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Lets talk about what is best for the lions

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Over the years I have been involved in many debates around lions, captive breeding, petting, trophy hunting, canned hunting etc etc.

 

So lets put our differences aside on those issues, and discuss what is best for the lions.

 

I see there is a move afoot to uplift lions to appendix I at CITES by an animal rights NGO and some others.

 

The IUCN reported that lion numbers have reduced by 43% in the last 21 years.

 

The Lion population is inferred to have undergone a reduction of approximately 43% over the past 21 years (approximately three Lion generations, 1993-2014).

 

21 years may be as long as three lion generations, but its well known that lion populations can easily double in two years if the conditions are right. So are we providing the right conditions?

 

This dichotomy is reflected in listings of the species in different Red Lists: in South Africa, the Lion will be categorized as Least Concern on the national Red List in preparation (Child et al. In prep.), whereas in India it is Endangered (as subspecies P. l. persica on the global IUCN Red List: Breitenmoser et al. 2008) and in the region of West Africa meets the criteria for Critically Endangered (Henschel et al. 2014, 2015). The range state list in Table 1 (attached Supporting Material) further illustrates the high threat levels across the species’ broad geographic range, as Lions have been recently extirpated in 12 African countries and we suspect possible recent extirpation in another four.

 

It seems that they have grouped African lion and Indian lion in one bunch to ad some drama to their figures.

 

Among the causes of decline, the most important are indiscriminate killing in defence of human life and livestock, habitat loss, and prey base depletion. Prey base depletion is partly linked to habitat loss, but more importantly to poaching and bushmeat trade (Becker et al. 2013). An emerging threat is trade in bones and other body parts for traditional medicine, both within Africa and in Asia (IUCN 2006a, b; Riggio et al. 2013).

 

I have to add here that killing wild lions for body parts is extremely rare. Most lion bones have been provided from the captive bred populations.

 

The striking contrast between these three countries in southern Africa and the rest of the continent is probably related to the equally striking differences in human population densities (Packer et al. 2013) in Namibia (2.5/km²), Botswana (3.4) and Zimbabwe (26) vs. Benin (78), Burkina Faso (57), Cameroon (40), Cote d’Ivoire (64), Ghana (102), Kenya (67), Nigeria (189), Rwanda (420), Senegal (68), Tanzania (48), Uganda (137) and Zambia (45).

 

How will up-listing lion help? What will the result of a total ban on trophy hunting do for the lion? considering that the main causes of "decline" are cited as habitat loss and conflict (which are the same thing)

 

As with all these single specie issues - shouldn't we be looking for solutions where the problem is most serious and look towards the areas that have had the least decline for answers?

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What is your point? Up-listing does not equal total trophy ban. Leopards are on CITES I, but there is an exemption for African leopards. They could do a similar thing for lions. Lions in Asia, West-Africa and Central Africa CITES I, and Southern and Eastern Africa CITES II.

 

Killing of wild lions for body parts is becoming less rare unfortunately, and I think that needs to be monitored and addressed vigilantly, and I think it should definitely be considered an emerging threat.

 

A recovering, small lion population can double in two years, but can't triple in 4 years. Similarly, a larger lion population can't double in 2 years. And this also depends on how you measure the size of the lion population. Often population estimates only include adults, in which case a lion population can't double in 2 years as it takes 4 years for a lion to be considered adult. Regularly it includes both adults and sub-adults, sometimes it includes cubs too. It gets more complicated when the source doesn't make clear what's included in the population estimate. They mention the generations as population increases and declines are also measured in generation times for the species considered, as that makes biologically more sense.

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As with all these single specie issues - shouldn't we be looking for solutions where the problem is most serious and look towards the areas that have had the least decline for answers?

 

But the solution for where the problem is most serious is unlikely to be found in the areas with the least decline. Lions do reasonably well in national parks with a good prey base, and where not too much edge effects occur. Most lion research done currently is in these areas and boundaries of it. I think more lion research should be done in government controlled hunting areas. And these should be projects where the population is intensively monitored.

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And the Sahara Addax has been on appendix I since 1983 - now there are three left in the wild.

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CITES controls trade, to make sure the commercial trade does not negatively affect the species. This doesn't mean that CITES provides total protection. Trade is not what caused the recent rapid decline in the addax population. But it has been shown that trophy hunting (which leads to trade in the form of the import and export of trophies) of lions does have negative effects on lion populations (see the work of Loveridge et al. in Zimbabwe, Becker et al. in Zambia, Packer et al. in Tanzania). To avert the negative effects of this trade a stricter control of the trade in trophies might be in place.

If an animal is listed on CITES II only an export permit from the country of origin is needed, if an animal is listed on CITES I an export permit and an import permit is necessary. The US has already taken the step to put restrictions on the importation on lion trophies, they require the exporting countries to prove that trophy hunting does not have detrimental effects on the lion populations within that country (non detrimental findings). I don't think there's anything wrong with hunters having to prove that lion hunting in their country does not have a negative effect on the population of lions within that country. Hunters often claim that hunting lions help them, but I have yet to see any peer reviewed published paper reporting an increasing, or even stable, lion population in a government area where lions are being hunted. Yet there are several such papers who found that hunting actually did have a negative effect. Just that hunting brings in money doesn't justify that hunting should be allowed to reduce the populations.

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