Call to US and EU governments to ban trophy hunting following the death of two Zimbabwean lions
Following the tragic and reportedly illegal killing of two lions in Zimbabwe, the Born Free Foundation and Born Free USA have called on the US Government and the European Union to take urgent steps to end the import of lion trophies and for an international moratorium on lion hunting.
There has been a global outcry following the killing of the first lion, nicknamed Cecil, by American dentist Walter Palmer, which has further fuelled the political and public debate on trophy hunting and the plight of wild lions in Africa.
President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron have both made very public declarations on the need to stop the illegal wildlife trade, but there are concerns that these intentions may not be implemented fast enough.
Current estimates suggest there are barely more than 30,000 lions remaining across Africa and localised or regionalised extinctions are a real possibility in the next 10 years.
Across Africa, lion populations have reduced by more than 50 per cent since 1980. They have disappeared altogether from at least 12 African countries, and possibly as many as 16, and only inhabit a fragmented 8 per cent of their historic range.
President of the Born Free Foundation, Will Travers OBE, says: “Cecil’s story has sickened and saddened us all.
“We can no longer accept that hunting magnificent wild animals for ‘sport’ can be deemed acceptable.
“Trophy hunting is no sport; it is merely a disguise for killing to massage an ego.”
Born Free is calling on the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to release its Final Rule on the petition to list the lion as ‘endangered’ under the United States Endangered Species Act (ESA), first submitted in March 2011.
Listing under the ESA would prohibit wounding, harming, harassing, killing, or trading in lions, except under certain very limited conditions, and would add significant protection for lions across their range.
Further, Born Free is calling on US Government prosecutors to explore whether legal action against Walter Palmer is warranted under the Lacey Act, which prohibits transport of wildlife specimens if they were taken illegally in their place of origin.
According to Adam M Roberts, CEO of Born Free Foundation and Born Free USA, “The US Government has a responsibility to take decisive action to prevent another incident such as this from ever happening again.
“For four years we have waited for a final decision on our petition to list the lion – there is no more time to wait.”
Roberts addressed the issue of trophy hunting specifically, saying, “The figures don’t stack up. The value to Africa’s economy from wildlife tourism vastly outpaces any sum accrued from hunting.
“Trophy hunting is an elitist activity practiced by very wealthy people, with the income benefiting a small number of stakeholders. The future is in conserving Africa’s wildlife, not destroying it.”
There is very little evidence that the proceeds of trophy hunting benefits conservation or local communities in the hunting areas, with as little as 3 per cent or less of the revenue generated trickling down.
Lions and other charismatic wildlife are worth far more alive than dead to Zimbabwe’s tourism industry. In Zimbabwe it is estimated that trophy hunting generates only 3.2 per cent of total tourism revenue.
Virginia McKenna OBE, a name synonymous with lions and star of the wildlife classic Born Free summed up the feelings of millions around the world: “This whole story is like some terrible nightmare.
“The power of money, the ego of man, the lack of compassion for and real understanding of wild creatures, the concept of hunting as a “sport”.
“I thought we tried to instil kindness and respect in our children. Perhaps Mr. Palmer thinks differently.
“But if what I heard today is true – that after killing Cecil he asked if they could find him an elephant – the future he faces is bleak indeed.”