Lions and Wolves: Hunting and Conservation

Lion hunting is an active sport in Africa, with wealthy foreigners paying thousands of dollars for a chance to kill a lion and take its skin back home to taxidermy. Done right, lion hunting could benefit the species, by helping to pay for land protection and other conservation measures. However, too often it is done poorly.

For many years, Craig has been actively involved in figuring out how to do lion hunting sustainably. In 2009, he, Ali, and I, and a bunch of others wrote a paper (“Sport Hunting, Predator Control and Conservation of Large Carnivores”) about the pressures and dynamics of hunting large carnivores with a focus on lions and wolves. If you’re not a hunter yourself, you may believe that hunting and conservation are diametrically opposed to one another. But that’s not true; most hunters are also conservationists and many of the strongest wildlife protection laws in our country were championed by hunters. In our paper we explore the complexities that arise when you add the third party: not just hunters and conservationists, but also rural citizens, and particularly ranchers. While hunters want to maintain wildlife (to hunt, and often for other reasons as well), ranchers would be most happy if there were no predators around at all; predators like lions and wolves kill livestock and even threaten rural people. Wildlife managers then have the unhappy task of trying to please all three groups, and they often do so by employing hunters to maintain lower than full capacity predator populations.

Late last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service responded to a petition to list African lions as endangered species, which would prohibit the importation into the U.S. of lion trophies. This week the Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times about it, saying that doing so would cripple Tanzania’s ability to protect lions and other wildlife. Our intrepid safari reporter Chris Egert followed up with Craig on KSTP to get his take on the controversy. What do you think? Should the U.S. prohibit the importation of lion trophies? What do you think about hunting as a component of conservation? What can be done to reduce the conflict between large carnivores and the people who live (and tend livestock) near them? These are not questions with easy answers, and I’m curious to hear what Snapshot Serengeti fans think.

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About Margaret Kosmala

I am an ecologist exploring the complex dynamics of plant and animal systems. I am especially interested in understanding how species communities change over time and how humans impact them.

4 responses to “Lions and Wolves: Hunting and Conservation”

  1. Julie Hughes says :

    If anyone is interested in the history of elites and big-game hunting in another context (colonial India), there is some interesting scholarship out there. On lions and cheetahs in India, see the work of Divyabhanusinh. I’ve published on tigers, wild boar, and wildfowl: Julie Hughes, Animal Kingdoms (Harvard UP 2013). No definitive answers from us historians, but fascinating and informative contextualization. Now we just need a Snapshot Serengeti for India…Snapshot Saurashtra?

  2. Jerry Frazier says :

    Hunting is a valuable tool used to promote conservation when properly managed. Restrictions need to be imposed on species, gender, age and other factors necessary to cull appropriately from the herd.

  3. Barbara says :

    In theory what you are saying makes perfect sense but too often stories come out about over hunting. I’ve also heard of rampant poisoning of lions in the past. (I think National Geographic did a documentary on this) How clear are the numbers on lions these days?
    -footnote: please comment in your blog on elephants and the increasing thirst for ivory -there have been some scary massacres lately most recently in Chad where 68 were murdered -any insight?

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  1. More lions at National Geographic | Snapshot Serengeti - July 19, 2013

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