A suspicious trophy hunting advertisement has been placed online for a threatened Namibian desert lion. And it would appear that the target is the only known adult male lion in the Sesfontein Conservancy.
The advert has since been removed, but we secured screengrabs of the advert – featured below.
We have been informed that a large male lion in the Sesfontein Conservancy has been declared a ‘problem animal’, and a permit has been issued to a trophy hunter to kill him. Our sources advise us that there is only one known remaining adult male lion in the conservancy – XPL 81, or Kebbel (photo above).
Kebbel’s former coalition partner (XPL 87, photo below)) disappeared a few years ago and has not been seen since (thought to have been hunted), and it is therefore unlikely (although not impossible) that XPL 87 is the subject of this problem animal permit.
We approached Izak Smit, co-founder of conservation association DeLHRA, and he had this feedback:
“Judging by the advertisement and based on feedback from our networks, this lion will be hunted in the Sesfontein Conservancy by Leopard Legend Hunting Safaris on a ‘problem animal permit’.
The advertisement wording – ‘an extremely rare lion trophy opportunity…’ and, ‘this lion population has adapted to the arid region of the North-west of Kaokoland and is very unique’, is of concern as it places value on the rarity and uniqueness of this lion.
“I attended a meeting with the Namibian Ministry of the Environment and Tourism (MET) during the past week, and took the opportunity to question a senior MET official about this hunt – specifically whether a specific lion had been earmarked and identified for this hunt. I also enquired as to whether ‘problem animal’ protocol (in terms of the National Policy on Human-Wildlife-Conflict Management plan) had been followed, specifically with regard to establishing of the identity of the specific lion responsible for livestock killings, as MET is required to do.
“The MET official in question expressed his dismay with the terminology used in the advertisement pertaining to how rare the lion is as he felt that this was inviting an outcry from animal rights activists. The use of this terminology, of course, is clearly aimed at whetting the appetite of the hunter and justifying the price tag of USD65 000, much higher than ‘ordinary lion’ price tags.
“During the subsequent meeting with MET, the sharing of the spoils and the benefits for the communities were discussed. Typically the community would get paid about USD2 500 for a lion trophy. A very senior community representative and conservationist also present at the meeting was shocked to learn this and the general feeling was that of disgust. Translated into Namibian dollars the community would get N$32 500 and the hunting outfit N$812 500 – a mere 3,8% of the trophy revenue generated.
“The question now arose in the discussion following this, that the target lion appears to be only adult male lion left in the conservancy – XPL 81, also known as Kebbel – a research subject, collared and monitored by the Desert Lion Project. Surely he is worth a whole lot more to the community alive than dead? This lion is a huge tourist attraction that contributes to filling lodge beds.
“Also, since he is the last productive adult male in the Hoanib, Okongue and Orowau areas, surely killing him would be detrimental to the surviving prides, given the already drastically skewed gender ratios that exist (Editor’s note: see Simon Espley’s thoughts on gender bias in the desert-adapted lion populations in this post). The Ganamub and Tomakas areas lost eight lions to human-wildlife conflict in June alone.
“I would question whether the identification of which lion is the ‘problem animal’ has been sufficiently proven – it seems convenient that the animal declared a ‘problem animal’ happens to be the only remaining potential trophy lion left in the area.
“DeLHRA would offer to collect funding and pay the N$32 500 to the community to prevent the killing of this iconic male and support the vital tourism lodges in the area. We have no problem in principle with sustainable utilisation of any species, but this case seems totally unproductive and not in the community’s interest.”