The BIG LIE about lion trophy hunting

So often we hear from the pro-hunting lobby that by killing free roaming lions, trophy hunters are actually saving lions.

Well, if my aunt had balls she’d be my uncle.

That term “sustainable offtake” often creeps into the justification. The trophy hunting of free roaming lions is about as sustainable as putting ice cubes in a mug of steaming coffee. Let’s dig deeper into this issue of sustainable, shall we?

lion skin, trophy hunting

A lion skin as a trophy from a hunt in Namibia ©Ton Koene/Alamy

Consider the following six examples of why the trophy hunting of free-roaming lions is NOT sustainable – from the very countries held high by the trophy hunting industry itself as being paragons of sustainable hunting practices:

1. The Namibian government does not know how many breeding-age desert-adapted lions are left, how many territory/pride males there are, or even how many of each sex are killed during human-lion conflict. They told me so – see this article written by me. And yet each year they set trophy hunting quotas for large male desert-adapted lions. The awarding of trophy hunting quotas off the back of no relevant statistics is NOT sustainable.

2. Namibian laws permit rural livestock owners to request for the lethal removal of predators targeting their livestock – so-called ‘problem animals’. Fair enough. BUT trophy hunters are often used to perform the execution, and we know that trophy hunters want to shoot big male lions. And communities benefit financially when ‘problem animals’ are identified and taken down by hunters. Is it coincidence then that there is a large bias towards male lions amongst those lions reported as being ‘problem animals’, and consequently executed by trophy hunters?

In the last scientific research report on Namibia’s desert-adapted lions, published in 2010, the author states, when referring to six collared male lions killed by trophy hunters as ‘problem animals’: “In all six cases, however, it is arguable whether the adult males that were shot, were in fact the lions responsible for the killing of livestock.”

This gap in legislation – empowering the two beneficiaries of ‘problem animal’ execution to act as witness, jury, judge and executioner – is NOT sustainable.

3. The above report concluded: “The long-term viability of the desert lion population has been compromised by the excessive killing of adult and sub-adult males. There is an urgent need to adapt the management and utilisation strategies relating to lions, if the long-term conservation of the species in the Kunene were to be secured.”

Since then the situation has worsened as regards male lion offtake, with some areas now almost devoid of male lions. Even the last known adult male lion in the Sesfontein Conservancy was earmarked to be shot – again conveniently classified as a ‘problem animal’ – until international pressure forced the Minister to change his mind. A rapidly reducing male/female lion ratio is NOT sustainable.

4. Craig Packer, director of the Lion Research Center at the University of Minnesota, has led a series of studies identifying over-hunting as the major reason for the steep decline in lion populations in Tanzania, the lion hunting mecca. Packer was banned from entering Tanzania for exposing corruption with regard to lion trophy hunting.

Being tagged as the cause of crashing lion populations makes trophy hunting of lions in Tanzania NOT sustainable, and the widespread use of fraud and corruption as a business tool suggests a morally bankrupt industry.

5. When 13-year-old Cecil the lion was shot in Zimbabwe, the over-riding justification was that he was ‘too old’ to breed or to successfully hold a territory (as if those are the only uses of a mature lion). Then, Cecil’s son, Xanda, was also shot by a hunter, at the age of six – and the professional hunter Richard Cooke knew that Xanda was a pride male with cubs, and lied about the situation. In fact, Cooke also led the hunt that killed Xanda’s other son – at the age of four.

So, lions of all ages are being shot, and the trophy hunting industry lies and re-invents the justifications each time to suit their need to keep the business model rolling. That is NOT sustainable.

6. Rural communities living amongst wild lions have to see meaningful and sustainable benefit from having lions in the area. Lions are often a threat to lives and livelihoods and these people have the right to expect to be compensated to behave differently. After all, the rest of the world has mostly sanitised itself of large predators.

Surely for trophy hunting to be truly sustainable, these communities must receive a significant portion of the trophy fee? A 2013 study by Economists at Large, an Australian organisation of conservation-minded economists, found that on average only 3% of money generated by trophy hunting winds up in the hands of local people.

During research for my article referred to in point one above, Namibian government officials told me that the relevant community only receives about 12.5% of the trophy hunting fee for a quota lion (US$10,000 of the ± US$80,000 fee) – and only about 1% in the case of a ‘problem animal’ hunt. The rest goes to the professional hunting operator. This is NOT fair or sustainable.

This is what we do know about lions: Populations have crashed from about 450,000 in the 1940’s to about 20,000 today – mostly due to human-wildlife conflict, habitat loss, prey base loss and trophy hunting (US Fish and Wildlife Services).

The remaining pockets of lions are increasingly isolated from other populations, and no longer able to disperse and so maintain population genetic diversity and stability. When young males flee from dominant pride males, and seek out other lions, they leave protected areas and are picked off by hunters and livestock farmers – thus preventing the vital dispersal of young lions to other areas.

The surgical removal of big male lions by trophy hunters within the context of the above is NOT sustainable in any way, shape or form – regardless of what the other causes of lion population reductions are. The trophy hunting industry claim of sustainable practises is nothing but a lie. It’s a fiercely protected justification to continue the senseless and outdated fetish for killing off Africa’s big male lions for fun and ego. The fantasies of a few rich people are taking precedence over the survival of an African icon, over the proper functioning of Africa’s wild places and over the tourism industry which brings in many times more revenue, jobs, skills enhancement and societal benefits.

The trophy hunting of Africa’s wild, free roaming lions is NOT sustainable and has to stop.

Simon Espley

Simon Espley is an African of the digital tribe, a chartered accountant and CEO of Africa Geographic. His travels in Africa are in search of wilderness, real people with interesting stories and elusive birds. He lives in Cape Town with his wife Lizz and 2 Jack Russells, and when not travelling or working he will be on his mountain bike somewhere out there. His motto is "Live for now, have fun, be good, tread lightly and respect others. And embrace change". The views expressed in his posts are his own. Connect with him on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.

  • Mike Sebastian

    Great article, glad you are not afraid of calling trophy hunting for what it is …

  • Martin Nunn

    I have to agree with every word you say but there is also an economic argument to preserving Lions. Tourists go to Africa primarily to see the big five, the biggest of which is the Lion. Take away the Lion, leopard, elephant and rhino, currently all being hunted or poached to extinction and you will be left with the Big One… The Cape Buffalo. I don’t see many people spending thousands of dollars to fly half way round the world to see a herd of buffalo. Furthermore with the apex predators gone these herds will expand exponentially along with Wildebeest and Zebra so they will have to be culled… who decides how many and when?

    If you take KWS park fees and divide them by the number of Lions estimated to be Kenya then each lion is worth round $32,000 a year. Lions live for up to 15 years making each Lion worth $480,000 in tourism revenue. On this basis the current value of the 20,000 that are left in the world is $9.6 billion. With the Lions gone so to the revenue will disappear and all for a cow worth $300 or a goat worth $25… It just doesn’t make any economic sense. Pastrolists and farmers should be compensated for their losses and severely prosecuted for killing Lions. Hunting should be banned altogether as Africa cannot afford the loss. Killing off the Lion means killing off the tourist industry and the hundreds of thousands of jobs there in and that should be the political argument for a total ban.

    • ESG

      Well said Martin.

    • Peter Apps

      The problem with naively calculating what lions are worth to the global economy, and comparing that to the losses that lions inflict on livestock farmers is that only a pathetically small fraction of the impressively large total value ever gets anywhere near the farmers who are bearing all the cost. The trickle down benefit that an individual livestock farmer gets from having to live with large predators is nearly always less than the cost of the livestock that he loses, and so it makes economic sense to him to kill the predators. Remedy that situation and predators will be seen as an asset to be conserved, continue to suck all the theoretical value out before it reaches ground level and predators will continue to be seen as pests to be exterminated.

      • Martin Nunn

        Peter I agree that the farmers need to understand the real value of Lions to their whole economic life and this takes education and a simple system of either replacing lost cows or funding their replacement. All the Masi farmers I know in Kenya now have mobile phones which they can use to photograph the remains os cows that have been attacked. All their cows now have ear tags to identify them so proving the loss is not difficult. Many phones also have GPS so it is perfectl possible to identify where a cow was taken. The problem is that many cows are taken when they stray onto reserves or are driven onto reserves. Clearly it is in the national interest to set up compensation systems and systems to remove lions that are a problem. Once farmers understand that problem lions can be removed and that they can be compensated there is little reason to risk life and limb in seeking to kill them. Is this naive… no its a practical low cost solution where everybody wins.

        • Peter Apps

          Under your scenario of compensation for losses (which often does not work in practice) the best the livestock owner can hope for is to break even – typically after waiting several months to get his money. What incentive does he have to tolerate the presence of the predators – none. Well and good that the local taxes paid on the fraction of their income that the tourism operators do not repatriate to overseas head offices trickle back down to him, but they also trickle down to city dwellers and farmers who are far enough from the parks not to have a problem with wildlife. The frontline farmers are carrying the wildlife burden for the whole country, and getting no reward for it.

          • Martin Nunn

            And your solution is???
            It is all to easy to play arm chair expert. Pay the farmers double or treble the value and make it worth there while to wait. You will never find a solution until you have tried all the options. Unless we try we will never know. Is it easy, certainly not!!! but we have no choice but to try every solution and if the fail find out why and try again. So what is your creative solution… apart from exterminating all the Lions because they are inconvenient.

          • Peter Apps

            There is no one solution – and before you accuse me of being an armchair expert Google “Peter Apps conservation”, and then do the same with “Martin Nunn conservation”.
            But if it’s solutions you want; how about cash rewards for records of lions on a farmers land, similar in amount to the tips that a wildlife guide gets when his clients see lions, different livelihoods for rural people trapped in downward spirals of livestock farming where there is too little rain and forage for them ever to break out of poverty, replace or supplement livestock with game, improved kraals for livestock, local breed livestock guarding dogs, human herders being with the animals, dumb and smart predator repellents, manipulate lion behaviour to keep them inside protected areas …….. Many of these are being tried, but all of them are strangled by lack of investment.

          • Martin Nunn

            Peter I agree with everything you say. The only way however to get real investment is to convince governments of the real cost of not protecting their heritage. Sadly most polticians only think as far as the next election so they need to be forced by public opinion and that means education. You are very much at the sharp end which is to be admired and supported. I look at the issue from above and look for solutions that may not appear so practical on the ground but we should not ignore any ideas until they have been tested. Whilst I cam sympathize with farmers and pastrolists there herds of cattle and goats are a major part of the problem therefore beneficial alternatives need to be found.

          • Peter Apps

            Martin, I don’t think that the answers lie with governments, although plainly they have to be persuaded not to erect obstacles. I see more promise in the multi-billion dollar industry that conservation and ecotourism has become putting some its profits back into sustaining its own resource base.

          • Martin Nunn

            Agreed. We have produced a fate of the Lion infographic poster that has already been translated into Sets Wana and distributed to all the schools in Botswana and now it will be translated into swahili for the Kenyan and Tanzanian schools with copies in English for all the hotel’s and lodges. Next we will do the same for Elephant and Rhino. It’s a small start but the more people we can awaken the better. Good luck with your eork and thanks for the conversation.

      • pikppa .

        The primary problem is that more african people are going to be the less animals are going to be. Honestly humans spread too much everywhere but Africa and India are a good example of why in order to really protect wildlife we must stop the growing of human population. We need a global birth control, without exception. No species should grow so much that it devours the space of all the other species. Everyday more people are born in Africa and those people will take away land from the animals then kills them because “they have invaded our land and killed our livestock” like they weren’t the ones who actually took over land from the animals.

  • Gaetano Bonaviri

    Trophy hunting is a formidable tool for conservation of lies, fallacies and frauds.

    • MyKinKStar

      Trophy ‘hunters’ are just keeping the CON in conservation.

  • Brian Kelly

    Thank you for presenting your argument against lion trophy hunting. Allow me to debate each point you raised in an attempt to dampen polarization around the issue and find common conservation ground:

    1. The absence of population estimates is not an argument for the unsustainability of lion trophy hunting. Rather, it is an argument for increasing research. It should be noted that obtaining accurate population estimates of wide-ranging carnivores requires difficult and expensive research. For this reason, population indices and trends are often used to establish hunting quotas. It is easier to know whether a population is increasing, decreasing, or stable than it is to know, for example, how many breeding-age males there are. If population indices indicate a stable or increasing population under a given hunting quota, then it is usually reasonable to assume sustainability even without actual population counts or estimates.

    2. It would make a lot of sense if male lions were responsible for the majority of livestock depredations, and I believe research has shown this to be the case elsewhere. Dispersing males roam farther than females and are therefore more likely to encounter livestock. They also tend not to have access to kills made by prides and tend to have fewer (if any) lions with which to cooperate on hunts, making wild prey more difficult to obtain. However, even if this were not the case and female lions were in fact responsible for a greater proportion of livestock depredations than reported, this still provides no evidence of unsustainability.

    3. I very much appreciate Dr. Stander’s dedication to lion conservation and his willingness to put his research out there for critique by all. However, the report you’ve cited includes no population viability analysis. If anything, the net population increase he documented provides evidence that the lower male to female ratio is in fact beneficial to the population as a whole. In polygynous species like lions, it takes very few males to support population growth. In fact, fewer adult males can benefit recruitment by reducing occurrence of infanticide. In order to reach the conclusion that the long-term viability of the population has been compromised, Dr. Stander would have to demonstrate a likelihood of the male population no longer being able to sire enough viable offspring to maintain a stable population. This may very well be the case, but the data he presents don’t speak to that. Adult and sub-adult male lion mortality rates are always high, and whether the deaths are caused by conflict with humans, trophy hunting, intra- or inter-specific aggression, or starvation is inconsequential in terms of overall population growth.

    4. This is an argument against corruption, not an argument against trophy hunting. The trophy hunting industry has just as much of a vested interest in a sustainable lion population as the game-viewing tourism industry. Should there be pressure on the trophy hunting industry to reduce corruption? Definitely. Should trophy hunting be eliminated? Not unless we can afford to lose a heck of a lot of conservation land.

    5. You can argue about the ethics of a specific hunt and the public relations surrounding it all you want, but it has no bearing on whether trophy hunting as a whole is sustainable or not.

    6. Your statement that “only 3% of money generated by trophy hunting winds up in the hands of local people” is abjectly false. Even the authors of the study you cite would disagree with you. Questions about the validity of their research aside, their study reported that 3% of trophy hunting revenue is paid directly to community based organizations. That does not include expenditures they list such as staff wages (11% of revenue) that go directly into the hands of local people. Nor does it include expenditures on camp management, services, utilities, managerial salaries, and others, much of which also go to local people and local businesses. Nor does it include monies that go to wildlife agencies, some of which also winds up back in the hands of locals through their employment as conservation officers, anti-poaching rangers, etc. This is just as fair and sustainable as it is in the game-viewing tourism industry.

    The hunting and game-viewing tourism industries need to stop seeing each other as enemies and come together to support a multi-faceted approach to achieve common conservation goals in the face of the real enemy: habitat loss due to unsustainable development. As much as we may despise the actual act of killing a lion, if it weren’t for the conservation role of lion trophy hunting, the overall population decline of 450,000 to 20,000 that you cited would have been even worse, and the USFWS statement you cited goes into great detail about this. Both industries want to see more lions and more lion habitat, so they should work together to achieve that.

  • Brian Kelly

    Thank you for presenting your argument against lion trophy hunting. Allow me to counter each of your six points:

    1. The absence of population estimates is not an argument for the non-sustainability of lion trophy hunting. Rather, it is an argument for increasing research. It should be noted that obtaining accurate population estimates of wide-ranging carnivores requires difficult and expensive research. For this reason, population indices and trends are often used to establish hunting quotas. It is easier to know whether a population is increasing, decreasing, or stable than it is to know, for example, how many breeding-age males there are. If population indices indicate a stable or increasing population under a given hunting quota, then it is usually reasonable to assume sustainability even without actual population counts or estimates.

    2. It would make a lot of sense if male lions were responsible for the majority of livestock depredations, and I believe research has shown this to be the case elsewhere. Dispersing males roam farther than females and are therefore more likely to encounter livestock. They also tend not to have access to kills made by prides and tend to have fewer (if any) lions with which to cooperate on hunts, making wild prey more difficult to obtain. However, even if this were not the case and female lions were in fact responsible for a greater proportion of livestock depredations than reported, this still provides no evidence of non-sustainability.

    3. I very much appreciate Dr. Stander’s dedication to lion conservation and his willingness to put his research out there for critique by all. However, the report you’ve cited includes no population viability analysis. If anything, the net population increase he documented provides evidence that the lower male to female ratio is in fact beneficial to the population as a whole. In polygynous species like lions, it takes very few males to support population growth. In fact, fewer adult males can benefit recruitment by reducing occurrence of infanticide. In order to reach the conclusion that the long-term viability of the population has been compromised, Dr. Stander would have to demonstrate a likelihood of the male population no longer being able to sire enough viable offspring to maintain a stable population. This may very well be the case, but the data he presents don’t speak to that. Adult and sub-adult male lion mortality rates are always high, and whether the deaths are caused by conflict with humans, trophy hunting, intra- or inter-specific aggression, or starvation is inconsequential in terms of population dynamics and sustainability.

    4. This is an argument against corruption, not an argument against trophy hunting. The trophy hunting industry has just as much of a vested interest in a sustainable lion population as the game-viewing tourism industry. Should there be pressure on the trophy hunting industry to reduce corruption? Definitely. Should trophy hunting be eliminated? Not unless we can afford to lose a heck of a lot of conservation land.

    5. You can argue about the ethics of a specific hunt and the public relations surrounding it all you want, but it has no bearing on whether trophy hunting as a whole is sustainable or not.

    6. Your statement that “only 3% of money generated by trophy hunting winds up in the hands of local people” is abjectly false. Even the authors of the study you cite would disagree with you. Questions about the validity of their research aside, their study reported that 3% of trophy hunting revenue is paid directly to community based organizations. That does not include expenditures they list such as staff wages (11% of revenue) that go directly into the hands of local people. Nor does it include expenditures on camp management, services, utilities, managerial salaries, and others, much of which also go to local people and local businesses. Nor does it include monies that go to wildlife agencies, some of which also winds up back in the hands of locals through their employment as conservation officers, anti-poaching rangers, etc. This is just as fair and sustainable as it is in the game-viewing tourism industry.

    The hunting and game-viewing tourism industries need to stop seeing each other as enemies and come together to support a multi-faceted approach to achieve common conservation goals in the face of the real enemy: habitat loss due to unsustainable development. As much as we may despise the actual act of killing a lion, if it weren’t for the conservation role of lion trophy hunting, the overall population decline of 450,000 to 20,000 that you cited would have been even worse, and the USFWS statement you cited goes into great detail about this. Both industries want to see more lions and more lion habitat, so they should work together to achieve that.

  • Will Davies

    Please read Brian Kelly’s analysis below, which completely eviscerates this poorly written, poorly researched piece. Most field conservationists I know have little respect for Mr. Espley, as they agree that he appeals to the lowest common denominator of consituents, who only know how to respond with virtue signaling platitudes and anger. The real conservationists know that he uses facts to suit his agenda in lieu of science to uncover truth.

    • Brian Kelly

      It seems my comment keeps getting deleted. I’ve posted it twice now. Here goes number 3…

      • Simon Espley

        Morning Brian. If your comment is very long then Disqus will by default commit it to the spam folder. My team will sort that out when they arrive in office.

        • Brian Kelly

          Thanks Simon. I will re-post in smaller chunks.

    • Simon Espley

      Will, perhaps you could name those field conservationists you seem to speak for? I will happily engage with them on factual issues.

    • Mike Sebastian

      Troll

  • Brian Kelly

    Thank you for presenting your argument against lion trophy hunting and engaging in the discussion it inspired. Please consider the following counters to your 6 points:

    1. The absence of population estimates is not an argument for the non-sustainability of lion trophy hunting. Rather, it is an argument for increasing research. It should be noted that obtaining accurate population estimates of wide-ranging carnivores requires difficult and expensive research. For this reason, population indices and trends are often used to establish hunting quotas. It is easier to know whether a population is increasing, decreasing, or stable than it is to know, for example, how many breeding-age males there are. If population indices indicate a stable or increasing population under a given hunting quota, then it is usually reasonable to assume sustainability even without actual population counts or estimates.

    2. It would make a lot of sense if male lions were responsible for the majority of livestock depredations, and I believe research has shown this to be the case elsewhere. Dispersing males roam farther than females and are therefore more likely to encounter livestock. They also tend not to have access to kills made by prides and tend to have fewer (if any) lions with which to cooperate on hunts, making wild prey more difficult to obtain. However, even if this were not the case and female lions were in fact responsible for a greater proportion of livestock depredations than reported, this still provides no evidence of non-sustainability.

    • Brian Kelly

      3. I very much appreciate Dr. Stander’s dedication to lion conservation and his willingness to put his research out there for critique by all. However, the report you’ve cited includes no population viability analysis. If anything, the net population increase he documented provides evidence that the lower male to female ratio is in fact beneficial to the population as a whole. In polygynous species like lions, it takes very few males to support population growth. In fact, fewer adult males can benefit recruitment by reducing occurrence of infanticide. In order to reach the conclusion that the long-term viability of the population has been compromised, Dr. Stander would have to demonstrate a likelihood of the male population no longer being able to sire enough viable offspring to maintain a stable population. This may very well be the case, but the data he presents don’t speak to that. Adult and sub-adult male lion mortality rates are always high, and whether the deaths are caused by conflict with humans, trophy hunting, intra- or inter-specific aggression, or starvation is inconsequential in terms of population dynamics and sustainability.

      4. This is an argument against corruption, not an argument against trophy hunting. The trophy hunting industry has just as much of a vested interest in a sustainable lion population as the game-viewing tourism industry. Should there be pressure on the trophy hunting industry to reduce corruption? Definitely. Should trophy hunting be eliminated? Not unless we can afford to lose a heck of a lot of conservation land.

      • Simon Espley

        3. Flip Stander he is a respected and dedicated scientist. If you feel that your knowledge exceeds his and if you wish to question the accuracy of his work then perhaps you should take that matter up with him?
        4. The ease with which you justify corruption and make it somebody else’s problem is a great example of how rotten the trophy hunting industry is.

        • Angelo

          3 – Don’t try to use Argument from Authority. If Einstein says 1+1=3, he is wrong, even if he is Einstein. If something is true, I would not need a PhD to say that it is true. Brian offered a reasoned dissection of the differences between facts supported by data, and speculation that lacked evidence. If you can’t respond to his analysis, you can’t contest his point.

          • Simon Espley

            Perhaps if you could clarify exactly which of Brian’s comments you are so supportive of, I could reply to your vague ramblings.

          • Will Davies

            You cherry pick your facts to suit your agenda. Why not post the rest of what USFWS said about the benefits of hunting toward conservation? Why not be objective? Let the public decide after putting all the facts into an article, not just the ones you like. Anything else is poor journalism and straw man tactic responses aren’t very productive.

          • Simon Espley

            If you were to open the other eye you would see my post, dissecting the USFWS report: https://africageographic.com/blog/lions-trophy-hunting-and-the-us-government-the-27-facts-you-need-to-know/

          • Schroederville

            Will, the USFWS is packed with hunters and SCI members. You really think that anything they say about lion conservation is valid? The head guy, Dan Ashe is a hunter. Shameful. Foxes guarding the hen house. This is the CON in conservation. People who enjoy killing animals for “sport” and to hang gruesome trophies on their walls have ZERO business making real life decisions about endangered species protection!

        • Brian Kelly

          3. Dr. Stander is certainly more knowledgeable than me about the desert-adapted lions of Namibia. I have enormous respect for his dedication to a worthy cause. The great thing about him publishing his research is that we don’t have to take it up with him, which is fortuitous in this case because he is a difficult man to contact. Even if I could, his important research deserves discussion among the entire scientific and conservation community, not just a private conversation between him and I, although I would welcome that conversation.

          4. My comment doesn’t even hint at a justification for corruption.

          • Jamie Smith

            Another academic chasing theory around and around in circles …

      • Mike Sebastian

        Brian, you seem to have plenty of advice for Dr Philip Stander. How much time have you spent in Africa, with wild lions, doing research?

        • Brian Kelly

          Mike, my only advice for Dr. Stander would be to keep up the good work. The data he has collected are immeasurably valuable to lion conservation.

          Not that it matters, but to answer your question, I’ve spent about half of my adult life living and working amongst wild lions in Africa. The other half has been with big cats elsewhere in the world.

          • Mike Sebastian

            Interesting. Would you mind sharing the details of your lion work? Where and what?

          • Mike Sebastian

            To repeat, would you share the specifics of your work with wild lions?

          • Schroederville

            Brian, can you tell us when, where and with who you worked with in Africa? Which lions? What did your work entail? Specifics please before we believe pro-killing propaganda comments.

    • Brian Kelly

      5. You can argue about the ethics of a specific hunt and the public relations surrounding it all you want, but it has no bearing on whether trophy hunting as a whole is sustainable or not.

      6. Your statement that “only 3% of money generated by trophy hunting winds up in the hands of local people” is abjectly false. Even the authors of the study you cite would disagree with you. Questions about the validity of their research aside, their study reported that 3% of trophy hunting revenue is paid directly to community based organizations. That does not include expenditures they list such as staff wages (11% of revenue) that go directly into the hands of local people. Nor does it include expenditures on camp management, services, utilities, managerial salaries, and others, much of which also go to local people and local businesses. Nor does it include monies that go to wildlife agencies, some of which also winds up back in the hands of locals through their employment as conservation officers, anti-poaching rangers, etc. This is just as fair and sustainable as it is in the game-viewing tourism industry.

      The hunting and game-viewing tourism industries need to stop seeing each other as enemies and come together to support a multi-faceted approach to achieve common conservation goals in the face of the real enemy: habitat loss due to unsustainable development. As much as we may despise the actual act of killing a lion, if it weren’t for the conservation role of lion trophy hunting, the overall population decline of 450,000 to 20,000 that you cited would have been even worse, and the USFWS statement you cited goes into great detail about this. Both industries want to see more lions and more lion habitat, so they should work together to achieve that.

      • Simon Espley

        5. My observation relating to sustainability was not about ethics, it was about lions of all ages being hunted. The ethical reference which you refer to relates to the ongoing lying and changing the argument to retrofit to what age the hunted lion was.
        6. MET told in writing me that for ‘problem animals’ the community receives N$10,000 – which is about 1% of a typical trophy fee. You can do as much numerical gymnastics as you choose, you can not justify such a small return to the very people who have to carry the cost of having the lions around.

        • Brian Kelly

          5. I’m glad you are able to separate the issue of ethics from the issue of sustainability. In order to make the ages of the lions relevant to sustainability, you need to demonstrate that their deaths cause or will cause the mortality rate to exceed the recruitment rate. See 1 and 2.

          6. The financial return to local people cannot be measured solely by trophy fee payout to a community organization. You can’t ignore the other outfitter expenditures that go to local people.

          • Simon Espley

            It was you who confused ethics and sustainability. If you had read my post with both eyes open you would notice my focus on the reduction in the male / female ratio. Now I know that you are trying to score cheap points, but even you would appreciate that once the male lion population is driven beyond a tipping point, the population will crash. That matter goes to the heart of sustainability, no matter how much you try to confuse the issues.

          • Andrew

            Simon, why do you respond with insults like “cheap points” and “both eyes open?” You’re an adult. Why can’t you debate people in a civil manner? Why do you have to revert to childlike responses? It does you no credibility. To care about an issue and debate it is one thing, to behave like a bully in the school yard is another. I feel sorry for you. The fact is that HwC and habitat loss are the biggest drivers. Fix those issues first, then go after hunting all you like. There are ethical hunting companies and to say that they are all corrupt would be to assume that every tourist outfit is ethical. It makes no sense. Even Craig Packer (who I know personally) does not agree that getting ready of all hunting would benefit lions. I urge you to focus on the imminent threats, and stop responding brashly to anyone who has a different opinion than yours. That’s all I can say. I’m not even upset. I just feel very sorry for you.

          • Simon Espley

            Andrew I debate on fact, not the personal baiting that you seem to prefer. If I can help your emotional state in any way let me know.

          • tim taylor
          • Simon Espley

            Nope. If you dodge the usual defensive outbursts and personal comments, this post focuses more on what would happen – conceivably – if hunters had ethics and were really concerned about conservation. Interesting attempt to compare quotas for free roaming lions with shooting buffalos on a bit of private land – bit of a stretch? But OK the word ‘conceivably’ was hacked in there to protect the author against real life comparison. Let’s not let reality get in the way of a good story though. Entertaining read, if only to see the old guy get all huffy and puffy in defence of his beloved industry.

          • Mike Sebastian

            I read the link you provided. Found it to be unnecessarily combative, angry and defensive. In addition I could not find much by way of counter argument that addressed the above article specifically – most of it simply sinks into broad angry rhetoric about how hunting could theoretically be a conservation tool if various things were to happen. Can the hunting fraternity not do better than this? All this anger, all these personal attacks, so pointless. Respect that everyone is entitled to an opinion and debate based on fact and specifics, not some fictional ‘what-if’ world? Just my personal take on this.

          • Dex Kotze

            I see the author of this linked article is “credited with hunting 5000 elephants (http://www.ronthomsonshuntingbooks.co.za/profile.html) and over 50 lions. Wow, what a big man. Imagine all hunters were so hell bent on killing for fun and pulled the trigger on so many as he did. There wouldn’t be any elephants left and all articles would refer to them in the same vein as mammoths. Reference: “He also commanded, and led, the three hunters of the culling team that removed 2 500 elephants and 300 hippos from the Gonarezhou National Park in the early 1970s. Together the three hunters, acting in unison, and using military NATO-7.62 mm self-loading rifles, brought down herd after herd of elephants, each one numbering between 30 and 50 animals, in the incredible time of just 60 seconds.” Sorry, but won’t waste my time to read his response. His sadistic bragging on his website says it pretty much already. Totally addicted to destruction.

          • Simon Espley

            Agree Dex, and yet in trophy hunting circles mowing down herds of elephants is conservation in action. Much of Thomson’s rant above is just knee-jerk reaction to specific facts that he can’t argue against. Classic hunter strategy when faced with inconvenient truths – insult the integrity of the opponent, make wild claims and spray hunting PR all over the place 😉

          • Mike Sebastian

            That honoured tradition amongst the hunting fraternity of some attacking the flanks while others engage from the front. Hope you’re not feeling too sorry / sad?

          • Jamie Smith

            So “cheap points” and “both eyes open” are insults? What closeted testosterone-free zone do you come from? Best you get over yourself quickly, or go make yourself a cup of tea and grab some comfort food.

    • Simon Espley

      Morning Brian. I will respond by way of your numbered points
      1. Making decisions to remove large male lions from a population when you have no current stats is the very definition of not sustainable.
      2. Refer to the researcher’s comment, here copied for your convenience: ““In all six cases, however, it is arguable whether the adult males that were shot, were in fact the lions responsible for the killing of livestock.”

      • Brian Kelly

        1. That’s not even close to the definition of non-sustainability, which involves the rate at which a resource is consumed relative to the rate at which it is replenished. Without mention of the replenishment rate (in this case male lion recruitment), you’re not even touching on the issue of sustainability.

        2. Sustainability has nothing to do with whether or not they killed the right lion. See above.

        • Simon Espley

          I think you do not understand how few male lions are left in that area, which matter is exactly what sustainability is all about. You are now simply taking this discussion in circles.

  • guestagain

    Thank you, Simon. Your position and analysis sounds right to me given other research and articles I have read. I would add that, *even* if trophy hunting could be made sustainable and corruption-free, it doesn’t mean it’s right. Another perspective is that it’s wrong to kill sentient beings for thrill and profit. I hope that we are evolving such that one day we will look back on trophy hunting the way we now look back on slavery. Sure, some die-hards will have to quiet down or just fade away. And sure, the stake and rights of the local communities need to be pushed to the top of the priority list.

  • A definition of sustainability without all the techno babble: Are the number of lions falling globally? If yes then hunting is UNSUSTAINABLE.

    Never mind how you present the fancy figures. Just ask, are there less lions than they were?

    Can never see the logic in saying killing something is the BEST way to preserve it. Surely leaving it alone would be a smarter move.

    Maybe a hunter might agree the best way to ensure his family’s future would be to cull a couple of his kids.

    • Andrew

      It’s about preserving land. At present hunters control more land than all national parks combined. The number of lions are falling primarily due to HwC and habitat loss. Preserving land is a must. Even if you took away all hunting it wouldn’t stop the precipitous decline.

      • Simon Espley

        That is the point Andrew. Hunting is one of the contributing factors to the fall in lion populations, and therefore it is not a sustainable activity. You can’t argue to keep one non-sustainable activity because there are others …

        • James

          This article is so far off. Craig Packer’s own words, despite what unfortunately happened to him in Tanzania: “I may not like trophy hunting, but I have to accept that lions are a renewable cash resource, a cash crop.”

          He also say the following: [Lion] long-term survival, he says, depends on big money coming in to protect them. But counterintuitively, he says, trophy hunters like Chancellor or the dentist are also needed.

          “Trophy hunting is not inherently damaging to lion populations, provided the hunters take care to let the males mature and wait to harvest them after their cubs are safely reared. The dentist was unlucky and not altogether to blame.

          “Trophy hunters are no angels but they actually control four times as much lion habitat in Africa than is protected in national parks; and 80% of the world’s lions left in the world are in the hunters’ hands.”

          “Hunting could well provide the best possible incentive for conserving vast tracks of land. Lions occupy the top of the pyramid. If hunters take care of entire ecosystems – the land, the plants and the herbivores – they would be rewarded with healthy numbers of lions.

          “I get hunting. It’s done a lot for conservation in North America. Done well, it’s good for preserving wildlife and can be a valuable wildlife management tool. I grew up in Texas. I used to shoot ducks, rabbits, birds for the pot.”

          Packer has little truck either with the religious fervour and sentimentality of the animal lovers. “Animal groups tend to [seem] religious. It feels like a theology.”

          Packer, like most conservationists in the field, is an academic who understands what’s needed to conserve lions. Therefore, I must respectfully disagree with this article.

          • Simon Espley

            My sole reference to Packer’s work was of his findings in Tanzania – what you refer to as “what unfortunately happened to him in Tanzania”, and so your use of his overall take on hunting has nothing to do with my article.

          • Jackson Smit

            Doesn’t matter. Most learned conservationists like Packer, Garth Owen-Smith, Ian Player, etc., all know (or knew) that when done properly, hunting works to preserve land, therefore preserving wildlife. Overshooting animals means there’s no more hunting. Why would any conservation minded hunter do that? Yes, there are some very unethical hunting organizations, but saying that they all lie or engage in subterfuge is a gross exaggeration. Fight corruption within hunting, not hunting itself. Fight illegal poaching and habitat loss, which conservation-minded hunters are desperately working at to hold back the floodgates. Join in solidarity to conserve wildlife. We’re not fighting you.

          • Simon Espley

            I don’t disagree with some of your comments – and if you have a look at my history of articles you will see that. The above post was about the hunting of free roaming lions – which is in my opinion not sustainable.

          • “Harvest them”….what kind if a cover up is that. At least call it what it is – like “Murder them” or “Kill them for fun”. We don’t grow lions like maize you know.

    • Jamie Smith

      You have hit the nail on the head.

  • Simon Williamson
    • Simon Espley

      Thanks Simon. Sadly this post, if you dodge the usual defensive outbursts and personal comments, focuses more on what would happen – conceivably – if hunters had ethics and were really concerned about conservation. Interesting attempt to compare quotas for free roaming lions with shooting buffalos on a bit of private land – bit of a stretch? But OK the word ‘conceivably’ was hacked in there to protect the author against real life comparison. Let’s not let reality get in the way of a good story though. Entertaining read, if only to see the old guy get all huffy and puffy in defence of his beloved industry.

    • Mike Sebastian

      I read the link you provided. Found it to be unnecessarily combative, angry and defensive. In addition I could not find much by way of counter argument that addressed the above article specifically – most of it simply sinks into broad angry rhetoric about how hunting could theoretically be a conservation tool if various things were to happen. Can the hunting fraternity not do better than this? All this anger, all these personal attacks, so pointless. Respect that everyone is entitled to an opinion and debate based on fact and specifics, not some fictional ‘what-if’ world? Just my personal take on this.

  • Garrick Cormack

    There are the facts. No emotion, no fund raising side show agendas, hunting works. But it has to be well controlled & RUN by the operators, NOT unqualified vocal people, corrupt officials & politicians. 4 X more land in Africa is under hunting designation than photographic tourism. It has to be well controlled by the industry. The emotional arm chair “experts”, anti hunting lobbyists AND the photographic operators opposing hunting would be well advised to do the research, accept the facts, successes and dig DEEP in their own pockets and coffers to help sort out these issues we face all over Africa. Agree or disagree with hunting, fine, but don’t ruin wildlife management with emotional decisions & pressure. It works, esp in third world countries. I’ve seen it in Pakistan with markhor on the verge of extinction, given value by hunting & brought back to amazing populations, all over eastern Europe, all over Africa. No income, no plan, no anti poaching, no control, ALL these remote & tourist free areas would be DEVOID of game throughout Africa without hunting. People employed & trained, educated, community extension work, humanitarian efforts, anti poaching, scientific work sponsored & supported give wildlife VALUE!! Kenya, a classic anti hunting, corrupt government agenda failure & crime against conservation, Botswana closely following suit due to left wing emotional pressure… Wake up people. Hunting is not the problem, but a solution. The problem is stupidity, corruption, greed, space, human wildlife conflict, & THE worst enemy of conservation, the many fund raising ineffectual money squandering media pandering “conservation organizations” Mentioning Richard Cooke’s name in this article was another example of just that. Media frenzy, which in this instance died in a day. Disgusting. You should be ashamed of yourself. Stick to accountancy. Cooke I have known for years. A conservationist & honest man, a straight shooter and ethical operator.

    • Mike Sebastian

      Lots of ifs and buts in there. Pure theory, none of which addresses the points raised in the above article.

      • Garrick Cormack

        No theory, these are proven facts, which you seem to very unscientifically ignore…

        • Schroederville

          NO, Garrick, NOT proven facts. Sorry. Show us EXACTLY how what you are saying is “proven fact”. Kiling is NOT conservation.

  • Albina Hume

    Simon Espley is the CEO of the magazine Africa Geographic, who has his opinions about the wildlife management but is it ok to publish them under the name of the magazine that has won some credentials years ago and now is used to mislead the public?

    We have a personal experience with Simon Espley, who has never met us or saw our rhino breeding project, but who felt comfortable enough to explain our ranch of 8,000 ha or 20,000 acres as – “Don’t for one minute confuse rhino feedlot farming with conservation of wild rhinos – the two have nothing to do with one another, despite what the intensive pro-trade PR campaign may have told you.”

    Now, he went on publishing another article, this time about lions, again having no understanding or respect to some scientifically approved forms of wildlife management such as trophy hunting. He simply blatantly ignored the fact that –
    “Trophy hunting is making an important contribution, funding game guard salaries and other conservancy running costs, especially in the many areas where there is no tourism. Yet lion hunting is extremely controversial. Hunters are accused of always singling out prime males, skewing population demographics and upsetting pride structures. Desert Lion Conservation Project data shows that significantly more lions are killed by locals than by trophy hunters, without any returns… It all comes down to people and land use, more than money. Lions are dangerous predators that are difficult to live with. That’s why they disappeared from Europe and Asia long ago. ”

    I believe that journalists like him are far greater threat to the wildlife conservation because misinformed masses can be used for changing the law , like it happened in Botswana or Kenya, which usually bans any forms of sustainable use of wildlife, which would then lead to the alienation of local conservationists ( who are local communities!) and create the monopoly of unstoppable illegal traders who drive wildlife to extinction.

    We mustn’t outlook another industry that benefits from wildlife suffering: Professional Beggars. They are the core of the poaching conflict, not the poachers. Poachers are the result of prohibition, while Professional Beggars or PB’s are the creators of prohibition.

    • Simon Espley

      Hi Albina, thanks. In fact Tanya Jacobson agreed to arrange a visit for me to your husband’s farm, in 2013. She failed to do so. Pity, because I was looking forward to the visit. I will happily visit now, along with a photographer / videographer, if you would care to arrange? The remainder of your comment above does not address my article at all, it’s simply generic pro-hunting rhetoric designed to avoid the inconvenient facts of my article, combined with the usual personal criticisms I have come to expect from extremists. Keep the passion.

    • Schroederville

      Albina,
      The decline of wildlife in Kenya that hunters are so fond of referencing over and over and over again has nothing to do with hunting at all. The decline of animals in Kenya is due to massive exponential human population growth and the rapid rise in numbers of livestock, climate change linked to global warming resulting in droughts and blistering higher temperatures, disease, and lastly, failure of official policy, institutions and markets for wildlife and wildlife products in Kenya. Protected wildlife areas cover only 8% of Kenya. There are no official institutions for conserving or protecting wildlife on the rangelands and where land is privately owned by individuals or communally. The people that do own the land have no access rights or user rights over the state-owned wildlife on their private lands. This means landowners get no compensation for supporting state wildlife nor are they compensated for damage to property caused by wildlife. Lawless illegal revenge killings happen because of livestock loss.

      The one official institution mandated to conserve and manage wildlife in Kenya, the Kenya Wildlife Service, uses a command and control system of management which cannot work successfully on private lands. This greatly reduces the value of wildlife in the rangelands. As a result, the privately owned livestock thrive as the state owned wildlife disappear.
      Again, NONE of this is because there is a lack of trophy hunting in Kenya, in fact, if trophy hunting were allowed it would decimate the already declining populations there.

  • robert

    A Song For Deceased Hunters!

    https://youtu.be/-ERrMYQN9jM

  • pikppa .

    South African Lion Sanctuary official Paul Hart admits there is less than 1000 wild lions left in all of South Africa.Which not the 100000s researchers have been throwing around all these years.If Tanzania and South Africa have most of the remaining few wild lions in Africa then were are theses herds of hundreds of wild lions we have been told still roam Africa. With both countries lion population less than 1000 each then were are the herds of lions researchers have told us all along are still in Africa.If Botswana and Zambia realized they had to stop lion trophy hunting as they didn’t have many lions left .Then why are researchers still dishing out these high estimates of 100000s. Yet the total population of wild lions left in Africa might be less than 5000 individual ,yes left in all of Africa.For only Tanzania ,South Africa,Kenya,Zambia ,Botswana ,Zimbabwe ,Namibia have what you would call a countable population as in West Africa lions are almost extinct and Ethiopia May have as little as ten wild lions,Uganda has a handful and the other African countries there are no lions.Do you see why there is need for an actual head count census not estimates .Do you see how researchers have misled us all along .Do you how much shock there is going to be when an actual head count of the wild lions left in Africa is carried out and the total is less than 5000 wild lions left in all of Africa?

  • Schroederville

    Sadly, The killing of Xanda, Cecil’s son, is the latest in a long line of atrocities committed by those who profess to love wildlife and believe in species conservation. They justify their crimes by spending small fortunes to buy the right to kill, often one of the so-called big five, the money ostensibly donated towards conservation efforts. This is a thinly disguised scheme to keep a place full of disposable animals available to appease the appetites of those who hunger for blood sport. You either kill or you conserve. Hunting is not conservation, it is a LIE told over and over again that just does not hold water.

    My grandfather hunted. He hunted for meat to feed his family, he toiled in hot fields to grow food for his family, he went to war to protect his family. He did not however, mount a corpse on his wall in tribute to his manly prowess. He was a man, a real man. He would have been appalled at the idea of killing for sport and sickened by the unconscionable murder of a rare, beautiful and biologically important member of an increasingly endangered species.

    I have heard it all: the tiresome rhetoric, the excuses and justifications. They are ludicrous. Trophy hunters claim that the huge fees paid, bring millions of dollars to support conservation efforts and provide much needed income to local people. Untrue. With only a tiny percentage ever reaching communities the majority of funds go to line the pockets of corrupt officials, governments and facilitators many of whom are based outside of Africa.

    I am deeply offended, ashamed and disheartened that Americans are responsible for the largest number of trophy hunting permits. We apparently have a good number of morally degenerate individuals actively engaging in this sick depraved ugly practice. It’s way past time to start protecting the animals of Africa before they are just GONE FOREVER. Killing is NOT conservation. And what is Africa without its crown jewel, the animals? What would Africa be?

  • Phyl

    Trophy hunting is BRUTAL CRUEL & TOTALLY INSANE! This is NOT a sport…it’s about rich SOBs who love to kill!

  • Diana Hockley

    Martin, you are right. The loss of tourism dollars will bring these countries to their knees, but the officials are so corrupt that all they want is the thousands of dollars that these emotionally bankrupt predators (hunters) are putting in their pockets. Let’s hope Botswana stands firm and manages to keep the big game hunters out. I read somewhere recently that the animals are moving into Botswana by themselves. Obviously, they are smarter than humans give them credit for.

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