The Republic of Zambia in south Africa has announced that it is banning the hunting of lions and other endangered big cats, including leopards. Currently, Zambia makes about $3 million from tourists who come to hunt but the appeal of killing endangered speeches for sport is fading. As Sylvia Masebo, Zambia’s tourism minister, said last week: “Tourists come to Zambia to see the lion and if we lose the lion we will be killing our tourism industry.”
Indeed, a report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has found that the “societal benefits of hunting in most of Africa are so minimal that the activity, in effect, creates little or no impetus to preserve land for the activity, maintain populations of target animals or stop poaching.” In contrast, “photographic tourism” creates 39 percent more permanent employment than hunting does and protected lands generate at least two times more tourism revenue than hunting reserves.
It was decades ago that Kenya ended game hunting in favor of protecting and promoting its wildlife to tourists. In November, Botswana, another south African nation that is home to about one-third of the world’s elephant population, announced it will ban hunting by January 2014.
As a spokesperson for the International Fund for Animal Welfare says, “The ideal scenario would be that it has a similar effect to the ban on whaling 20 years ago. Whale watching is now proven to be more sustainable and profitable than hunting and killing the animals.”
Wildlife Hunting Bans Concern Local Communities
The bans on trophy hunting are likely to be viewed as controversial. In Botswana, many local residents including bushmen rely on hunting wildlife to make a living, says the BBC. In view of this, Botswana’s environment ministry has said that special licenses “for traditional hunting by some local communities within designated wildlife management areas” will still be available.
Selling licenses to hunt wildlife to wealthy Westerners has been a lucrative business. But the funds these provide are actually adding up to “a minimal amount” for Botswana’s tourist sector as a whole.
Political issues also complicate the long-term survival of big cats and of endangered wildlife in Africa. Last week, Zambia suspended 19 hunting concessions and fired the top level managers of the Zambia Wildlife Authority over allegations of corruption and a lack of transparency.
The bans on game hunting come at a crucial time for the survival of many of the world’s most threatened species. Poaching is not only endemic but on the rise; some governments have turned to armed guards to protect animals. The recent brutal slashing of a baby rhinoceros’ face with axes and machetes by poachers who had killed her mother makes it all too clear why such protection is needed.
An estimated 15,000 to 30,000 lions remain in Africa, says the IUCN — a huge decline from the 1950s, when 400,000 lions lived in the wild. Lions are now extinct in 25 African countries and virtually extinct in 10, says the U.K.’s Lion Aid organization. Zambia is thought to have in excess of 4,500 lions and an unknown number of leopards. Thanks to the new ban, these will have a greater chance of survival, but so long as trophy hunting of endangered species is legal (as it is in many countries including South Africa), we are in danger of losing these big cats and many others who could one day be known to future generations only in story books. by Kristina Chew