When the “Hobatere Male” and “Leonardo” were shot for trophy in 2010, one could have thought, it would not happen again. Dr. Stander, from the renowned Desert Lion Conservation Project, had warned then, that the number of adult male lions had been reduced to a critical low. He consequently reasoned that it was not sustainable to continue hunting adult male lions . The responsible authorities then took the right measures. The Ministry of Environment & Tourism (MET) asked the hunting community not to shoot collared lions. Also, MET suspended giving hunting permits for adult male lions for trophy. The sex ratio in the desert lion population is not back to normal yet. And, the Dorob Male was a collared adult lion that had never killed any livestock. At the time of his death he was mating with “Monica”. Therefore, the shooting of the “Dorob Male” in an apparently legal hunt end of September 2013, must be considered as a setback for the conservation of Namibia’s famous desert adapted lions.
Whether lions should still be trophy hunted and whether trophy hunting is beneficial for lion conservation or not, is the subject of hot debates. The number of lions in Africa is declining at an alarming rate. It is believed that there are only around 25.000 lions left in the wild. Kenya, Zambia and Botswana have abolished or suspended trophy hunting because of the difficulties to ensure sound practices, and, considering the rapid demise of the African wildlife, they deem non-hunting tourism to be of more long-term value for their countries. Yet the main threat to lions is not trophy hunting but conflict with humans. The fast expanding human population in Africa encroaches more and more into lion habitat, which in turn increases conflicts with lions. Lions kill livestock or threaten the life of people and lions are killed in return.
In Namibia the desert adapted lions were all but extinct in the 1980ies. Due to successful conservation measures, about 120 individuals of this iconic species roam the Kunene region again. Although an unknown number is killed due to conflict with humans, their number is growing. The region is not a national park or game reserve and the lions share the land with people and their livestock. This makes their conservation complex. The fact that there is a viable population of desert lions again, is largely due to the local people being willing to live with these large predators. “A key element to the conservation success achieved in the Kunene is because local people benefit from wildlife. These benefits are derived from tourism that includes consumptive use, such as trophy hunting.” (Dr. Stander, 2010, http://www.desertlion.info/2010report.html).
Therefore, TOSCO Trust is not against trophy hunting if ethical, professional standards are adhered to and the necessities of the conservation of the species considered. But TOSCO (Tourism Supporting Conservation) focuses on non-consumptive forms of tourism. TOSCO Trust is an initiative of responsible tourism companies and individual travelers who recognize that the local people must have a stake in the benefits of tourism in their area. In the current situation, we will only still be able to see the lions on communal land in the future, if the local people are prepared to live with them. In cooperation with organisations like the IRDNC, TOSCO uses its funds mainly to raise awareness for responsible tourism, to support research and to mitigate human/ wildlife conflicts, thus assisting the local people in living with wild animals like lions. For example, TOSCO Trust pays the salary of a lion officer and sponsors the construction of cattle kraals. For a comprehensive list of the programs please see http://tosco.org/programs/.
Everybody wants the proudly maned male lions – hunters, tourists and, of course, the lionesses. Namibia is world renowned for its successes in nature conservation and its highly commended community conservation programme. With the Adventure Travel World Summit being hosted here end of October this year, Namibia currently even draws more attention to this. We are therefore convinced that the stakeholders will ensure that demand for the lion king is balanced in a sustainable way – for us and for future generations.
Suggestions for further reading:
- Comment by Dr. Stander, Desert Lion Conservation http://www.desertlion.info/gpscollars/gps_dorob.html
- 2010 report by Dr. Stander http://www.desertlion.info/2010report.htm
- Figures on the lion population in Africa and Namibia
- Demise of the lions
- Pros & Cons of Trophy Hunting