Thursday, February 14, 2008

To the Sunday Times, London.



I.P.A. Manning S.A.I.E.E.
Former Chief Technical Advisor
South African CITES Implementation Project
Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism

Date: 11th February 2008


I am in receipt of a press statement of 14 February 2008 issued jointly by Antelope Park, ALERT, and a Sir Ranulph Fiennes in response to the Sunday Times article by Chris Haslam “African lion encounters: a bloody con,” published on February 10, 2008.

The press statement attempts to deal with what I consider are two essential points: 1) that ALERT exported 37 lion to South African captive centres and that there was no intention to sell them to a canned hunting operation. This is na├»ve or disingenuous in the extreme given the many conservation bandits at work in the semi-autonomous nine provinces of South Africa. And to state that “there was a pre-condition on the provision of an export permit by the Zimbabwe Wildlife Authority that those lions could not be used for canned hunting” shows a degree of respect for the Zimbabwean Government and its powers which is touching.

The other crucial issue which got us all huffing and puffing in the first place in Zambia is 2) the question of what will happen to the lion once they tire of being cuddled and strolled about with. ALERT’S statement denies that tourists and volunteers are told that the lion cubs are being raised for release in the wild, or that “this form of release has never formed part of the release programme “, yet concluding the paragraph by saying “they will therefore be able to be released into the wild with the same avoidance behaviours towards humans as any wild born lion.” This is all very confusing and clearly contradictory.

In the statement put out by ALERT’s own consultants, ENVSOL CONSULT; Environmental Solutions Consultants, POSTNET BOX5, E891 Lusaka Tel: 096 450218
 on 11 May 2007 for a scoping meeting held in Livingstone on 17 May 2007, supposedly leading to the preparation of environmental impact statement, but which has yet to see the light of day, now fully nine months later, they wrote: “The African Lion & Environmental Research Trust (ALERT), supported by African Encounter, under the trading name of Lion Encounter (Zambia) Limited is bringing a lion rehabilitation & release into the wild program to Zambia”. Towards the end of the statement stage four of the project is described as follows: “In stage four the lions born in stage three can be released into the wild where their numbers have been most diminished.”

As they say in Zambia, “I have got a problem.”
Ian Manning


On 11 May, 2007 the following was forwarded to me:

ENVSOL CONSULT; Environmental Solutions Consultants, POSTNET BOX5, E891 Lusaka Tel: 096 450218

Invitation to a scoping meeting for the Lion Encounter and Dambwa Forest Lion Rehabilitation Project

The African Lion & Environmental Research Trust (ALERT), supported by African Encounter, under the trading name of Lion Encounter (Zambia) Limited is bringing a lion rehabilitation & release into the wild program to Zambia. The program has been operating in Gweru, in Zimbabwe, since 1999 and in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, since 2005. We are now planning to extend our operations to Livingstone, Zambia.

ALERT has secured a Forest Concession Agreement (FCA) on a section of the Dambwa Forest from the Zambian Government. Lion Encounter (Zambia) Limited has secured a Tourism Concession Agreement (TCA) with the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA).
The operation will be run from a site within the Mosi O Tunya National Park for stage one (see attached information sheet) and within the Dambwa Forest for stages two and three. Envsol Consult has been engaged as consultants to undertake an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). An important part of this assessment is stakeholder consultations. A scoping meeting will be held prior to commencing the environmental studies in line with the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulation of 1997. The purpose of this meeting is to get views and concerns of stakeholders so that they can be taken into account within the EIA. As one of the key stakeholders your views over this project and support would be valuable to the successful implementation of this lion rehabilitation program. In this regard, you are cordially invited to attend a scoping meeting on 17th May 2007 at 09:00hrs at Zambezi Sun, Livingstone. Your presence at this meeting is highly valued. Please indicate by return email your participation and names of participants to facilitate travel and accommodation arrangements for those traveling from outside Livingstone. Please address all correspondence to

Thank you and regards

Kenneth Nyundu
Envsol Consult

Information Sheet for the 
Lion Encounter and Dambwa Forest Lion Rehabilitation Project

Historically, lions were widespread throughout Africa however their range has been severely reduced in recent years.

Over 200,000 lions roamed the continent as recently as 1975 but in 2002 two surveys provided evidence of a dramatic decline estimating that only 23 to 39,000 remain with the lowest estimate being just 16,500. This represents an extremely worrying 80 to 90% population drop in less than 30 years, and it is widely accepted that the population has continued to decline. 

The African lion has been placed on the list of “vulnerable” species, but the alarming speed of the crash in lion populations has led many to call for the species to be upgraded to “endangered”.

The Lion Rehabilitation & Release into the Wild Program. 

The reintroduction of lions into their natural habitat is very difficult, and previous attempts have had limited success. The reasons for this are suggested that: 

§ firstly the lions had no experience of their natural environment 

§ that their reliance on humans wasn’t sufficiently removed

§ thirdly, they were released as individuals with very little social organization,

§ and finally they had no experience of predatory and competitive species.

The program was developed in 1999 at Antelope Park in Zimbabwe. We are seeking to solve those previous problems by using a four stage rehabilitation program.

In stage one, lions born in our breeding centres, are removed from their mothers at three weeks old. This allows us to train them only to the point that they’re safe for us to walk with them in the African Bush. When the cubs are six weeks old they’re taken out into their natural environment on walks. They’re accompanied by experienced handlers and volunteer workers who act as dominant members of the lions’ pride. As their experience grows over the following months they’re introduced to the game species in the Park, and by 18 months they’re quite capable of stalking and taking down some of the smaller prey here in the Park. By 2 years old they’re seasoned hunters, and we give them every opportunity to hone their hunting skills.

In stage two the lions have the opportunity to develop a natural pride social system in a minimum 500 acre enclosure. They have plenty of game to hunt, and are monitored closely. Importantly, all human contact is removed. The lions will remain in stage 2 until we’re happy that they have a fully self-sustaining and socially stable pride. 

In stage three the lions will be radio collared and translocated as a pride into a managed ecosystem of around 10,000 acres or more, 

• There will be no other lions, no resident human beings

• They’ll have a broad range of prey species to hunt

• but they’ll also have competitive species such as hyena 

The lions in Stage 3 will give birth to cubs that will be raised by the pride in the managed ecosystem, very close to their natural environment. These cubs will develop skills that will enable their re-introduction into appropriate National Parks and reserves across the African continent.

In stage four the lions born in stage three can be released into the wild where their numbers have been most diminished. We‘re able to provide complete, self-sustaining prides; or female only groups that can be integrated with existing wild prides. We can also provide male only coalitions which can add a natural gene flow to an existing population.

All four stages of the rehabilitation & release into the wild program have the potential to generate much needed income for the lion project as well as funding research, conservation and community programs. Hence, the lions themselves are also a fundraising ambassador for Africa’s wildlife and its people.

The Conservation Centre for Wild Africa (CCWA) conducts research & conservation activities, not only for lions, but for a diversity of Africa’s wildlife that will provide a comprehensive body of work to assist in the preparation of sound management plans in order to conserve a Wild Africa for future generations.

The ALERT Communities Trust (ACT) is our way of giving back to the communities bordering conservation areas so that they receive benefits for supporting those conservation programs. A primary element of this is our community education and awareness program to further understanding of the importance and relevance of sound conservation practice. Local communities are involved in eco-tourism ventures related to the programs, and money generated goes back into community development schemes agreed as priorities with the local community, such as building schools or providing medical supplies.

The Livingstone Branch of the Wildlife and Environmental Society of Zambia included the following comments:

This is a project whereby lions are to be bred in captivity in cages within the Mosi-o-tunya National Park, just south of Livingstone. The young will then be taken from their mothers at the age of 3 weeks to provide tourism in the form of "walking with lions". When the lions are too old to be safe to walk with tourists, they will be released into an enclosure in a leased part of Dambwa Forest Reserve, on the north edge of Livingstone City. They will then be allowed to breed again and the next generation are to be transported elsewhere and released into the wild.

In order to provide food, the young lions within Mosi-o-tunya National Park will be allowed to hunt antelope. When they are released into Dambwa Forest Reserve prey animals and competitors such as hyaenas will be added to give them a more natural environment.

The Society has been aware of this project for some time and correspondence has been passed around among some members and other concerned individuals. It is quite a controversial project in terms of lion ethics, as well as human safety around Livingstone and elsewhere. Some of the questions raised include:

i) How ethical is it to breed lions in captivity, separate them from their mothers at a very early age, and train them to walk with humans in order to provide tourism income?

ii) ii) How safe will it be to release them into Dambwa Forest Reserve, which is so close to Livingstone City and surrounding villages?
iii) Will it be possible for these lions to be released into the wild successfully, without the risk of them becoming man-eaters?

iii) iv) Is there a possibility that some of them will eventually be used for canned hunting, an activity which has recently been banned in South Africa for ethical reasons?

For more information on the controversies and issues involved please look up
I need your comments, proposals, suggestions, opinions, professional advice, on this issue for whoever is to attend this meeting on behalf of the Society. Please keep in mind that this is a Scoping Meeting in preparation for an Environmental Impact Assessment. As is mentioned in the letter, the main purpose of the meeting is to get views and concerns of the stakeholders so they can be taken into account within the EIA. We need to consider all the possible environmental concerns and issues that should be looked into and alert the consultants who are carrying out the EIA. As can be seen below, the letter is addressed to the Society and we are to confirm the names of participants (number not stated). If you are a member of the Society and would like to attend this meeting, please let me know as soon as possible (agenda attached).

The consultants would also like to meet some members of the Society on the 15th or 16th of May (before the meeting) while they are in Livingstone. Is anyone available? Please let me know when, so I can get back to the consultants.

Yours in conservation

Clare Mateke

Wildlife and Environmental Conservation Society of Zambia (WECSZ)

Livingstone Branch




Date: 11th February 2008

Contact: Marleen Lammers, PR Manager, Antelope Park, Gweru, Zimbabwe Email:
David Youldon, Chief Operating Officer, ALERT, Gweru, Zimbabwe Email:
Sarah Raine, PR Manager, Real Gap, Kent, United Kingdom

The article “African Lion Encounters: A Bloody Con,” which was written by Chris Haslam, and published in the Sunday Times on Sunday February 10, is full of inaccuracies. We feel that this article strongly misrepresents ALERT, a trust that is dedicated to ensuring the future of the African Lion, and Antelope Park, where the programme is based.

The article claims that “as many as 59 lion cubs raised at Antelope Park have been sold to big-game-hunting operations to be shot for sport.” No lion from Antelope Park has ever been, and never will be, intentionally sold for canned hunting. African Encounter is completely against canned hunting. Our freely available information clearly states this. A total of 39 lions have been sold by Antelope Park since the current owners acquired the property in 1987. 37 of those lions were sold, in two groups, one in 1999 and the majority in 2002 to a captive centre in South Africa. There was a pre-condition on the provision of an export permit by the Zimbabwe Wildlife Authority that those lions could not be used for canned hunting.

Furthermore, the lions that were exported were to be monitored by the relevant wildlife authorities within South Africa to ensure that the provisions of the sale were upheld. Two further lions were sold to a private breeder within Zimbabwe, not associated in any way with hunting, in 2005. No other sales of lions have ever taken place.

The article also states that tourists and volunteers “are told that the lion cubs are being raised for release in the wild,” and that “captive-bred, hand-reared lions have the potential to become man-eaters, and thus can never be allowed to roam free.” At no time are any visitors to the project informed that the captive bred lions will be released into an unfenced area. We are fully aware of the fact that captive bred lions without a natural fear of humans can become man-eaters, and this is why this form of release has never formed part of the release programme. All the information provided by Antelope Park and ALERT clearly states that the captive lions are rehabilitated into a fenced, managed eco-system, free of humans, where they will have offspring. These cubs are raised by the pride (stage 3 of the programme), in a natural environment free of any human contact. They will therefore be able to be released into the wild with the same avoidance behaviours towards humans as any wild born lion.

Furthermore, the article states that Antelope Park employs tourists and gap-year students as guides. Antelope Park does not use fee-paying tourists or gap-year students as guides. These self-funded eco-tourists pay for the opportunity to work alongside our guides and lion handlers to further the conservation, research and community work that we undertake.

As a specific example of these eco-tourists, the article mentions “agencies such as Real Gap.” David Stitt, Managing Director of Real Gap comments: "As market leaders in the gap break market, Real Gap's policy is to endorse responsible conservation programmes. Antelope Park is an ethical, well-managed programme. It is clear in all our correspondence with our volunteers that the lions that they work with are part of a captive programme. Our volunteers do not have physical contact with those lions in the stages of the programme where the aim is eventual release into the reserves and national parks."

In addition, the Sunday Times article quotes two scientists, Dr Sarel van der Merwe and Dr Luke Hunter of the Wildlife Conservation Society, on the pitfalls of releasing lions into the wild. Antelope Park has actually received a letter from Dr van der Merwe advising us and supporting us on the work and research that we were doing. In an email that was sent on June 12, 2004, he told us the following: "Generally speaking, the feeling amongst scientists is that captive bred lions cannot survive in a natural environment. I beg to differ. I have reviewed too many reports to the contrary…I believe one can rehabilitate the lions." Additionally, we have also received the following from Dr Pieter Kat, a senior lion expert, in June 2005:

"…we can begin programmes of lion reintroduction in a wide variety of depopulated areas. Such programmes will not only be immediately positive, but will also place lions squarely in the category of animals like rhinos whose plight seems to be better appreciated by the international conservation community. This is why I am appreciative and excited to be involved by the initiatives taken by Antelope Park. Through years of self-funded and determined effort, they have developed a program of re-introduction that has a very good chance of success. Predators of any description are notoriously difficult to reintroduce, but now we have at least a workable plan. As I said, the future of African lions is in African hands. Let us salute those who have been steadfast to ensure this future, and recognize that any action is better than the currently looming extinction of an African icon if we do nothing."

In August 2007, we released our first pride of lions into stage two; a managed ecosystem where the lions have been successfully hunting for six months now. They have brought down prey from warthog to adult giraffe, which is a remarkable achievement from the captive cubs that they were. The ALERT and Antelope Park programme is also involved in conservation of other species, research and community development in order to provide sustainable programs to the benefit of Africa's wildlife and its people.

With regards to the treatment of our lions, a letter we received from WWF Southern Africa Regional office (written on January 10, 2005) following visits by independent ecologists, Zimbabwe Park And Wildlife Authority, and Society for the Protection of Animals, states that the Antelope Park programme is "highly ethical and extremely well managed." Keith Dutlow BVSc, MRCVS and Lisa Marabini BVSc, MRCVS, two vets we have been working with during the past two years, complied to this in a reaction to the article, stating that “as independent consultant vets to Antelope Park since February 2006, we can attest that since that time, no animal has ever been de-clawed, de-fanged, or drugged for entertainment purposes. Also, every lion at Antelope Park has been micro-chipped and no lions have been sold to other operators nor removed from the program under suspicious circumstances since our involvement.”

Furthermore, according to the article, “[n]either the Alert programme nor Sir Ranulph Fiennes could be reached for comment.” Neither Antelope Park nor ALERT are aware of any attempts of the Sunday Times to contact them for information. In fact, the email below sent to us by Sacha Lehrfreund from the Sunday Times Picture Desk, on 6th February, requesting photographs was responded to immediately with an offer of furnishing The Times with details of our lion rehabilitation and release programme, but no such offer was accepted. When no response was received, our marketing department placed a call to the picture desk on Thursday February 7th, but this was rudely dismissed. The paper’s representative claimed to have no time to talk to us, and refused to transfer us to any of her colleagues.

From: Evans, Sara []
Sent: Wednesday, February 06, 2008 1:46 PM
Subject: Walking with Lions - Pictures for the Sunday Times, London


We are running a feature in the Travel section about 'Walking with Lions' and I'm hoping that you could supply us with some photographs from Antelope Park, preferably of people walking alongside lions. We will of course credit your organisation. The article would appear on 10th February and we go to press tomorrow, so I'm hoping that you are able to help at such short notice.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sacha Lehrfreund
Sunday Times Travel
Picture Desk

Contrary to the article’s claims, Sir Ranulph Fiennes was never contacted by the Sunday Times either. His response to the article is as follows: “I am proud to be a small part of ALERT and I am ashamed of the uninformed Sunday Times article “African lion encounters: a bloody con” as an example of the worst type of libelous, inaccurate writing. This by a journalist bent on thrashing ALERT, a highly worthwhile body of individuals, black and white, in Zimbabwe whose sterling non profit efforts to protect the endangered African lion deserve praise not lies.”

Anyone is free to visit Antelope Park to see for themselves how we operate, and how our various conservation, research and community programmes are benefiting Africa. We feel that anyone wanting to make comment about the voracity of our aims should at least make an effort to find out about the programme and read the freely available literature.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

African lion encounters: a bloody con

By Chris Haslam
From The Sunday Times
February 10, 2008

Chris Haslam reveals the gruesome truth behind big-cat conservation projects that are championed by British tour operators

It’s the latest attraction for tourists visiting southern Africa, but conservationists are warning that walking with lions is – quite literally – a bloody con.

Dozens of private game parks across South Africa and Zimbabwe offer, or have offered, tourists the opportunity to walk with, handle and be photographed with lion cubs.

Excursions to some, such as the Aquila Private Game Reserve, outside Cape Town, and the Seaview Game and Lion Park, in Port Elizabeth, are offered by tour operators such as Kuoni, Virgin Holidays and the Holland America cruise line.

Antelope Park, in Zimbabwe, charges about £20 for a 90-minute lion encounter it describes as “not just a very privileged photo opportunity, [but] the chance for you to become a conservationist”. The park’s African Lion Environmental Research Trust (Alert) programme is enthusiastically supported by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, who, on his website, praises its efforts “to help steadily increase the number of lions into areas carefully protected from poachers”.

The Sunday Times, however, has learnt that, far from being released into the wild, as many as 59 lion cubs raised at Antelope Park have been sold to big-game-hunting operations to be shot for sport.

So-called “canned hunting”, where rich trophy-hunters pay thousands of pounds to shoot big game in fenced enclosures, is big business in southern Africa. The price of shooting a lion bred in captivity ranges from about £9,000 to £16,000, and the breeders who supply the trade are struggling to keep up with demand.

While some estimates suggest that there are less than 20,000 wild lions remaining in Africa, the International Fund for Animal Welfare reports that another 3,000 languish in captivity, bred as targets for trophy-hunters. But breeders have found a lucrative sideline to the bloody business of feeding canned hunts. By removing cubs from mothers after about four days – to induce another breeding cycle – they can rent them out to tourist parks to participate in lion-walking attractions.

Tourists and the gap-year students employed as guides – many of whom have paid up to £2,000 for conservation placements with agencies such as Real Gap and All Africa Volunteers – are told that the lion cubs are being raised for release in the wild, but big-cat expert Dr Sarel van der Merwe, of the African Lion Working Group, says this is impossible.

“Captive-bred lions can be released only into relatively small areas, such as fenced-off game farms and private nature reserves. Invasive management will always be necessary, such as removing the breeding males to prevent inbreeding,” he says. “In such cases, the older males will have to be placed elsewhere – and where will that be? I’m of the opinion that such males will have to be hunted for trophy purposes.”

In fact, there’s not much else you can do with a hand-reared lion. “Hand-rearing of lion cubs will ensure that these animals are imprinted to humans, and that they will thereafter lack natural avoidance behaviours,” warns Dr Luke Hunter of the Wildlife Conservation Society. Put another way, captive-bred, hand-reared lions have the potential to become man-eaters, and thus can never be allowed to roam free.

Daniel Turner, of the animal-welfare group the Born Free Foundation, says that captive-bred lion cubs often have their teeth and claws removed, and are drugged before meeting tourists. “These animals are bred entirely for entertainment and derive no benefit whatsoever from these operations,” he said. “We urge people not to participate in any form of interaction with lions or other big cats.”

Neither the Alert programme nor Sir Ranulph Fiennes could be reached for comment, but the Aquila game reserve, in South Africa, said that, following complaints from tour operators, it had now ceased offering lion-cub petting. In an e-mail to The Sunday Times, the park said: “We do not have lion cubs at the moment, but we do have cheetahs you could interact with.”

Kuoni said that it works with the Born Free Foundation to ensure that the excursions it offered were ethical, but that it is sometimes impossible to stop customers being offered unapproved products by suppliers. “

Kuoni currently features Aquila as an overnight excursion from Cape Town, as a safari experience,” it added. “Given the allegations regarding cub petting, which is condemned by Born Free, Kuoni has withdrawn Aquila from sale until further notice while investigations are being carried out.”

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Be on the ALERT when walking;jsessionid=Z2FHOEV5EPDNFQFIQMFSFGGAVCBQ0IV0?xml=/news/2008/02/01/nlion101.xml

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Chairman of the African Lion Working Group says...

Lions can be rehabilitated into what some people might call “The Wild”. By such “rehabilitation” is meant they are being taught to hunt for themselves, and they breed successfully. That, I’m afraid is not rehabilitation at all. I have other reservations, though, some of which are as follows:

"Rehabilitated” captive-bred lions can only be released into relatively small areas, such as properly fenced-off game farms and private nature reserves. In such case, invasive management will always be necessary, such as removing of the breeding males to prevent inbreeding, replacing them with younger, non-related males, which are fully adapted to that specific ecosystem.

In such case the older males will have to be placed elsewhere – and where will that be? I’m of opinion that such males will have to be hunted for trophy purposes, such as was the case in Pilansberg. Trophy hunting, if scientifically managed, is not a negative, though it will always be controversial.

Rehabilitated lions do not have natural fear or respect for humans, and, as was the case with the Born-Free lions of George and Joy Adamson, they will become man-eaters. Few people are aware of this, and I’ve always wondered of this fact remains untold because it may suit some people’s philosophies. Such lions also become livestock raiders.
The removal of cubs from mothers usually has an economic focus: (a) The mother comes into oestrus sooner, and breeding can be stepped up and (b) the cubs can be hand-reared to make them used to humans, once again, to exploit uninformed animal lovers’ sentiments – it remains a special experience to physically touch and stroke a lion. From “cuddly” cubs, to massive adult males with exceptionally heavy manes, due to their easy life and diet. (By the way: this is where the many claims of Barbary lion breeding come from: captive lions develop exceptionally heavy manes, and unscrupulous people quickly claim ownership of an extinct sub-species. Maybe I should add: such lion, if offered for canned hunting purposes nowadays might easily fetch $ 50 000 or more).

Most if not all captive-involved managers do not or cannot trace the origin of their stock’s genes, and within the ALWG we are concerned that corrupt gene pools may find their way into our wild lion populations from as far as European circuses, safari parks and zoos– even though it is unlikely, due to free-ranging lions not allowing foreign lions into their territories. Naturally, as stated above, one can manipulate management, e.g. by introducing new adult males, which are able to take over an existing pride, provided there are not too many adult and determined females in such pride.

“Diversity” of gene pools is a relative term, too often used loosely. Geneticists argue that, due to frequent exchange of blood lines, captive lions have a greater diversity of gene pools. That may be so, but diversity does not guarantee fully acclimatised individuals. A specimen, imported from say Canada , may have a hugely diverse gene pool, but will soon die of overheating. More so, if a lion does not have natural resistance to diseases and parasites etc. of a specific ecosystem, such lion does not have a bright future.

There are no vacuums left in Africa where free-ranging lions can be reintroduced. Human encroachment will have to be controlled, and to achieve that, we will have to convince African governments to cooperate – please refer to the Regional Lion Strategies of IUCN.

The keeping and breeding of captive lions results in canned lion hunting. At this very moment, I’m very concerned that canned lion hunting is spilling over into South Africa ’s adjoining countries, such as Botswana , Zimbabwe , Mozambique , Swaziland and Zambia . Angola would be excellent ground for such ventures: a way to make money where a country’s government is in shambles. There are a number of lion breeders in SA who are determined to continue making money out of canned hunting, and I know that a few of them have very firm intentions to take their breeding stock to neighbouring countries.

The Alert Project has no concervation value at all. Wild, free-ranging lion populations cannot be saved from extinction through this method. We should rather spend our money and expertise to find ways of protecting existing wild lion populations. Currently, some of our members are doing excellent conservation work, and they need to be supported. But there are too many lion populations, especially in West Africa , which are locally endangered, and where tourism, e.g. does not pay sufficient to motivate the existence of lions as opposed to livestock and sustenance farming.

Sarel van der Merwe
Chair: African Lion Working Group
Associated with the Cat and Conservation Breeding Specialist Group of IUCN/SSC
PO Box 12451
Brandhof 9324
South Africa
Tel.: +27 51 405 8513 (w)
or: +27 51 444 6656 (h)
Cell.: +27 83 607 0986

Monday, December 24, 2007

Conversation on the lion project and conservation aid...

24 December 2007

Jude of inquires:

1) What are the preferred models for the conservation of lion? We are aware of the encroachment of humans on Lion habitat and the conflicts with livestock etc - but are there models that do work and what are the successes?

IPAM. Obviously any species should if possible be conserved as part of a thriving and viable ecosystem. As a keystone species, lion are particularly important biologically and culturally, their impact and meaning for man in general lying deep in the psyche, and for the hunter-gatherers and shifting agriculturists of the Neolithic revolution - a revolution still ongoing, in particular, they are the reincarnated spirits – both ‘good’ and ‘bad’, of their ancestors. The paradox is that it is the pressures from outside brought to bear on the bush folk who live with lion - the powers of the chemical agriculture industry in spreading the use of insecticides among those recruited into agricultural outgrower schemes, the invasion of the bushfolk lands by outsiders in search of bushmeat, fish and ivory, the failure of over centralized governments to see that the full benefits of safari hunting and tourism goes to them, which threatens both them and the lion. The poisoning of lion, the killing of elephant and hippo by the very people who should benefit from them is the faustian bargain that the bushfolk have been forced to accept by their own governments – though, as in Namibia, there are some notable exceptions. So, one cannot just concentrate on lion conservation without diagnosing and treating the actual cause of the conservation problem, much of which hinges around getting central government off the backs of the bushfolk. Successful wildland models? There are some hunting safari companies who ensure that only those lion which have passed the breeding age are hunted and shot, though the resurgent lion population then may have other impacts, notably, for example, on Masai cattle, and then back on the lion itself. I always think that the management of the lion population of the Umfolozi and Hluhluwe Game Reserves was a successful model in the 70’s in what was, and remains, a biogeographic island. There wildlife managers knew that if they controlled the nomadic males in search of new territory, that they could contain the problem, and did. But, sadly, that degree of management and effort is now lacking across Africa. And so we must recognize that the models of the future have to evolve out of the local culture, joined in partnership with investors who do not seek to alienate traditional lands.

Community ownership and smart-partnerships which provide incentives for the protection of customary lands and adjoining protected areas, followed by management, is the key; without it the tragedy of the commons will prevail.

2) Even if Zambian Authorities have approved the ALERT permits and importation, in what other ways (other than perhaps the obvious impact on the individual lions and their freedom) will this impact on the environment and communities they are introduced to?

IPAM. A captive-bred release of any species back to the wild is fraught with all kinds of potential problems: genetic, disease, wildlife and people impacts – and not least, the fact that dubious schemes which are not of irreproachable conservation value often get the green light. In Zambia, we have healthy lion populations in some places, and declining, threatened or locally extinct lion scenarios in other places. We have no need of more lion in Zambia. What we do need is to conserve the viable lion populations we have by implementing sound management and by implementing community trust structures whereby communities take on responsibilities for natural resource management, assisted by investment partners and NGOs. We can start with the safari hunting industry – virtually the only source of income for 34 Game Management Areas - in which the hunting concessions are located, by ensuring that only lion which are six years or older are shot. This would mean that about 30% of the present lion quota would be taken. But the Government are now insisting that hunting operators purchase 100% of the quota in advance – a non-refundable purchase. Obviously this is not in the lion’s best interest, nor of the investors, the community or Zambia.

If lion are reared in the Dambwa forest and allowed to walk and hunt other game with ALERT’s tourists in the Mosi oa Tunya National Park, we will witness mayhem. And when these semi-domesticated lion are released into the wild, people will be killed and lion in general targeted by the poisoners. We know this from our Zambian experience: the lion which Norman Carr, Nelso Chilagwa, Johnny Uys and Barry Shenton helped raise in the late 50s killed a young boy before they were released into the wild. Semi-domesticated lion don’t fear people and soon learn how to kill them.

In accordance with the Biodiversity Convention, Zambia, as a member, is obliged to adhere strictly to the Precautionary Principle. We must ensure she complies.

3) If there is no or little conservation value in tourism products that promote and breed animals for the tourist "encounter" market - in what ways can concerned individuals (other than to not use marketers and organisations involved in this kind of product) get involved to influence African nations with tourism/wildlife capabilities to promote and concentrate on those activities with the least environmental impact and the best outcome for conservation?

IPAM. They should directly support rural livelihoods and conservation projects which are centered on rural communities, but only where some sort of trust structure is in place; and they should not give money directly to highly centralized governments where the money will be misappropriated, or to large NGOs who behave like donors, giving rise to the Principle-agent malady whereby donors and conservation NGOs conspire to ensure that the mandated implementer does nothing. A good example is the Zambia Wildlife Authority which attempts to satisfy a number of ‘supporters’: the government, the World Bank, NORAD, its partner tourism investors (not much), the EU, DANNIDA,WWF, AWF, Parks Africa, Peace Parks, UNDP, its BOARD, itself – hoist as it is on its own burgeoning senior staff payroll. Donors and NGOs impose few conditions on government, by default supporting dysfunctional departments and corrupt practices. Forget the big plans; and I think here of the Seattle/Omaha/UN malaria nonsense where three million mosquito nets have been dropped off in Zambia, most now stitched together and used as fishing nets, impacting on our total fishery, on crocodile, on otter…on lion perhaps .No environmental impact assessment was ever carried out for this – a massive assault on rural livelihoods.

Giving to the needy is at the heart of western man’s conscience and is something of which we can be inordinately proud. But giving irresponsibly, or in ignorance, is unworthy of our traditions to do better for our fellow man and for the wildlife and wild places that lend us succour.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Unwitting support for dodgy Lion Project in Zambia...

The Editor
The Independent Newspaper

Dear Sir,
Richard Grant’s article of 29 November on the Zimbabwe Walking with Lions Project – will seriously mislead your readers into thinking that it is a conservation project and that it will help save the African lion from extinction. This project has now expanded into Zambia – despite not yet having the permission of the Environmental Council of Zambia to operate in the Mosi oa Tunya National Park and the adjoining Dambwa Forest Reserve, both part of the Victoria Falls World Heritage Site, and recently the front for a major battle between developers, their corrupt lackeys and a small group of people who are determined to protect the integrity of the area.

As the Chairman of the African Lion Working Group said, “The conservation value of the project is very small, and then only because this sort of contact with lions does help people to become supportive of their conservation in the wild, but at best this will be a very small contribution to conservation.” He is being excessively diplomatic. Your readers should take note of for full details of this project – a money making scam and nothing else.
Sadly, once again, the Zambian Government has followed the money and not the principle: the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) having already issued the import permits for 19 lion from Zimbabwe, and the Department of Forestry – already the subject of an investigation for their illegal alienation of at least one National Forest have issued the lion walkers a lease. And the Environmental Council is only now considering the EIA.


I.P.A. Manning

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Zambia Wildlife Authority give permission for the import of 19 lion before EIA is completed...

Update from David Youldon, the ALERT (African Lion Environment and Research Trust)
Newsletters » June/July 2007 » African Lion and Environmental Research Trust

It’s exciting times for the Lion Rehabilitation & Release into the Wild Program! At the end of August this year we will be releasing our first pride of lions into stage two of the program at the Dollar Block Reserve in Zimbabwe. The pride will be made up of two males and five females, who have all benefited from time out in their natural environment at Antelope Park in stage one of the program. The release will be attended by ALERT & African Encounter staff as well as special invited guests including Sir Ranulph Fiennes, described by the Guiness Book of Records as “the world’s greatest living explorer”. A number of media agencies will also be covering the event. Our staff have been working hard at the release site, and building work is right on schedule. The last few upright poles to support the double fence are being placed, water pans are being built and observation towers are being constructed for research purposes. Working with our consultant vets, and with advice from the Zimbabwean Wildlife Veterinary Service, the necessary vaccinations and disease testing is about to commence and the DNA testing has been completed by Jean Dubach at the Chicago Zoological Society.

On May 17th a scoping meeting was held in Livingstone as the start of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of our release site in the Dambwa Forest in Zambia. The meeting, attended by government agencies, local communities and other interested groups, gave the chance for the various stakeholders in the Forest to air concerns about the intended development. These concerns will be considered within the EIA to negate or limit negative impacts and maximize positive ones. The EIA is being conducted by Envsol Consult. We plan to build 2 stage two and a stage three release site within the Forest. We hope to start work on the first of the stage two release sites later in 2007. Applications have been made to the Zimbabwean government to export 19 lions to Zambia. This is the final stage before we can move the lions over, having already received the import permit from the Zambian government back in March of this year. We are working with the Zimbabwean government to ensure that they are happy with all the arrangements we are making for the transport of the lions as well as the condition under which they will be kept once moved. ALERT continues to thank all the supporters of the project that have helped us to get so far towards our goals.
David Youldon
ALERT Executive Director