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Will Ending Trophy Hunting Save Africa’s Lions?

Cecil was illegally killed in a trophy hunt gone wrong in Zimbabwe.

Cecil was illegally killed in a trophy hunt gone wrong in Zimbabwe.

The illegal killing in Zimbabwe of Cecil, a lion that was protected and was the subject of a research study, has drawn international attention to wildlife trophy hunting in Africa. Outrage about how Cecil died has led to questions about the larger problem of wildlife conservation in Africa, specifically the decline in Africa’s lion populations.

Speaking on CNN International, Luke Hunter, president of Panthera, an Aid for Africa member working to ensure the future of wild cats through scientific leadership and global conservation action, said that wildlife trophy hunting is used in a number of African countries to help generate funding for conservation.

Wildlife conservation requires “massive resources” that African countries have difficulty generating, he said. “Zimbabwe uses legal trophy hunting to put money back into conversation.”

Hunter said that Zimbabwe does a “pretty good job” of managing trophy hunting and that he believed this illegal hunt was an “outlier.”

Lion populations in Africa are in overall decline in all but a few African countries, according to Hunter.  But trophy hunting is not the reason lions and other cats are declining in Africa. Lions are disappearing because of human encroachment into lion habitats and actions by rural African pastoralists who kill lions to protect their livestock.

“In Africa the huge challenge we face is a rapidly growing human population, a large percentage of which relies on livestock for their livelihoods,” Hunter said.

Hunter said it is up to the international community to help fund the African wildlife organizations that are charged with protecting lions and other wildlife.  Although we may find trophy hunting distasteful, he said, African governments need the funding that legal trophy hunting brings.

“There are solutions,” Hunter said.  He described Panthera programs that employ local people to monitor lion activity in order to protect livestock. The programs provide tools and techniques that help reduce conflict between lions and people.  Panthera provides training and equipment for lion monitoring and helps pastoralists build fortified corrals to protect livestock at night. “We reduce the issues from the beginning and also to provide incentives (to protect wildlife),” he said.

“This situation has shown how much people care,” Hunter said. The next step is to support African governments and the people of Africa to better manage wildlife.

Learn more about Panthera’s work to research and save African lions and its innovative solution to save leopards in South Africa:

Lions in West Africa are on the Brink of Extinction

Saving the Leopard with Furs for Life

To view the CNN interview, click here.

Learn about Aid for Africa members working to conserve African wildlife:  Wildlife Conservation Network, Lewa Wildlife Conservancy and Friends of Conservation—Friends of the Masai Mara.