive. Photographers and wealthy tourists don’t mind paying when the sightings are so good, and we should pay. Some of our money needs to go into conservation and some to local communities so that the value of alive wildlife is greater than the value of a trophy kill or body parts. The international community including governments, airlines, travel agents etc needs to support NO HUNTING. It’s complex I know but there’s always a solution if people and governments want a solution. I hope the Zambian, U.S., Chinese and government and the govts around the world do the right thing. If the hunters won’t stop, stop the hunters.
I was in Zambia last year and had a wonderful holiday but would not go back now that the hunting ban has been lifted I have booked a trip to Botswana this year
Well done again Christopher on continuing the awareness and conversation on these topics.
If Zambia are serious about tourism and indeed conservation, they MUST revise their lifting of the hunting ban and amidst the recent media attention and resulting correct actions from Zimbabwe and their parks and operators in restricting hunting and aloso major airlines banning hunting trophies … Zimbabwe must not fall behind in protecting big cats and wildlife AND their tourism.
I would recommend Zambia once again, ban the hunting of big cats. The world’s attention will soon highlight Zambia and this inappropriate stance.
I do want to visit Zambia, but lifting a hunting ban shows me that Zambia doesn’t care to much about its future in tourism. Each shot animal can’t be seen by tourist, but it as dead animals can’t breed young for the future.
I am not an accountant but. when each day 100 tourist visit an area like South Luangwa and spending each day 50 USD that brings 2 million USD to the region, what definitely can provide the area and people living in it.
If you do this trophy hunting you might have 2 or 3 guests each week, spending 40 000 USD (on they’re visit, that could be 6 million and looks like it is more money, but this provides labor for a few locals, but most money goes to land owners, safari companies, lobbyist, and bribery of officials, but in the end just a little part of this money goes to local community and wildlife conservation.
And in the end when the population of animals is that low, hunters will not come because they do not like walking for day’s in the bush to find that one animal. They go somewhere else and other tourist will not come as well.
My opinion in this wasn’t changed by the killing of Cecil, but it shows now already; that the hunters had to lure lions out of a national park. There was shortage on the land where they where allowed to hunt. It isn’t an incident this happens, it is just an incident that it happened to a famous Lion.
So this also proves for me that trophy hunters give a sh## about wildlife conservation. They just move on to the next place they can kill animals.
When I go on holiday I like to go to places where my visit and the money I spend improves the chances for the region to improve it’s life standard, I know that local people can’t do much on decisions of politician, but when I want to spend my holiday, I think at the moment Botswana is more in favor for me to spend my holiday as Zambia.
As unfortunately it is for the great Zambia people, but they should care about they’re future.