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News of a raffle for an 18-day lion hunting or photographic safari within the Bubye Valley Conservancy in Zimbabwe has caused an outcry on social media, with insults hurled in many a direction. Now some of the parties that could stand to benefit from the hunt are speaking out about the controversial raffle.

© Janine Avery
© Janine Avery

The Bubye Valley Conservancy has released the following statement on their website:

“The intended raffle was the sole initiative of a professional hunter who has dedicated his career to conservation and the better understanding of wildlife. This fundraising initiative had nothing whatsoever to do with the University of Oxford Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) or the Directors of the Bubye Valley Conservancy. The ecological research conducted on the Bubye Valley Conservancy is independent and unbiased, and completely separate from the management of the conservancy.

The Bubye Valley Conservancy is proud of their immense conservation achievements through some of the most difficult times in Zimbabwe’s history. They are also honoured that the professional hunters who work here would spend their personal time and effort independently attempting to raise funds that will ensure continued unbiased research on such a globally significant lion population.

By 1994, when the Bubye Valley Conservancy was formed, all of the lions (and rhinos, and elephants, and buffalo etc.) here had been eradicated by cattle ranchers. Lions were reintroduced in 1999, and today, less than 20 years later, the Bubye Valley Conservancy now boasts one of Zimbabwe’s largest lion populations, with close to 500 lions, at one of the highest densities in Africa. It is also no coincidence that the Bubye Valley Conservancy protects the world’s third largest black rhino population and is home to important populations of many African wildlife species. Scientific research is critical to understanding and managing these important wildlife populations.”

WildCRU in turn has also offered their own response:

“We have been asked whether WildCRU is involved in a proposal by the Bubye Valley Conservancy and Martin Nel Safaris to raffle a lion either to be hunted as a trophy or to be radio-collared by their researchers. We were completely unaware of the initiative and are not party to it. We have been asked whether WildCRU endorses the proposal to auction a lion hunt and whether, if it were offered, we would accept a donation arising from such an auction; the answer to both questions is no.

At the WildCRU, in the Recanati-Kaplan Centre at Oxford, we are studying lions in various parts of Africa to uncover the science that will inform and underpin their conservation. This is urgent because lion numbers are precariously low, estimated at fewer than 30,000 across the continent and we have evidence that there are actually fewer. We have worked on the lions of Hwange National Park, with the support and collaboration of the excellent Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. Our goal is to understand the threats that lions face, and to use cutting-edge science to develop solutions to those threats. Our work is scientific, we have satellite-tracked the movements of over a hundred lions and monitored every detail of the lives of more than 500 individuals, but WildCRU’s work is also highly practical – we run a courageous anti-poaching team, a local conservation theatre group, and education campaign that gets information into every school in the district, and we work with local farmers to help them live alongside lions and improve their livelihoods.”

The option to purchase tickets for the raffle on the website of Martin Nel Safaris seems to have been removed.

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