Why being hunted is good for Africa’s lions

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This week, a coalition of animal rights activists filed a petition with the Department of Interior to list African lions as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act — their latest attempt to impose restrictions on hunters. As usual, the activists use sensationalized, emotional messaging that has nothing to do with the science of wildlife conservation.

Hunters and hunting actually benefit Africa’s lions — as well as its humans. Revenues from hunting generate $200 million annually in remote rural areas of Africa. This revenue gives wildlife value and humans protect the revenue by protecting the wildlife.

Placing African lions on the Endangered Species List will effectively end hunting of the animal. When the conservation and financial incentives that hunting provides are lost or mismanaged, the value local communities place on the sustainability of lion populations greatly diminishes. This leads to humans killing lions as a result of human-lion conflict.

For example, in lion range states where hunting has been banned, cattle herders are using snares and deadly pesticides to poison and kill lions in high numbers in the interest of protecting their own livelihoods. Other resident wildlife also falls to snares and poisons that target lions.

Human-wildlife conflict is a consistent threat across lion range, but people better tolerate coexisting with lions when lions have an economic value. Ending hunting in countries that currently allow it could spell the end of responsible management of lion populations.

Through adaptive management, governments set hunting regulations that are non-detrimental to the health and survival of the game species populations, specifically for lions, as this species generates huge economic revenues for rural communities. Hunting is the most successful tool for maintaining incentives to conserve lions.

We are proud to say that Safari Club International Foundation (SCIF) is a true leader in the conservation movement. From the restoration of America’s forests and wildlife at the beginning of the 20th century to the many conservation success stories in Africa today, it has been hunters who have provided the resources to make these successes possible.

SCIF is committed to science-based African lion conservation. We assist lion range states in completing national lion management plans, which allow governments to manage populations in a safe, sustainable manner. Management plans target the immediate threats to lions and provide conservation strategies aimed at addressing these threats. To date, we have assisted Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe in developing their national plans, and have funded the publication of Namibia’s and Zambia’s national lion management plan. SCIF also assisted the regional conservation strategies coauthored by IUCN, Wildlife Conservation Society, and the African Lion Working Group, among other partners.

SCIF also hosts the African Wildlife Consultative Forum, where Southern African nations come together annually to discuss wildlife management issues of mutual concern. African Lion issues have been a feature for several meetings, especially approaches to lion management and human-lion conflict resolution.

As hunters, we stand together to help conserve wildlife and protect our hunting heritage. The persistent misinformation campaigns of extremist animal rights groups like the Humane Society of the United States and the International Fund for Animal Welfare portray hunters as the enemy, when hunters are truly the greatest stewards of our wildlife.

Larry Rudolph is the President of Safari Club International. Joe Hosmer is the President of Safari Club International Foundation.