Shenton Safaris

Why not auction Namibian desert lions that are to be trophy hunted?

After reading the recent article regarding the likely trophy hunting of the only known adult male lion in the Sesfontein Conservancy in Namibia, I thought of an interesting and possibly revolutionary concept to avoid this happening in future, or at least to provide more transparency in the process.

My idea – relating to Namibian desert-adapted lions – is controversial and not without potential problem areas. But I hope that it will spark a change for the better in how the situation is currently handled. Please treat my idea as a suggestion, and help me refine it so that it becomes a successful conservation tool.

In essence, my suggestion is to put a lion’s hunting tag up for auction, and let the highest bidder win. 

Kebbel (XPL 81) ©Inki Mandt

©Inki Mandt

All legible hunting operators, photographic operators (i.e. those that are in Sesfontein Conservancy) and NGOs working in the area are allowed to bid.

The community leaders should attend the auction, and have the right to set a minimum price before the bidding begins. The auction will be managed and verified by an accredited professional such as an auditor, and the results a matter of public record. Only bids submitted at the auction will be considered.

Once the winner has been established, that lion has been ‘bought’ – the winner may choose whether they want to shoot it (i.e. the hunters) or not (photographic/NGO) – such decision will be made at the auction and recorded as binding.

If the lion is purchased ‘non-lethally’, then that lion can never be hunted as a trophy or a ‘problem animal’, without the new custodian’s prior written consent, which has to again be made a matter of public record. In the case of a ‘non-lethal’ purchase, if that lion is indeed killed by anyone, then the killer is liable to pay the ‘custodian’ the full price they paid at the auction, plus a penalty.

The auction proceeds should be earmarked specifically for human-lion conflict mitigation, of the community’s choosing (e.g. kraals, radio collars, or compensation). This way, the community makes the maximum amount of money out of each lion, and the non-hunting stakeholders have a way to prevent a valuable lion’s death. It will also reveal (to communities and the government) just how valuable a desert lion is in the eyes of the hunters and the tourism operators/NGOs. If the non-hunting groups come to the party as they should, then all will know that a living lion is of greater value than a dead one.

My idea applies to both ‘problem animal’ and trophy lions, as it seems that many trophy quality animals (such as Kebble) are being put up as ‘problem animals’, which are being snapped up by hunters. This is actually short-changing the community, as they get less money for a problem animal than for a trophy.

Possible problem area:

If the lion is ‘purchased’ non-lethally, and it is proven to cause subsequent livestock losses (with strictly applied protocol being observed), then the lion should either be relocated or killed by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, with no involvement from trophy hunters. Some of the money paid at the original auction could be held in trust for farmers that lose livestock to the lion in question to supplement the money already paid from government funds. This process, of identifying genuine ‘problem animal’ lions and dealing with them transparently and efficiently is required regardless of whether my idea is implemented or not.

Please view my idea as an early-stage concept, put forward in the interests of lion conservation. I would appreciate constructive input and engagement in the discussion forum below this post.

Gail Potgieter

Gail Potgieter is a carnivore conservationist who specialises in addressing human-predator conflict. After spending a year volunteering for the Cape Leopard Trust in Namaqualand to find out more about carnivore conservation on farmlands, she headed to Namibia to work for the Cheetah Conservation Fund whilst completing her M.Sc. on the use of livestock guarding dogs to conserve carnivores. As a human-predator conflict consultant for the Namibia Nature Foundation, she currently works closely with communal conservancies in the southern Kunene region. Her dream is to find practical, sustainable solutions to human-predator conflict in areas that are not officially protected by national parks. The views expressed in her blog posts and other social media are not necessarily those of the NGO’s mentioned above.

  • Raymond Jennen

    So the winner takes it all? Results no lions left, because money rules……? Generally i am against the idea that animals are available for ‘auctions’ and i am against commercial hunting unless there is a waterproof system of controll and regulation. We all know that this is not the reality. I am afraid by doing so (auction) the population will decrease immediately and the so called rich people (now Americans, later on Chinese and Arabs) have their own playground.

  • Kaz Cobb

    One problem I see here. Trophy hunters have the money, farmers, ground level NGO’S have to beg to survive. So hunters will always win which equates to no Lions.

    • Simon Espley

      Good point, but consider this: At the moment the community gets about $3,500 from a $80,000 hunt – the rest goes to the professional hunter and the people he pays off / hires. So in reality the base price at which we can get involved is $3,500.

    • Peter Apps

      I think that you misunderstand how this would work. It will not be farmers and cash strapped NGOs who will be bidding against the hunters, it will be hugely wealthy celebrities and philanthropists, massive conservation organizations with budgets in the millions of dollars, and crowd-funded consortia of individual first world urbanites.

    • Jean Maragos

      Your right Kaz,this senario only the hunters win.

  • Peter Apps

    It’s a great idea Gail, and like many great ideas it is not new. Back when Pilanesberg was using trophy hunts to manage populations and generate revenue (in the early 1980s) I floated the idea of anti-hunters buying the animals and leaving them alive. Result: the anti-hunters would rather preach than pay. When that old rhino bull was auctioned off in Namibia the bids were open to anyone. Result; the anti-hunters would still rather preach than pay. For this to work, money has to be put where mouths are, or to update the idiom, let’s hear the rattle of cash rather than keyboards.

    What is driving lions (and other wildlife) to extinction is not regulated trophy hunting, or even regulated meat harvest, but poaching, habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict. All three can be mitigated by giving living animals on the ground a direct value to the people whose ground they live on.Photographic tourism can do that only for limited numbers of people in limited areas, and too little of the revenue directly benefits those who carry the cost.

    What is needed is the equivalent for wild animals of the carbon trading incentives that successfully persuade land owners not to cut down trees – direct payments to the residents based on how many wild animals they are prepared to tolerate. Auctioning individuals can be a part of that overall strategy.

    • Paul Hansen

      Unbelievable ………. 2017, and we still adjudicate on the lives of other beings, in a manner devoid of compassion and with a skewed sense of ethics. We don’t deserve to be their custodians.

      • Peter Apps

        We may not deserve it, but their custodians are what we are – or would you prefer us all to wash our hands of the whole business and sit around while species are driven to extinction ?

        • Paul Hansen

          More dignity for the victims in extinction, than being treated as a sacrificial commodity. Problem with much of our conservation efforts is that we do it from a selfish point of view – for us, not for them. I don’t mind if my grandchildren never see a rhino or lion. And I’ll tell them the reason why – that we were incapable of the humane treatment of those that shared the planet with us. No coincidence that the deepest thinkers throughout the history of mankind, hold, and held, a reverence for all life.

          • Peter Apps

            Extinction as the preferable outcome ?! – I’m sorry, but I really cannot take that sort of nonsense seriously.

          • Baconater

            “At no point in your rambling, incoherent response, were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

  • Sfiso Edmand

    I understand the position of various interested parties in lion management. It seems to me there is a clear difference between conservation for best interests of Wildlife and conservation for human financial benefits. In some cases the human intervention is problematic.

    If human ecological approach can work for wildlife it can be appreciated. Bear in mind that wildlife had been there prior to application of monetary value to their lives.

  • Marcus Clarke

    I had developed this idea to its ultimate conclusion between 1998-2000 and even took at trip to SA to get some conservation groups involved. If you would like to discuss further message me at @ecoforestry on Twitter

    • Peter Apps

      And for those of us who don’t tweet ?

    • Gail Potgieter

      I would be very interested to hear how your idea development went. 150 characters is a bit limited, so could you maybe outline what the idea was and where it went on this discussion thread?

  • excellent, not sure if the livestock farmers would be thrilled about this as they seek revenge and want the lion(s) gone. Also the trophy hunter well at least some of them are not really interested in the rare and endangered aspect of it the more rare the more they are sometimes prepared to pay to have that trophy. Namibia wildlife conservation is highly dependent on Tourism-hunting-conservation, whether one likes it or not, therefore it is critical to ensure that all legal hunting is done in keeping with sustainable-conservation protocols. In order to achieve this legal concession hunting needs to revert back to Namibians who have a vested interest in long term benefits, conservation, sustainability with a growth and rejuvenation ethic built in…thus reducing the big money go for the biggest and rarest trophy at all costs hunting sector!

  • Guido

    Hi Gail, we had a discussion regarding trophy hunting here before 😉

    Source 1: Ministry of Environment & Tourism, Large Carnivore Atlas 2012
    Namibia has an estimated population of 1113 – 1644 lions

    Source 2: Ministry of Environment & Tourism, Minister Shifeta, 20/07/2017 New Era
    Namibia has an estimated population of 700 lion.

    Not my numbers, but all official numbers by the MET.
    There are 2 possible conclusions:
    1. lions numbers have halved in just 5 years in Namibia and Namibia has by far the worst record of any African country regarding the protection of lions. Trophy hunting to reduce the numbers even more is not sustainable.
    2. The MET has still no clue regarding the lion numbers. Trophy hunting without a scientific background is not sustainable.

  • Ron van der A

    Just image that conservation organisations win all the auctions. Don’t you think that the relevant authorities will issue more hunting permits ( big money) and as a result there are
    ” suddenly” more problem lions?

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