Friday, August 25, 2006

Fundis comment on the Proposed “Walking with Lions” Project

24 August 2006

Members of the international scientific community voice their serious concerns and strong opposition to the “Walking with Lions” tourist attraction currently being proposed by African Encounters and Safari par Excellence in Zambia. “Walking with Lions” is a purely commercial enterprise. The purported conservation value of a captive breeding and release program for lions has not been demonstrated. Indeed, many aspects of the proposed program appear ill conceived.

For example, hand rearing of lion cubs will ensure that these animals are imprinted to humans, and that they will thereafter lack natural avoidance behaviors. Teaching hand reared cubs to hunt as sub-adults will not decrease their dependence on humans, nor will it alter their imprinted behaviors. Indeed, semi-tame lions may be as dangerous as wild lions. Recently (August, 2006) in South Africa, three 2½ year-old lions escaped from a game farm and killed two workers. The lions were obtained as cubs and raised by hand. In Tanzania, wild lions kill nearly one hundred people each year, the majority of them villagers. Alteration of lion behavior through captive breeding, hand rearing, and release of semi-tame animals or their habituated offspring is both dangerous and irresponsible when considering the safety and welfare of humans and their livestock in Zambia.

“Walking with Lions” will require a constant supply of cubs. The possibility that this program would result in overbreeding of lions and subsequent development of a canned hunting industry in Zambia, or trade in surplus lions to canned hunting interests in other countries cannot be ignored. Fair hunting practices of wild lions are paramount to Zambia’s commercial hunting industry. For Zambia to associate itself in any way – either real or perceived – with canned hunting of lions could have far-reaching negative impacts on this industry. Currently, Zambia is moving towards ensuring the long-term protection and survival of its lion populations by supporting field research that examines distribution and abundance of lions countrywide, and a genetic assessment of lion subpopulations. It is also actively seeking to establish sustainable quotas through development and implementation of an age-based trophy selection program.

The claim that releasing captive bred lions into national parks and wild areas will serve any conservation purpose by augmenting lion numbers is wholly unsubstantiated. Further, it fails to take into account the genetic structure of lion subpopulations in Zambia. Far from proving advantageous, the released animals may, in fact, introduce deleterious genes or diseases into Zambia’s established wild lion populations, or otherwise alter the local adaptations of the naturally occurring genetic stocks.

Given reasonable protection from excessive mortality and sufficient food resources (e.g., game species), wild lions have the capacity to naturally repopulate a depleted area. In addition to conserving local genetic adaptations, the advantages of natural recovery versus introductions include greater stability to pride structure and movements, and greater predictability as to distance and direction of dispersers. Moreover, a naturally recovering predator population will exist at a density that is appropriate for both game populations and available habitat, thereby reducing the risk of conflict with humans and livestock.

It is emphasized here that “Walking with Lions” has no conservation value. If African Encounters and Safari par Excellence’s desire to assist with conservation of African lions is sincere, they will devote themselves to supporting established programs and organizations that are working towards the restoration and protection of Zambia’s wild lands and animals, and seek to educate their clientele in a similarly responsible fashion.

Dr. Paula A. White, Director, Zambia Lion Project
Center for Tropical Research, University of California, Los Angeles, USA

Dr. Craig Packer, Professor, Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior
University of Minnesota, USA

Dr. Luke Hunter, Director, Great Cats Program
Wildlife Conservation Society, New York, USA

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Following the western liberal tradition...

The main concern about the lion is not so much the canned lion hunting but the genetic implications of releasing lion into wild populations, and the impacts of semi-tame lion on villagers.

We don't need canned lion hunting to take pressure off wild populations: what we require is for a competent authority to manage hunting offtakes and to ensure that breeding animals are not shot. Research on lion clearly shows that shooting non-breeding males - as with any species, maintains the necessary genetic vigour. It is the killing of young pride lion which is the problem, as is the shooting of breeding bulls from buffalo herds. A trophy monitoring system needs to be implemented given the farcical and larcenous 'quota' system currently in place. The failure to introduce a monitoring system will lead us inevitably to lion being placed on Appendix 1 of CITES with all sorts of ramifications for rural development.

We need the lion project people to make a case for what they appear to have permission from ZAWA to do. But they must realize that going ahead with the takeover of a forest reserve (who gave them permission?) without an EIA from ECZ and all the other permissions and clearances required, is unwise. There are international standards and conventions in place here, as well as acceptance of a Western liberal democratic tradition - despite the corruption and the cavalier signing off of our resources. But these things require to be defended, the cant, humbug and hypocrisy punctured, the misguided and corrupt decision makers exposed. Zambia signed up for the principles of the Commission for Africa, as a result of which the G8 wrote off the debt. Let the Government now live up to its part of the bargain, and let the donors develop some backbone. Meanwhile, we, the ham in the sandwich...!

Mike Musgrave, Chairman of Livingstone WECSZ...

The blog doesn't give a complete picture of what is going on the
ground. There is a lot of concern which ranges from the hysterical to the
legitimate. I think the main concern comes from the possibility of the
excess lions going into canned hunting operations. I know Andy
Connolly said that would not happen but he has no control over lions
once he sells them. Personally I think canned lion hunting could be done
ethically and take the pressure off wild lion populations, but because it has been
done so badly in South Africa (shooting lions in small enclosures,
drugging lions etc etc), one can simply never justify it. All the
major hunting organisations (SCI being the biggest) have now comeout
strongly against this form of hunting. The major exceptions are bird
shoots which often use bred birds. My concern is that Zambia becomes
known as a canned lion hunting destination and this concern is shared
by the Professional Hunters Association.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Professional Hunters Statement

"We are happy to be quoted that we are opposed to this move: we are totally opposed to canned hunting and we are not convinced that captive breeding of Lion and their release is in the best interests of our own gene pool."
Simon Burgess
Chairman, Professional Hunters' Association of Zambia



The South African Minister for Environmental Affairs and Tourism, Martinus van Schalkwyk issued two draft regulations on Tuesday, May 2, 2006 regarding threatened and protected species and the much-anticipated draft National Norms and Standards for the Regulation of the Hunting Industry. These are available on the Department’s website at

The new regulations would put an end to unethical game hunting: canned hunting (the shooting of animals in enclosures which allow no means of escape), the captive breeding of predators other than for conservation purposes, the trade in exotics and the translocation of species from outside their natural range. The regulations ban the intensive breeding of listed large predators such as cheetah, lion and leopard, unless it has an express conservation purpose. “In effect,” said the Minister, “The days of captive breeding of listed species for any purposes except science and conservation, are over. Large predators kept in captivity can no longer be hunted which has not been rehabilitated in an extensive wildlife system and been fending for itself in the wild for at least two years.”

Hunting will now be strictly regulated, being required to adopt fair-chase principles and humane methods, conducted by certified professional hunters adhering to sustainable game off-take quotas. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), one of the organizations campaigning for tougher controls, welcomed the draft regulations. Jason Bell-Leask, the organization's southern Africa director, commented, "Let's hope they go far enough to address unethical hunting practices and, in the words of the minister, rid this cancer from society". Other African countries need to introduce preventative and protective legislation without delay so as to halt the stealthy invasion of the canned hunting / captive breeding industry. Namibia already has an active canned hunting industry, as does Zimbabwe.

The owner of Antelope Park, Andrew Connolly admitted at the WECSZ talk by Ian Michler on the “Captive Breeding of Predators and Canned Hunting” held in February 2006 in Livingstone, that he had sold 35 lion to three breeders in South Africa four years ago. When asked if he was aware that these breeders were canned hunters, he said he was not aware. The main question is, if the Livingstone Walking with Lion release programme is unsuccessful, what will happen to the surplus lion once they have outgrown the money-making walks. Are we introducing “put and take hunts” in Zambia?

Ali Shenton
Wildlife & Environmental Conservation Society of Zambia (Livingstone Branch)