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About douglaswise

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  1. @inyathi: Once again, you are making assumptions about my motives which cannot be justified by what I wrote. As a matter of fact, I did not assume that WildCRU had been lying. In fact, I suggested that the question was somewhat beside the point in terms of lion conservation and also that it was possible that neither side necessarily lied. My criticism of WildCRU relates to its exploitation of the situation for fund raising purposes - something you accept, but consider legitimate. I recently enlarged on this on another thread under the research/scientific paper banner ("What does trophy hunting contribute to wild lion conservation?") and will therefore not do so here. If one is more concerned about expanding lion numbers than about shrinking hunter numbers, I made the suggestion that lessons might be learnt from studying the situation in the Bubye Valley Conservancy. It is my understanding that its density of wild lions is higher than anywhere else in Africa, that its funding is principally derived from hunting, that it doesn't cater to ecotourists and that its survival is now threatened by airline bans on the transport of trophies. Lion density in Hwange is less than half, quite probably due to lower prey numbers occasioned by elephant excess. I don't argue with the facts you present. Instead, I am more concerned with those which you ignore. I have asked questions in my various posts that you haven't addressed. As it happens, I, too, find the idea of shooting baited lions to be somewhat distasteful - I would be happier with tracking and stalking on foot. However, we might both agree that such personal feelings are not relevant in terms of wild lion conservation. I would, however, like to learn why hunting and conservation appear to be such a good match at Bubye, but not elsewhere. I'm sure it probably comes down to good regulation and absence of corruption. How can this be achieved elsewhere? Do land ownership rights need reform? Positive ideas and comments, please
  2. @cosmic rhino; I have read the Mammal Review paper by Macdonald et al to which you link. It discusses all the obvious factors that may impact badly on lions and it is generally anodyne. However, as is reasonable and to be expected, the authors make great play of the fact that there remain many unknowns. A cynical wildlife manager might well take the view that this is a typical plea by researchers for more funding so that they can continue doing the things they enjoy doing rather than getting on with practical solutions - an investigative rather than problem solving approach. (Patients would suffer much more if their doctors awaited complete knowledge of a particular syndrome before attempting treatment. Nevertheless, acquisition of further knowledge is likely to be beneficial in the long run. If funding is likely to be inadequate or limited, one must ask how it should be divided between research and treatment.) That said, their discussion is well referenced and comprehensive. I became uneasy when I read the authors' comments in the final "Ethics and Hindsight" Section. By this stage, rather than considering the total picture, they appeared to focus entirely upon the pros and cons of "trophy hunting", giving the impression, belied in their earlier sections, that this was possibly the main factor determining lion conservation. They went on to state that not all conservationists agreed that a utilitarian perspective on "trophy hunting" is the right one and even questioned whether sustainability was a criterion of good management, stating it to be ethically questionable when "applied to lion hunting (or to any killing of animals for "sport"). I began to wonder, at this stage, how they were defining the term, "conservationist". Were they including the full range of those who might describe themselves as such from full-blown bunny-hugging animal rightists through to wildlife professionals? It is apparent that WildCRU has benefited greatly from mining funds from the former and it is reasonable, therefore, to question their objectivity. When the authors make the statement that "it is clear, though, that, if lion hunters aspire to be tolerated, they must demonstrate radical reform (and that may not be enough)", they are hardly demonstrating impartiality. Clearly, lion hunting should be sustainable and all causes of lion deaths are likely to be additive. Nevertheless, by focusing on possibly the least important factor in the declining population, one is showing evidence of cognitive bias. In my experience, reform with the intention of pacifying the animal rights lobby will never satisfy it and will inevitably lead to total defeat. Nevertherless, not all "protectionists" have strong animal rights beliefs and many have reached their positions because they believe that their views are compatible with or even necessary for good conservation. It is incumbent upon those who believe that sustainable use offers the best hope for African wildlife to attempt to convert reasonable "protectionists" to their point of view while accepting that they will always be damned by genuine animal rightists.
  3. @inyathi: I don't disagree with that much in your last post. However, I don't believe that WildCru's primary purpose is "conservation specifically of wild predators" ( why not ask David McDonald?). I will accept that, in partnership with Panthera, it has become an important part. I also resent being misquoted followed by the dogmatic statement that I'm incorrect. In answering someone else's post in which it was claimed that trophy hunting could harm the lion gene pool, I replied, stating that it MAY benefit it by reducing numbers of father daughter matings. You took the trouble to look into this and cited research that suggested that ,when young females reached puberty they were LIKELY to disperse if the original pride male was still dominating (comparative rates of dispersal in the case of a changing pride male were not cited). You actually misquoted me by saying definitively that I had claimed that removing old males benefits the gene pool, missing out a subjunctive. Perhaps, as a layman, you don't appreciate that this is other than semantics. As a retired research scientist, I find it unacceptable. You go on to suggest that killing a pride male allows the opportunity for a weaker male to take its place and imply that weaker males will have poorer genes. On balance, there may be some truth in this. However, relative weakness, as I pointed out, is not necessarily genetically determined. Furthermore, as you acknowledge later, males form coalitions. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that a pair of weaker males can displace a single, stronger animal. This will be constantly happening in a healthy lion population. The biggest predator of lions is lions. If they weren't always killing each other, there'd be far too many - provided an adequate prey population existed . There is absolutely no doubt that lion numbers are in serious decline and the causes are well known (though that doesn't necessarily mean that researchers will move on to more useful studies). We can agree that poorly regulated hunting is one cause, but probably not of huge significance relative to habitat fragmentation, degradation and poaching. However, when any population is in decline, even minor causes add to major ones to exacerbate the fall (something you seem to ignore in the case of raptors and songbirds). In the case of well-regulated hunting, do you think that shooting the occasional male, even if he is a pride male, will reduce the overall lion population? Are more dependant cubs killed than would have been the case had the ousting of pride males been left to other males? I'm aware that cessation of lion hunting in Zimbabwe was followed by an increase in numbers in monitored (researched) areas, but I don't know if numbers increased across, for example, Hwange, as a whole. However, part of the reason for a buffer zone is to allow population reduction here rather than elsewhere in a park. By sucking males out of the centre into the periphery in consequence of trophy hunting, it is entirely possible that levels of intra-lion conflict and hence cub mortality in core areas may be reduced. As far as I'm aware, researchers tend to concentrate their attention round the edges. Of course, another reason to have a buffer zone with trophy hunting is to push potentially damaging wildlife away from human populations and back to the core. Are animals being sucked out or pushed in?
  4. I think the stage has almost been reached where it will become necessary to fence wildlife in rather than out, which, I understand, is described as "fortress conservation". However, this, too, can have a downside - as is demonstrated by current disturbances in Laikipia County (large well-managed areas in private ownership generate envy). Pastoralism, which recognises no boundaries and in which numbers of domesticated animals owned represent status, is a doomed way of life. Local communities should be allowed to own wildlife and be encouraged to live in a cash economy. This, if properly regulated (???), might allow them to benefit rather than to suffer from the presence of wild animals. The sorts of benefits they might choose to derive could be left for individual communities to decide. They might include ecotourism, trophy hunting, management hunting for meat and, with a more enlightened international conservation strategy, sustainable trading in ivory, rhino horn and even lion products. It is only in this way that areas suitable for wildlife can expand rather than risk shrinkage from human pressures. Wildlife is a potentially very valuable resource from which local communities in Kenya cannot fully benefit. Instead, most of the proceeds from its exploitation end up in the hands of corrupt politicians, officials and crime syndicates. If one doesn't have any faith that governance in African States can be rapidly improved - with corruption largely reduced, proper regulations observed and enlightened legislation introduced to open economic opportunities - one can more or less kiss goodbye to the survival of wildlife as a spectacle. Perhaps, these are merely the ramblings of an old man who has witnessed the changes happening in Africa for 67 years and not much cared for what he has seen. I find it particularly depressing that well-meaning international protectionist NGOs are exacerbating the situation.
  5. @madaboutcheetah: I'm astonished that you asked that question. The WildCRU press release relating to "Xanda" was clearly attempting to exploit the event for financial gain and, from my perspective, detracts from some useful research that its field researchers undertake. Obviously, the latter require funding, but to attempt to raise it by whipping up hysteria among protectionists in order to part them from their money has the downside of making the organisation appear to be far from impartial. Their statement starts to go off the rails with the first mention of David MacDonald and "Cecil" Movements and Summits. WildCRU's primary purpose is, I believe, to resolve human/wildlife conflict. I do not believe that the emotional statements in the press release do anything other than to detract from this brief. It would be far more useful to discuss the facts rather than the motivation. It is, of course, interesting to determine whether the lion in question was, in fact, an active or ousted pride male as this would allow an assessment of which side had been lying and had thus lost credibility. However, it could be that neither was and that muddled communications fitted more with a "cock up" than a "conspiracy" explanation. At the end of the day, none of this has a lot to do with sensible management of lions in and around National Parks. In a previous post on this thread I referred to Bubye Valley Conservancy, which has too many lions. If there is plenty of food and water in a protected area, one will always tend to have too many lions with or without "trophy hunting". In Hwange, there probably isn't plenty of lion food because elephants, a generally unsuitable prey species, dominate the biomass to the detriment of the habitat and all other mammalian prey species and consequently of predators themselves. It is also worth considering WildCRU's call for a 5 km non-hunting buffer around the Park's periphery. Implicit in this demand is a total disdain for real world economics and the interests of the local population. Presumably, the extra land demanded would have no potential to generate money other than, possibly, from ecotourists. To all intents and purposes, therefore, WildCRU is demanding an extension of the National Park . The Park is already 14000 sq km in area and severely underfunded. If it were totally circular in circumference, a 5 km extension round the edge would expand the Park size by 15%. As it is not circular, the effective size would increase more. One can imagine WildCRU demanding an ever expanding protection zone until such time as the buffer zone bumps into human-exploited areas, but it is probably much more likely that the local human population would, with some justification, move into the otherwise unexploited buffer zone.
  6. @ Game Warden: If the statement from the Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association is correct, it shows up the statement from WildCRU, quoted by@ madaboutcheetah, in a very poor light. It seems that the latter's fund raising department is attempting to place as bad a construction on the story as possible for financial gain.
  7. A research report, entitled "Cattle Barons", can be found on The Conservation Imperative website. It provides an analysis of the background to the land grabs in Laikipia. It concludes that the problem is being fomented by politicians and other non pastoralists, that it pre-dates the drought and is unlikely to end as a result of good rains. An ongoing problem was exacerbated by relatively recent changes to the constitution, aimed at reducing corruption and devolving power to the regions, but this had the opposite effect to that intended. The author concludes that, in any event, the culture of pastoralism is unsustainable due both to too many people,far too many cattle and social networking (mobile phones) which has broken the bonds between disaffected armed youth and their supposed ruling elders.
  8. @ pomwiki: Thank you for formalising the link to the article to which I referred. (Perhaps someone would explain how I can produce proper links - I am largely bereft of computer skills.) You appear to differentiate between culling and trophy hunting and are correct to do so. You suggest that the article is an opinion piece, lacking hard evidence, but don't necessarily rule out the need for culling. The article, as I understood it, was a synthesis of the views of a WildCRU researcher who works in Bubye Valley Conservancy. I am satisfied, if my understanding is correct, that the hard evidence does, in fact, exist and could, if deemed necessary, be obtained directly from the researcher in question. You go on to suggest that trophy hunting may do more damage to lion populations than culling by selecting against the best specimens in the gene pool. However, when carried out responsibly in a lawful manner, the opposite may, in fact, be the case. By taking out a small proportion of older male lions, one will be reducing the degree of father/daughter matings. The quality (magnificence) of the trophy will be as much or more influenced by age and plane of nutrition as by innate (genetic) factors. @inyathi has added to the debate and speculated that the minimum culling age of 6 years may not be appropriate in Zimbabwe because it was derived from Tanzanian-based studies. The benefits of trophy hunting have nothing to do with population control and everything to do with the money it provides for conservation managers. @ ZaminOz , in answering a query from @ madaboutcheetah, suggested that hunting blocks were the buffer zone. It is my understanding that he is absolutely correct. However, @madaboutcheetah responded by posting a fund-raising article by WildCRU which appeared to be seeking to exploit "Xandu's" death. Among other things, WildCRU was advocating a rind of non-hunting buffer zone around the Park. To all intents and purposes, this amounts to a substantial increase in effective Park area without indicating a means of funding its management. Given that funding is already inadequate for Hwange, one must suppose that WildCRU is visiting the realm of the cloud cuckoo.
  9. In my view, both @ pomwiki and @ Atravelynn are very likely to be correct in their assessments relating to surplus numbers of elephants contributing to habitat damage in Tsavo. However, I'm not au fait with current numbers present. What is clear, as a matter of record, is that the elephant populations of the Tsavo ecological area were damagingly excessive in the late 1960s, largely because David Sheldrick, the then warden, was encouraged to pursue a protectionist policy which almost completely eliminated poaching. Dr Dick Laws, briefly appointed as scientific director of Tsavo, was adamant that population reduction followed by annual culling was necessary to save Tsavo's habitat. He was forced to resign when his recommendations were ignored. He correctly predicted that disaster would follow when the climate predictably switched to drought conditions. When drought occurred in the early 1970s, thousands of elephants and rhinos died. More importantly, the habitat had been so damaged by elephants by this time that its subsequent recovery was limited. Thus, the current biodiversity and sustainable carrying capacity is now almost certainly very much less than it would have been had Laws rather than Sheldrick held sway. @ pomwiki is correct to conclude that culling in Kruger was not deemed to be a success and has now been abandoned. However, it is necessary to understand why. When elephant numbers in the Kruger were increasing, there were no signs of significant ecological damage (and, arguably, indications of greater species heterogeneity) till they reached 3500 - representing a density of approximately 0.17/sq km. Thereafter, numbers grew to 7000 (the number that was supposed to be maintained by management culling. However, protectionist opposition limited and eventually stopped management culling and elephant numbers are now around 15000. Once numbers passed 3500 there was progressive loss of top cover trees, an indicator of habitat damage. Having lost culling as a management tool, Park authorities have adopted a new approach. They are reducing numbers of artificial water points, so forcing the majority of mammalian species that depended on them (most) into starvation or emigration and they have attempted to provide additional territory by removing the fence which precluded travel into Mozambique, opening the way for a massive increase in poaching. In my judgement, the actions of the Park authorities represent a dereliction of duty forced upon them by well-meaning protectionists. It is important to realise that man has been a keystone predator of elephants for at least one thousand years.and that the species has no other significant predators. If predation by man is prevented, elephant populations will double every 14 years until they run out of food at which point they will self-regulate their numbers. However, this will only occur well beyond the point of sustainable carrying capacity. At maximum carrying capacity, elephants are "living on capital" rather than on "interest" and causing considerable and sometimes irreversible habitat damage as well as dominating the biomass to the detriment of all other species. It is also important to appreciate that wildlife habitats have been shrunk by man's activities and that laissez faire approaches that worked in the past are no longer an option. The provision of artificial water points in arid and semi-arid environments is a simple and effective means of increasing stocking densities to compensate for reduced space. However, because this puts more pressure on the habitat resources, its monitoring becomes extremely important and culling will become necessary to maintain species balance and to prevent the sustainable carrying capacities from progressing toward maximum capacities.
  10. It is, perhaps, understandable that some correspondents here are revolted to learn of the death of this picturesque lion at the hands of a trophy hunter. However, I would implore them to set their gut instincts aside and, at least, try to understand the issue from a conservation perspective. I genuinely believe, along with many others, that African wildlife and African people would benefit enormously from a move away from a protectionist model of conservation towards one embracing sustainable use. However, it seems to me that the majority of those who express opinions on this subject on Safaritalk take a protectionist stance and are so sure of their moral superiority that they refuse even to attempt to understand or address any evidence that conflicts with their worldviews. However, for those with more open minds, might I suggest that they read about the Bubye Valley Conservancy ( and, in particular, to the following article on the subject of lion culling: . This article represents an excellent starting point for more informed debate. I do hope that many of the protectionists here take the trouble to read it and, if they disagree with any of it, to explain why.
  11. @Tom Kellie: I think that the article to which you link provides an extremely important collection and analysis of data. These represent a very serious indictment of Kenya's conservation policy. I suggest that supporters of protectionist policies ought to read this paper and either point out why the authors' conclusions are wrong or, alternatively, abandon their ideas and, instead, support a sustainable use policy.
  12. @Tom Kellie, It seems you have cited a perfect example of interesting academic research that affords little of use to wildlife managers. The results, dressed in fancy language, were entirely in line with those that could have been predicted by any competent nutritionist without ever having done the field work (based on basic theory). Mpala provides a base for visiting researchers. Perhaps the exercise was planned to give a research student practice or a more senior researcher a cheap holiday.
  13. @offshorebirder: I think you have made very good, relevant and valid points.
  14. @Towlersonsafari: The answer to your question is no. That is why I wrote "may represent" and not "does represent". In a previous debate, I acknowledged that orphanages may produce funding over and above that needed to run them and generate profit for owners thereof. However, I suspect that this extra funding is likely to go to to animal protectionist- rather than to conservation-based causes. I accept that, in areas where there is a serious poaching problem, the causes may overlap.
  15. @Tom Kellie: You raise an intriguing academic question. However, the previous point I was attempting to make was that a search for its answer would require financial investment, but is unlikely to have practical management implications. This seems to apply to a lot of ongoing wildlife research in Africa and may represent competition for funding which could better be used to provide protection for threatened habitats which are currently woefully short of funding. By the same token, I would suggest that elephant orphanages are also an unnecessary distraction from conservation as I understand it.

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