Jump to content




See all Safaritalk Special Offers

Message to Guests.

Welcome to Safaritalk where we have been talking Safaris and wildlife conservation since 2006. As a guest you're welcome to read through certain areas of the forum, but to access all the facilities and to contribute your experience, ask questions and get involved, you'll need to be a member - so register here: it's quick, free and easy and I look forward to having you as a Safaritalker soon. Matt.


Photo

Walking with Lions - Con-Conservation?


  • Please log in to reply
196 replies to this topic

#1 QuentinJones

QuentinJones

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 67 posts
  • Local time: 06:35 PM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:London, UK
  • Category 1:Environmentalist
  • Category 2:---

Posted 16 December 2007 - 06:26 PM

Please find the following statement, by Africa's leading lion researchers, on the ALERT Lion Encounter programme currently operating in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. I'm surprised there is no discussion on this issue on Safaritalk (unless I cant find it!). For more information please contact me.

As ethical tourists we should boycott all tourism operators who use lions in tourism until the industry self-regulates itself and exposes the canned lion breeders which hide within it.

Already this project has spawned one copy-cat operation in the Falls, and is currently planning to expand into Zambia, and has rough ridden over aspects of the legal and environmental planning process - what sort of example does this give to other operators? And what does it say about their methods and motives?

Does no-one else think that if this programme grows, and wild lion populations continue to decline, we will see the near extinction of the lion in the wild, with Lion Encounter breeding centres all over Africa supplying semi-tame lions for private tourism estates. The rest of Africa will follow the South African example with all its big game behind fences, owned and managed by private concessions. It really is 'The end of the game'.

Text of statement follows-

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 2˝ 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

#2 Game Warden

Game Warden

    Administrator

  • Root Admin
  • 16,462 posts
  • Local time: 06:35 PM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Sat by the PC
  • Category 1:Tourist (regular visitor)
  • Category 2:---

Posted 16 December 2007 - 07:55 PM

Hi Quentin and welcome: I've moved this post over to the conservation talk area, I hope you don't mind in order that hopefully it can open up a discussion concerning the points you raise. Although I do not have enough experience to comment directly on this issue if I may just make one observation and that is there are those involved in wildlife conservation who decide to take different paths to reach the end goal, but hopefully that end goal is the same and is shared by all who care for wildlife.

I look forward to reading the debate that your question raises, and hopefully we will see input from both David Youldon and Chris Mercer who can outline their respective opinions for us.

"Return to old watering holes for more than water; friends and dreams are there to meet you." - African proverb.

 

How to create your gallery album and upload images.

 

How to post images in the text.

Want to tag another member in a post? Use @ before their display name, eg @game warden


#3 QuentinJones

QuentinJones

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 67 posts
  • Local time: 06:35 PM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:London, UK
  • Category 1:Environmentalist
  • Category 2:---

Posted 16 December 2007 - 08:11 PM

Hiya, thanks, no worries - I realised after posting that it would have been best here - although I did mean there to be a question mark after con-conservation in the title!

#4 Predator Biologist

Predator Biologist

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 39 posts
  • Local time: 06:35 PM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Golden, CO USA
  • Category 1:Biologist
  • Category 2:Travel Agent

Posted 17 December 2007 - 09:27 PM

Quentin: thanks for posting that text! I have spent a lot of time researching the Lion Encounter project and was very skeptical about it. I have cautioned other travellers but stopped short of outright warning against them in case I was missing something. I was unaware that they were planning to spread their walks to the Zambia side requiring even more cub production and now seeing the official statment by well known lion researchers I feel all my suspicions are confirmed and there is no reason to hold back anymore. The claimed reintroduction program is a poorly conceived project that covers for the money making business of breeding lions for tourism. I totally agree that no ethical tourists should support ALERT/Lion Encounter or any other group performing lion walks.
"The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts" -- Aldo Leopold

#5 David Youldon

David Youldon

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 154 posts
  • Local time: 07:35 PM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Livingstone, Zambia
  • Category 1:Conservationist/Naturalist
  • Category 2:---

Posted 18 December 2007 - 09:12 AM

I am David Youldon, Chief Operating Officer for ALERT. First of all I would like to thank the team of Safaritalk for providing a forum where conservation issues can be discussed and I look forward to reading and responding to people comments within this debate as well as others.

Lions are a highly evocative species and prompt reactions from people that do not necessarily come when talking about other species in the same context. For example, there are reintroduction programs across Africa for cheetah, black rhino, buffalo, vervet monkeys, elephant and many, many other species. Many of the issues that apply to the reintroduction of lions, such as genetic integrity and human imprinting, also apply to these others species reintroductions, yet the response from people is very different. People have been moving other species around Africa for years with no negative reactions, but as soon as the lion is mentioned, things tend to heat up. That is one reason why ALERT is so proud to work with the lion, as see it as an ambassador towards the other elements of the ALERT program, those of conservation for the broader ecosystem, research and community development, for long term sustainable conservation; the lion can bring awareness and funding for other less impressive species that otherwise find it difficult to get the attention that they also need.

Before I respond to this last post, from my understanding the quoted statement is not written by the three lion experts mentioned, although I am sure it is written with comments from them in mind. It is I believe written by Ian Manning, a respected conservationist based in Livingstone, Zambia; a man who works tirelessly for the benefit of many species and for that ALERT applauds the work that he does.

And so to the points raised in this post.

1. The operation at Antelope Park and the one in Victoria Falls based at Masuwe under the name Lion Encounter are the same project, run by the same people with the same aims and hopes for the future of the African lion. When the operation also opens up in Zambia, again, it is the same operation. There are a number of lion walks, as well as cheetah, rhino, elephant and other species all around Africa that have no conservation objectives, and this is very dissapointing.

2. In order to commence stages one two and three of the lion release program in Zambia, which is our intention, and with full co-operation from the Zambian government, we have followed every step as given to us by the relevant authorities in that country and have been through several routine investigations to ensure that no corruption was involved in obtaining any necessary permits. If anyone has issues with the legal framework prescribed by the Zambian authorities I believe it is a matter that should be taken up with them.

3. I am not quite sure what is implied in the fourth paragraph. It seems to suggest that our program may be the cause of the near extinction of wild lions. At the IUCN led lion strategy meetings held in Cameroon and South Africa in 2005 and 2006 over 100 problems facing the African lion were noted, the greatest of those being habitat destruction. The IUCN states “a species population reduction of 30 - 50% is suspected over the past two decades (three lion generations). The causes of this reduction are not well understood, are unlikely to have ceased and may not be reversible”.

Myers (1975) wrote, "Since 1950, their numbers may well have been cut in half, perhaps to as low as 200,000 in all or even less". Later, Myers (1984) wrote, "In light of evidence from all the main countries of its range, the lion has been undergoing decline in both range and numbers, often an accelerating decline, during the past two decades". In the early 1990s, IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group members made educated "guesstimates" of 30,000 to 100,000 for the African lion population (Nowell and Jackson 1996).

“Two surveys have provided the first current estimates of the African lion population, with some ground-truthing. The African Lion Working Group, a network of lion specialists affiliated with the IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, conducted a mail survey and compiled estimates of 100 known African lion populations. Not included were lion populations of known existence but unknown or un-estimated size. The ALWG African lion population estimate is 23,000, with a range of 16,500 - 30,000.

The second survey was carried out by Philippe Chardonnet and sponsored by the International Foundation for the Conservation of Wildlife and Conservation Force. He also compiled estimates for 144 individual African lion populations, grouped into 36 largely isolated subpopulations. His methodology included extrapolation of estimates of known populations into areas where lion status was unknown, and his total figure is larger: 39,000 lions in Africa, with a range of 29,000 - 47,000” (IUCN Red List)

Now different people ascribe to the different studies, but if we take Myers 1975 figure of 200,000 lions then we are looking at an 80 – 90% population drop in 30 years (the difference in % based on which estimate – ALWG or Chardonnet that you take).

“There is probably no other species whose distribution range has shrunk over historical times to the extent shown by the lion” (Smithers, 1983)

Over the last few decades millions has been spent on habitat conservation, and ALERT supports every effort towards that aim, however the statistics show clearly that these programs have failed the lion, and indeed many other species. It is ALERT’s belief that an answer must be found to improve the effectiveness and sustainability of habitat conservation methods and you can read more about how we believe that can happen with community involvement on our web site, www.lionalert.org, or in our blog on this site. However, we do not believe that the wild lion population can wait for all of us to get habitat conservation right. The species is being exterminated and we believe we should act now if we are to ensure that the lion is a presence at sustainable levels in Africa’s eco-systems in 20 years time. Already, the lion that there are present are spread thinly and only a handful of the populations are in numbers that can ensure long term natural sustainability.

It is not our intention to open up hundreds of release sites all over Africa. There is no need. What we want to do is to come up with a solution, and by no means do we claim that our solution is the only one, nor can it work in isolation, but a solution that can, when it becomes necessary, help to at least reverse the horrifying trend in lion populations. We do not adhere to any notion that Africa should be segmented off into small private reserves – this is not in the interest of the wildlife species of Africa who need large spaces and natural gene flow, however given funding available to governments for wildlife across the continent, we do acknowledge the work of these private reserves in finding a way, through tourism, to protect their wildlife.

And so to the statement…

1. At the time this statement was written we had yet to make our first release and therefore it is appreciated that the conservation value of the program had not been demonstrated. I do not believe however that because something hasn’t been proven yet that that can be used as a justification not to try. In August of 2007 we made our first release into stage two. The pride killed an eland on day 4 and have gone on to make other kills including warthog, impala, and most recently an adult giraffe. This is a remarkable achievement for the lions that were once captive. On our blog page on this site you can read more about successful hunts that our lions have made, from rabbits to buffalo. What we have shown is that under the right conditions the lions can hunt and become self-sustaining. From our first release we have seen that we have more to learn about the sociability within release prides, but with consultation with experts we are working hard to resolve these issues.

2. The statement does miss the point regarding a corner stone of our release protocols when it states that the lions will have no human avoidance behaviours as a result of human imprinting. This is the issue that previous release programs had – released captive bred lions are more likely to have issues integrating with wild lions, they are more likely to end up in someone’s village and kill livestock, or worse, people. That is why this type of release is not part of the ALERT lion release program and never has been. The captive bred lions are released ultimately into stage three of the program, a large, managed, wild environment with a variety of species, including competitive ones, completely free of humans, but fenced so that they cannot interact with humans. Within that area the pride will give birth to cubs. These cubs will grow up in a wild environment, raised naturally by their pride and will have no contact whatsoever with humans, and will therefore have natural avoidance behaviours. It is these wild-borne cubs that can be released into stage four, which is a release into National Parks or reserves that need them. I think it should also be noted that the statement discusses the high chances of wild lions killing livestock and goats. Wild lions with no experience of humans are becoming a problem as their habitat shrinks and they are forced into community areas to find sufficient prey. So it must be understood the issues related to the release of captive bred lions are already present in wild ones, but I repeat, this does not form part of our release protocols.

3. ALERT has stated many times that the control of breeding in all stages of the program is possible in response to fluctuations in demand for lions in stage four, and we have also stated that we will shut down any stage if necessary to ensure that over-production is not a feature of the program. In years to come when we have several stage three locations producing sufficient cubs, we can shut down stages one and two completely, but we will have proved a method which can be restarted should it become necessary to do so. ALERT is 100% against canned hunting and will support any move to ban this vile industry.

4. Genetic issues are complex. ALERT works with Jean Dubach of the Chicago Zoological Society and co-author of the research paper “Molecular genetic variation across the southern and eastern geographic ranges of the African lion, Panthera leo”. With her assistance ALERT has published the following statement:

“Lions are most commonly described using 7 or 8 subspecies classifications, although 24 have been suggested, however these descriptions have been based not on substantial genetic diversity but on external morphological differences of lions in different geographical regions, such as body size, coat thickness & colour, retention of juvenile spots, mane size, density and colouration.

Recent studies have shown that external factors influence morphological differences such as nutrition and physiological stress. For example, West and Packer (2002) scientifically demonstrated a strong positive correlation between mane size and cooler temperatures. A lion translocated to a European zoo for example would have a larger mane than a lion from its warmer home region.

In the 1980s advancements in molecular phylogenetics proposed that modern lions share a common ancestor in the recent past, estimated at between 55,000 and 200,000 years ago. A question arose therefore about the status of lion subspecies. Genetic studies have shown that European cave lions differed far more from modern populations in East and South Africa than those modern populations do from one another (5% sequence divergence vs. ca. 1%). Since the late 1980s the main trend has been towards sorting all previous lion subspecies into two, African and Asiatic.

Two studies of extracted mitochondrial DNA by Dubach et al (2005) and Barnett et al (2006) have produced genetic distinctions between lions of different geographical regions. The former study, concentrating on samples from more southern regions of the lions range shows 6 haplotypes within two distinct clades of lions; those in south western Africa and those to the east, extending from eastern Kenya south to KwaZulu-Natal. The eastern lions can be further subdivided along each side of the Great African Rift Valley that stretches into South Africa. A similar east-southwest dichotomy among genetic haplotypes was observed in seven African bovid.

The latter study produced similar results, but with DNA samples from a wider geographical range identified 11 haplotypes (including Asia and West Africa, areas not included in the former study). The results are consistent with previously determined phylogeographic patterns in Eastern–Southern African lions in which two major clades were identified.

These recent findings have implications for lion conservation. As lion populations are increasingly confined to reserves that are closed to gene flow, management of these populations must balance the need to maintain stable densities at or below the carrying capacity of the reserve and, at the same time, minimize loss of genetic variability through drift or inbreeding. Ideally, translocations to increase genetic diversity would mimic natural gene flow by moving only individuals from the nearest areas with similar haplotypes.

ALERT is committed to research for a better understanding of genetic diversity in lions and maintaining such diversity within wild populations. As such, we have provided lion DNA to extend the research of Dr. Jean Dubach at the Chicago Zoological Society and will continue to provide support to this valuable project as and when we are able”

I hope that I have adequately commented on all the issues raised in this last post, but I am happy to provide further clarification on this or indeed any other issue.
With kind regards
David

#6 Jochen

Jochen

    Order of the Pith

  • Members
  • 2,632 posts
  • Local time: 07:35 PM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Belgium
  • Category 1:Wildlife Photographer/Artist
  • Category 2:Travel Agent

Posted 18 December 2007 - 01:01 PM

(quentin, you replied twice to Davids message but I see no added text?)


I'd like to share my own opinion on this.

Personally, I think there's only one reason for the lion population being in decline (from 200000 to whatever number), and that is; there's less space for them.

So getting the numbers up should (or could) be fairly easy as well; give them more space. The more space there is for lions (and their prey, of course), the more family groups there will be, eventually.

Hence, all breeding programs "to get the numbers up" seem rather futile to me. Where are you going to put them? Enclosed areas where there are none now? Then why not relocate an existing family from elsewhere? ("Elsewhere" being a place where the family will not be missed and/or it's space will be easily filled up by other families). This certainly seems less effort, and less costly than 1) breeding them, 2) taming them (sorta), 3) "untaming" them (or whatever you want to call it), 4) moving them though a number of stages/areas to make sure they can be released succesfully and 5) finally releasing them. The whole process is inhumane, erm in-lion-mane, so to speak.

So David, that half-a-book you wrote to defend the project, well... it's just pep talk to me. Marketing dribble, and I see right through it. The decline in the lion population simply is NOT a reason for the existence of the "Walking with lions" project. Sorry.

---

On a side note; I read a reply on fodors that said not to burn this project at the stakes as "it helps locals". Well, I'd like to share yet another personal opinion there.

Is "to help the locals" really another valid reason for this type of project to exist? Over the years, I've also become very sceptic on that as well. What locals actually? The big boss running the business? His family? Or really the 20 people "that have been living there since ages" and that that boss has chosen to help? Or the 100 children they produced for their "next generation"? Or the 1000 so-called-locals that flocked in from elsewhere to get some of the tourist dollars? Or their 5000 children? Etc...
Forgive me for putting it so bluntly, but that is actually what is happening; helping local people more than often means in the end, taking more living space away for other species. Including lion.
Quite a while ago, I started looking at this from a "macro perspective" rather than a "micro perspective". To put it otherwise; it seems highly unlogical (if not mathematically impossible) to help a species that is suffocating other species, in order to save yet another species from getting extinct.
Now I know I probably will get some reaction here like "what if that poor person was you?" or "it's not about just any other person in Africa but it's about people in Zimbabwe, who fare even worse than the other", etc... Well, please be assured: I understand your "micro perspective viewpoint", but it's just that I'd like to see a world where all species thrive equally well, instead of just one species like now. That means I got to turn my heart to stone sometimes, and it's not a fun thing to do, but I see no other option.


Ciao,

J.

#7 QuentinJones

QuentinJones

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 67 posts
  • Local time: 06:35 PM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:London, UK
  • Category 1:Environmentalist
  • Category 2:---

Posted 18 December 2007 - 01:52 PM

Hiya, thanks David and Joachin for your replies. (yep, I can't work a computer before the coffee kicks in - scientific proof!)

J - agreed, the big causes of the decline in lion populations, from a historic 200,000 to the present day estimates of less than 20,000, are conflict with man and habitat reduction. These are, as you say, not helped by a reintroduction programme. And wild lion populations have been shown to recover quickly if left un-persecuted and with suitable habitat/prey species. So again, no need for a re-introduction programme. I'll dig out references for all these statements when I have a chance - but it is the generally agreed scientifc consensus.

Here's another quote for the discussion...

PROPOSED “WALKING WITH LIONS” PROJECT IN ZAMBIA

“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.”

SJ van de Merwe, Chairman of the African Lion Working Group (letter to Dr Paula White, Director Zambia Lion Project, 12 Nov 2006 http://lionscam.blog...group-say.html).

This statement is saying the only conservation value in the project is in the experience of the tourists who walk with the lions, and volunteers who work with them – there is no support for the re-introduction programme, and essentially, the operation is no different from any other commercial lion walking operation. Why then have they been able to market this product in a conservation name and establish charity status?

Yes we are all sorry for the situation in Zimbabwe and yes, this project creates jobs. It also brings much needed forex, not only for the commercial opperators, but also the Government - but did you know that they effectively take 50% of forex raised by tourist operators? I think I am right in saying businesses are forced to exchange forex income at official bank rates, whilst on the street the blackmarket (effectively the only real measure of the Zim dollar as the bank rates are heavily controlled) is many times higher.

I'll reply directly to David in due course, but meanwhile for people who are interested in see David's answers to many questions regarding the project, which, poor fella, he has to answer all the time, see these forums:-

http://lionscam.blogspot.com/

http://www.tripadvis...oria_Falls.html

And ALERT's own group on Facebook (you will have to register as a user to find group) -

http://www.facebook....?gid=6358705943


One last thing - I personally communicated with Dr Craig Packer and Dr Paula White to comfirm their support for this statement, which originated on Ian Mannings blogsite LIONSCAM (see above). I am still awaiting a reply from Dr Luke Hunter, but I feel fairly confident he is in full support of its text.

Q

#8 Thembi

Thembi

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 694 posts
  • Local time: 09:35 AM
  • Gender:Not Telling
  • Category 1:Conservationist/Naturalist
  • Category 2:Tourist (regular visitor)

Posted 18 December 2007 - 09:33 PM

Greetings all - this is a very interesting discussion, and one I am personally interested in regards the wellbeing of the lioness. Ian - I see that you have posted a text quote in its entirety from Quentin's earlier post - did you intend to include a reply? I think it got lost in the posting...(bloody technology!) PS: A If you use the ADD REPLY button at the bottom of the forum, rather than just the REPLY button at the bottom of the individual posting the QUOTE is not embedded - that is - you start with a clean slate.

__________________________()_________________________



David, you state in your blog dated 9th December (paraphrased)

At present we have a total of 19 breeding lions... and...The cubs are taken away from their mothers at three weeks old.


In the wild if there is a pride takeover, often the cubs are killed deliberately by the new pride male and then the female comes into eostrus again so the new male can mate and produce his own offspring. I see that you do not breed more often than a 'normal' wild cycle ie. 530 days.

I have a number of questions to try to determine the quality of life of your captive breeding lioness.

1. What king of effects are expreienced by the lioness when the cubs are removed? What kind of medical intervention is required (if any) to ensure that her milk dries up?

2. Do the females experience 'loss' and does their behaviour change?

3. How soon following the removal of her cubs do the lioness 'recover' from those affects?

4. If the females are "at loss" with their cubs what kind of steps does ALERT take to enrich their lives and move them forward to be fit and happy for the next pregnancy?

5. If the Lion Encounter is a commercial enterprise how does ALERT ethically manage the checks and balances to ensure that this enterprise is not exploitative of the animals it breeds and raises for the purpose?

Regards
JUDE

#9 David Youldon

David Youldon

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 154 posts
  • Local time: 07:35 PM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Livingstone, Zambia
  • Category 1:Conservationist/Naturalist
  • Category 2:---

Posted 18 December 2007 - 10:02 PM

Hi Jude. Thanks for your questions. In stage one the cubs born in our breeding centre are taken from their mother at 3 weeks old. We have observed over the years that cubs are very quick to see a handler assigned to raise them as the dominant member of the pride and start suckling and playing with the handler in a completely relaxed way within a couple of hours. Unusually some cubs in a litter have taken up to 18 hours to bond, but this is usually more to do with the fact that those individuals have taken longer to accept an artificial teat to suckle from rather than non-acceptance of the handler as a surrogate mother. In order to take the cubs away the female is taken to an adjacent enclosure with her usual social group. These lion mothers are never overly stressed by this practice and we observe their behaviour returning to completely normal in their usual social groups within 12 - 24 hours. No medical intervention is required as the mother’s milk dries up after only a few days.

Removing cubs from their mother does cause the mother to re-enter her oestrus cycle, which is a natural phenomenon in the wild when males take over a pride and kill all the offspring present. This allows them to start producing their own cubs as soon as possible, therefore passing on their own genes. However, we do not take advantage of this natural event in order to produce higher numbers of cubs. Females within our breeding centres are not bred more than once a year, and as much as possible we allow them to maintain a natural cubbing interval of 530 days.

The breeding lions are kept in social groups in large enclosures. Males stop playing when they are about 3 years old, but females often continue to play well into adulthood. Most of this is done with the others in their social group, however, we do provide natural toys that the lions can interact with if they so choose.

Removing the cubs at this young age allows us to train the lions only to the point that they are safe for us to take out on walks from 6 weeks to 18 months old, after which time their human contact is dramatically reduced. This gives the lions the opportunity to experience their natural environment. The cubs are allowed to practice hunting and as they grow older we have found that our lions have a high hunting success rate with some becoming fully self-sustainable by the age of 20 months old.

Although we are not a zoo, our program is registered with PAAZAB to provide an ethical standard to work to. In addition, we invited a number of people to review our husbandry techniques. As a result of those inspections the following letter was written from Dr RD Taylor, Conservation Programme Director for the WWF Southern African Regional Programme Office (SARPO):

"This letter serves to confirm that WWF SARPO facilitated a feasibility assessment of guided walks with lions, as undertaken by Antelope Park in Zimbabwe, and owned by Mr A Conolly, with a view to possibly extending such walks elsewhere in the region.

The assessment was undertaken jointly by a team comprising an independent consultant biologist [Vernon Booth] and 2 members of the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority. The team reported favourably on this rather unique and specialized activity and their assessment was generally supportive of "Walk with Lions".

The following points from their report highlight their findings:

1. More than 10,000 walks have been conducted over the past 17 years on Antelope Park with no incidents and have proven highly popular and successful with local and international visitors.

2. Only cubs aged between 4 - 18 months are walked, and with trained lion handlers, further increasing the safety aspect.

3. The housing and care of the lions was assessed by the Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and found to be excellent.

4. The ZNSPCA further concluded that the lion breeding program was highly ethical and extremely well managed.

5. Wider consultations with interested stakeholders, i.e. tour operators, hoteliers, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority and Publicity Bureaus generated approval and support of walks with lions as conducted by Antelope Park.

In conclusion, and as a result of this study WWF SARPO has no objections to operations of this nature, provided the principles and practices as developed and implemented by Antelope Park, are adhered to."

In addition to the above we were investigated by the Born Free who also wanted to confirm that our porgram was valid and upheld high standards of animal welfare. They too were happy with the responses given to them regarding the practies we use.

What happens to the breeding lions when they get too old? It is our intention to release those lions no longer used for breeding into a managed wild environment. They will have game to hunt, however, as these lions have been in captivity their whole life and have never needed to hunt for themselves, we recognize that we may need to supplement feed them.

The issues discussed here are highly evocative. My intention is to provide the facts about what we do, and then leave it to the readers to make their own decisions about whether the methods we employ are ethical.

Please let me know if there are any parts of your questions you would like me to provide clarification to.
David

#10 QuentinJones

QuentinJones

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 67 posts
  • Local time: 06:35 PM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:London, UK
  • Category 1:Environmentalist
  • Category 2:---

Posted 18 December 2007 - 10:14 PM

Hiya, thanks Jude and David for your further comments on this topic.

To reply in full to David's earlier post, the first set of points which he raises are replies to earlier discussions we have held in Facebook - I reply to them here as well.

Yes, there are reintroduction programs across Africa for cheetah and black rhino, the point being these species are listed endangered by the IUCN and these are recognised breeding programmes supported by the IUCN and acting in consensus with the established scientific experts in these species.

I cannot comment on buffalo, vervet monkey or elephant breeding or re-introduction programmes, of which I know little – if you want to provide me with details of organisations undertaking this work I shall investigate them also.

To David’s position that the statement by leading lion researchers ‘is not written by the three lion experts mentioned’, I personally communicated with Dr Craig Packer and Dr Paula White before posting this statement anywhere. It may well have been based on text written by Ian Manning, I do not know, but this is often common practice and how jointly signed letters are issued. Even if so, they are the ones that have put their names to it – it is their statement.

In response to the first set of points raised

1. Yes, there are many animal interaction experiences in Africa which have no conservation objectives, and it is disappointing. However they do not all advertise and market their projects as conservation causes, and accept paying conservation volunteers, as you do. Any that do this without valid conservation merit in their projects are, I believe, being deceptive and falsely marketing their projects.

2. The situation regarding your proposed expansion into Zambia are complex and I am not in a position to comment on them – I have asked Ian Manning, of the LIONSCAM blog site, to comment on this, and I shall post his reply when I have it.

3. I have not attempted to imply that your project may be “the cause of the near extinction of wild lions”! I am sure your project is completely without influence in the current or future status of African lion populations.

My specific question put to you was in reference to the stated export of “some 37 lions… sold, in two groups, one in 1999 and the majority in 2002 to a captive centre in South Africa” (http://lionscam.blogspot.com/ - and which I have also read you stating in another source, quoting 35 lions). I put it to you again :

“Perhaps this would be a good chace for you to confirm which year the last lion exports from Antelope Park to South Africa were made and when it was decided to “cease any further exports to South Africa until such time that those systems are improved”, as I think it would be benefitical for you to clarify this.”

Thanks for the information and references, which will be useful. In regard to your response to the statement by Dr C Packer et al, I have passed your comments on to them and will let you know of their repsonse as soon as I get one.

I'd just like to note that the WWF-SARPO letter by Dr R Taylor which David quotes above, is I believe also an old document, dated 10 January 2005 - and relates therefore only to the period when Antelope Park was operating lion walks from its base in Gweru. It does not therefore refer to the ALERT Lion Encounter projects developed in the Falls and now expanding into Zambia.

Q

#11 Guest_nyama_*

Guest_nyama_*
  • Guests

Posted 19 December 2007 - 04:56 AM

Is "to help the locals" really another valid reason for this type of project to exist? Over the years, I've also become very sceptic on that as well. What locals actually? The big boss running the business? His family? Or really the 20 people "that have been living there since ages" and that that boss has chosen to help? Or the 100 children they produced for their "next generation"? Or the 1000 so-called-locals that flocked in from elsewhere to get some of the tourist dollars? Or their 5000 children? Etc... Forgive me for putting it so bluntly, but that is actually what is happening; helping local people more than often means in the end, taking more living space away for other species. Including lion. Quite a while ago, I started looking at this from a "macro perspective" rather than a "micro perspective". To put it otherwise; it seems highly unlogical (if not mathematically impossible) to help a species that is suffocating other species, in order to save yet another species from getting extinct.
Now I know I probably will get some reaction here like "what if that poor person was you?" or "it's not about just any other person in Africa but it's about people in Zimbabwe, who fare even worse than the other", etc... Well, please be assured: I understand your "micro perspective viewpoint", but it's just that I'd like to see a world where all species thrive equally well, instead of just one species like now. That means I got to turn my heart to stone sometimes, and it's not a fun thing to do, but I see no other option.

Are we talking about ethics in this thread? What ethics?!?

#12 QuentinJones

QuentinJones

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 67 posts
  • Local time: 06:35 PM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:London, UK
  • Category 1:Environmentalist
  • Category 2:---

Posted 19 December 2007 - 01:26 PM

Hiya, thanks again to everyone for their posts and views.

We should, of course, consider human as well as animal ethics in this debate.

Creating jobs is an important aim for any eco-tourism or related project. Creating education, training and employment opportunities for local people is all part of recognising the value of their wildlife resources, which hopefully encourages its long-term protection.

Conservationists are often accused of standing in the way of employment creation. No-one wants to deny another person a chance of a good living especially in Zimbabwe or Zambia. However if something is wrong either legally or morally, it is not justified the job creation argument. In fact by allowing something that is wrong to grow it may jeopardise future tourism growth and job creation.

For example the planned expansion of this Project into Zambia has come under strong criticism from local conservationists, for various reasons (see link to LIONSCAM http://lionscam.blogspot.com/). This has led to lobbying against the conservationists for standing in the way of job development. However, if this development goes ahead, and public opinion turns against lion walking, or there is negative publicity in relation to any aspect of its development, this could seriously impact on Zambia’s image as an ethical and environmental tourist destination.

The Mosi-oa-Tunya - Victoria Falls UNESCO World Heritage Site status is currently under threat due to the poor management of the area in Zambia and Zimbabwe (see Wikipedia and http://whc.unesco.or...509/documents/). What if this issue became the turning point and the area became de-listed – this would surely have a hugely negative impact on tourism to the region, with the corresponding loss of jobs.

And I'm sure we all feel special compassion to everyone trying to make a living in Zimbabwe at the moment. Things surely can’t get any worse for the majority of the population, and perhaps it could be argued that a short-term drop in tourist forex revenue in would help expedite change. Who knows - it is a very difficult and complex issue…

Q

#13 Jochen

Jochen

    Order of the Pith

  • Members
  • 2,632 posts
  • Local time: 07:35 PM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Belgium
  • Category 1:Wildlife Photographer/Artist
  • Category 2:Travel Agent

Posted 19 December 2007 - 02:48 PM

Are we talking about ethics in this thread? What ethics?!?


That part of my reply was directed to another person who replied in the similar thread on Fodors.

It's actually more or less a standard reply for anyone who turns this sort of debates towards the human/jobs issue. An initiative like "walking with lions" cannot be justification because it "creates jobs" or "helps poor people".

#14 Guest_nyama_*

Guest_nyama_*
  • Guests

Posted 19 December 2007 - 04:44 PM

It's actually more or less a standard reply for anyone who turns this sort of debates towards the human/jobs issue. An initiative like "walking with lions" cannot be justification because it "creates jobs" or "helps poor people".

Sounds like never-never land to me. You shouldn't generalise but look at each single case. What is true for Zambia might not be true for Zim in the current situation. If we follow your logic and ban every 'unethical' operation in Zim there would be certainly not much wildlife left on Zim's private game ranches and conservancies.

#15 QuentinJones

QuentinJones

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 67 posts
  • Local time: 06:35 PM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:London, UK
  • Category 1:Environmentalist
  • Category 2:---

Posted 19 December 2007 - 08:34 PM

I agree each case is different, but what you are calling 'generalisations' we are calling false marketing. The operators of this project are claiming conservation merit in their programme. We are saying that the statment from our leading lion experts shows there is very little, and therefore the claim we are making is that the project is falsely promoting its activities. People donate money, and chose to pay to volunteer on conservation projects because they believe they are making a difference for conservation. If this is not the case, then they are being decieved. The belief that this is wrong is not difficult to make, and it is not made right by any economic benefits the project may have, the location of the project or the economic status of that country.

David has responded to the statement in detail, and we await a response from the co-signatories of the statement which will hopefuly clarify some of the details. Until we can re-evaluate the conservation merit of the project, we can spend our time side-tracked in debates about the ethics involved in the many issues surrounding this, such as trophy hunting, canned hunting, use of animals in captivity, in the wild, in tourism or in eco-tourism and or anything else, but lets all agree on one thing - it is wrong to decieve people, especially out of their money, whether you live in never-never land or anywhere else!

Q

#16 QuentinJones

QuentinJones

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 67 posts
  • Local time: 06:35 PM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:London, UK
  • Category 1:Environmentalist
  • Category 2:---

Posted 19 December 2007 - 10:07 PM

I also think people are being miss-represented here. The following text quoting David Youldon (ALERT Chief Operating Officer) is from LIONSCAM (http://lionscam.blog...ir-side-of.html). It quotes:-

“We have received a lot of support for the aims of the project as well letters of approval for the “highly ethical and extremely well managed” methods employed in the raising & rehabilitation of lions from notable individuals and organizations including: Dr R D Taylor, Director of WWF’s Southern Africa region, the Zambian wildlife authority, the Zimbabwean National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority, Mr V Booth, independent ecologist, Dr Pieter Kat, consultant ecologist, Mr Norman Monks, Senior Warden for Zimbabwean Parks & Wildlife and Sarel van der Merwe, Chairman African Lion Working Group (IUCN / SSC). In addition, our program is registered with PAAZAB and last year we were invited to apply for IUCN membership.

Dr Pieter Kat – “...we can begin programs of lion reintroduction in a wide variety of depopulated areas. Such programs 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 Andrew and Wendy Conolly. 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.”

Dr Sarel van der Merve – “Generally speaking, the feeling amongst scientists are 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”

Vernon Booth – “I have done some research regarding the re-introduction of lions in RSA and was pleasantly surprised to see that this was feasible and had been done successfully”

Norman Monks – “I am...exited about rehabilitation of lions back into the wild and I know that this can happen”

[end of quote].

I think that to quote, for example Dr Sarel van der Merve in support of the project, when his letter of 12 November 2006 (http://lionscam.blog...-group-say.html) states otherwise, can only be the result a miss-representation somewhere – and we can see one letter, so the conclusion is not difficult.

When I contacted Norman Monks, he had no idea his name had been used in association with supporting the project.

If there are other letters of support from these individuals then I would like to see them, or their quotes represented in their original full contexts…

David can you clarify?

Q

#17 Ross

Ross

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 707 posts
  • Local time: 03:35 AM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Melbourne/Australia
  • Category 1:Conservationist/Naturalist
  • Category 2:Aid/Voluntary Worker

Posted 20 December 2007 - 03:35 AM

These lion mothers are never overly stressed by this practice and we observe their behaviour returning to completely normal in their usual social groups within 12 - 24 hours. No medical intervention is required as the mother’s milk dries up after only a few days.


David, I find it dificult to believe that a mother does not find it stressful when her young are taken away.
Mothers do find it very stressful whether it's lions, elephants or humans. A lioness would fight to protect her young and that is why you move her to another enclosure.
In the wild, she would fight males wanting to kill her babies and when males do kill young, the mothers can spend up to a week calling and looking for their young.
I also find it dificult to believe that a molther would return to normal after only 12-24 hours. The only way a mother would return to normal is when she has experienced the actual death and especially after she has actually smelled the bodies of her young. After sniffing them she abandons the bodies(sometimes she would attempt to eat them) and then returns to her family.
Mothers are also known to abandon young when they are sick or injured.

Females within our breeding centres are not bred more than once a year, and as much as possible we allow them to maintain a natural cubbing interval of 530 days.


Now if you only breed females once a year and sometimes only once in a 530 day period, then I do not understand why take them away at all.
I mean, why not keep lions that are used to humans, use their young for walking then put them back with their family???
Allowing the cubs to grow within a family environment would give them a better chance at growing up normally and when they are around 1.5-2 years of age, remove them for this is the age they would normally be living the family unit.

Ross
If the planet Earth ceases to be so will the human race, if the human race ceases to be, the planet will keep on living.
We owe it, big time!!
"www.raskimon.com"

#18 Jochen

Jochen

    Order of the Pith

  • Members
  • 2,632 posts
  • Local time: 07:35 PM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Belgium
  • Category 1:Wildlife Photographer/Artist
  • Category 2:Travel Agent

Posted 20 December 2007 - 12:18 PM

Sounds like never-never land to me. You shouldn't generalise but look at each single case. What is true for Zambia might not be true for Zim in the current situation. If we follow your logic and ban every 'unethical' operation in Zim there would be certainly not much wildlife left on Zim's private game ranches and conservancies.


I know as good as you that it probably will never be that way. But that does not mean that I need to change my opinion.

I am not "generalizing". I am saying;

1) a crooked wildlife project should not get more "right of existance" because it "helps locals".

2) in the long run, the only way to save and preserve species is to give them enough (and more) living space. This cannot be achieved if the world population keeps on growing. It's simple math. But that simple math also means that achieving a balance between a wildlife project and "locals" is impossible in the long run, if there are ever more "locals" being added to the equation. But as said, that 2nd point was made to another comment made on Fodors, and it is not made especially for this discussion.

To elaborate a little further...

When stating my views, I often get the reply "then what do you suggest?" My response to that is mainly; I can say something is wrong, without having to provide a bullet-proof solution to the problem.

However, I <do> have an idea to what would be a step in the right direction.

You all know we now have a CO˛ trade, right? Well... not all countries take their responsabilities yet, but...

OK. And you all know biodiversity and green areas are as important parameters as emission levels right?

Well... then why not set up a trade in these things as well? Countries doing more efforts in keeping green areas and/or supporting more species will be funded by countries who do not live up to expectations (so to speak).

Of course, human population (or excess in) should also be brought into the equation/trade.

See where I'm going? Am I going to never-never land?

#19 QuentinJones

QuentinJones

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 67 posts
  • Local time: 06:35 PM
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:London, UK
  • Category 1:Environmentalist
  • Category 2:---

Posted 21 December 2007 - 12:47 PM

Just want to refer people to my post under the Zoo topic as the issues raised there relate directly to some of the issues surrounding this topic...

Q

#20 Thembi

Thembi

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 694 posts
  • Local time: 09:35 AM
  • Gender:Not Telling
  • Category 1:Conservationist/Naturalist
  • Category 2:Tourist (regular visitor)

Posted 21 December 2007 - 01:12 PM

Yes Quentin I reckon the fence matter is one that needs to be discussed too. There is a particulary poignant example of the effect of fencing on wildlife in Mark and Delia Owen's book Cry of the Kalahari that I reviewd a while back.

Excerpt “The wildebeest stood on a low sand ridge, their manes and beards and stringy tails flowing in the dry wind. It may have been instinct, or a behaviour passed down for generations, but something told them to trek northward, to the only place they could get water to survive the drought...
Suddenly, the wildebeest stopped short. Confronted by something many of them had never seen before, they bunched together and milled about nervously. Stretched across their path were strands of high-tensile steel wire – the Kuki foot and mouth disease control fence, extending for more than 100 miles across the northern border of the Central Kalahari Reserve. At is east and west it joins other segments of fence that hem in the desert with more than 500 miles of wire.”




The review can be viewed here:

Safaritalk Reviews - Book: Cry of the Kalahari, Mark and Delia Owens


________________________()_________________________


Trans-frontier parks or corridors are, to my mind, the most important recent development in the continental African conservation movement. A round up of trans-frontier news (on Safaritalk so far) can be viewed here:

Search: Safaritalk.net - trans-frontier


________________________()_________________________


There is much more to this story and I will research over the coming days...stay tuned!





© 2006 - 2016 www.safaritalk.net - Talking Safaris and African Wildlife Conservation since 2006. Passionate about Africa.

Welcome guest to Safaritalk.
Please Register or Login to use the full facilities.