U. S. Officials: Trophy Hunting Can Help Save African Lions

DALLAS – In a new proposal to list the African lion as a threatened species, U.S. officials acknowledge that lawful hunting is a tool that can help save the species from extinction. Dallas Safari Club (DSC) is encouraging its members to keep hunting lions, but be selective.

Science shows that hunting older male lions has no long-term effect on the sustainability of lion populations.

Meanwhile, the money spent by lion hunters – $50,000 is common for a single hunt – buoys many local conservation efforts as well as economies in Africa. Without paying hunters, lions often are seen merely as cattle killers to be shot on sight.

“As with many species in Africa, hunting gives lions a tangible value that is irreplaceable in impoverished communities,” said Ben Carter, DSC executive director. “The precedent is clear: In Africa, when hunting goes away, so does the wildlife. We’re pleased that the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service has recognized that fact.”

The agency identified three main threats currently facing African lions: habitat loss, loss of prey base and increased human-lion conflicts.

In its proposal to list the African lion as a threatened species, which could take effect by 2016, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service also is proposing a permitting process for the importation of sport-hunted lion trophies, provided they originate from countries with scientifically sound management plans. That’s an incentive for hunters that allows the U. S. to “leverage a greater level of conservation than may otherwise be available,” said agency director Dan Ashe.

In a press conference, Ashe added, “… I want to be clear that lions are not in trouble because of responsible sport hunting. In fact, the evidence shows that scientifically sound conservation programs that include limited well-managed sport hunting can and do contribute to the long-term survival of the species. U.S. hunters, the majority of whom strongly support sustainable game management, make up a disproportionately large share of foreign hunters who book trophy hunts in Africa. And that gives us a powerful tool to support countries managing their lion populations in a sustainable manner. And a strong incentive for other nations to strengthen their management programs.”

But revenue is only part of the picture. Lion populations themselves also must be sustained for the future, and trophy hunting can help with that, too.

To help implement best practices urged by the agency, DSC in 2015 is launching a series of special seminars to teach how to field-judge and age African lions. The first seminar, to be held in partnership with Tanzanian wildlife officials, will be in Arusha before next hunting season.

Carter said, “Our goal is teaching DSC members, other hunters, guides and professional hunters across Africa to better recognize age characteristics of lions, which can differ by region and even by habitat type. Better-informed guides means better compliance with science-based regulations that promote harvest of older, fully mature, non-pride lions.”

In 2013, DSC began promoting the ideal huntable male lion as “at least six years of age and not known to head a pride or be part of a coalition heading a pride with dependent cubs.” More than 70 major safari operators and industry leaders pledged support. So did the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation.

DSC for years has funded scientific research on African lions. Understanding population dynamics is one of many projects supported by DSC grants to advance conservation, education and hunter advocacy worldwide.

African lions could be officially listed as a threatened species by 2016. Between now and then, Carter says, good conservation depends on lawful lion hunters remaining active yet selective.

About Dallas Safari Club (DSC)
Desert bighorns on an unbroken landscape, stalking Cape buffalo in heavy brush, students discovering conservation. DSC works to guarantee a future for all these and much more. An independent organization since 1982, DSC has become an international leader in conserving wildlife and wilderness lands, educating youth and the general public, and promoting and protecting the rights and interests of hunters worldwide. Get involved at www.biggame.org.