QuentinJones

Walking with Lions - Con-Conservation?

197 posts in this topic

I've just discovered that Travellers Worldwide, a web-based paying volunteer placement agency, have dropped their support for a Lion breeding and re-introduction project in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, for ethical and humane reasons -

 

http://www.travellersworldwide.com/08b-sou...a-lion-park.htm

 

The details of the project are still available on their site and a detailed explanation for the dropping the project can be obtained by contacting Travellers via the website. The project appears to be very similar to the ALERT Lion Encounter programme, with aspirations for a re-introduction programme as a justification for a breeding and walking operation.

 

A quick internet search on lion volunteer projects shows that there are many projects in South Africa which use lions as a drawcard for volunteer programmes. Many of these projects breed white lions or exotic species, which must surely highlight the lack of conservation merit in their programmes, but still these projects appear to be very popular, despite the price tag!

 

I am trying to find out more information about the operator of the Port Elizabeth project, and what will happen to all the lions...

 

QJ

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This is a very interesting topic. I am working on a short video about the current lion situation and any recent numbers or facts on their situation will be greatly appreciated. I interviewed a few kenyans about the topic and was curious why they tend to not like south Africa's policies towards wildlife (inc lion) but do admit that unless more land can be turned into conservancis that they will to have to fence in the predators in the future as well.

 

Here in the US we have people that travel around with lion cubs and charge people a fee to take a picture with them. Often telling the paying the public that the money goes for "conservation." Many believe it..and we all know the money goes to help the struggling facility dragging around the new born cubs pulled from their mothers back home in some small chain link fence cage.

 

But lets assume some of the money did go for conservation efforts.. does it make it ok??? do we have the time to worry about it?

I know the situation in the US for the lion cub/ lion walking sort of activites are not the same as listed in Africa, but both have some ethics about them.

People are allowed to play or walk with the lions for money and i would think the key to a lions survival is its healthy fear of man in this overpopulated world..or am i wrong.

 

I think that to save wildlife we must not always play to the publics needs for playing with it..meaning the overbreeding of cats to make cubs for the paying public. Respecting that wildlife like the lion is going to need a lot of land to stay around for as long as possible is important. And how we get the money to pay for the land should be done in a manner that does not fool the people into thinking they are doing something good, when they are supporting something that turns wildlife not so "fun" once it is older, or misleads people about the fact that more of a predator isn't always the answer.

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I am familiar with the park in question (Port Elizabeth). I have been there a number of times, and found it to be well run and obviously well funded. I can tell you that the people there honestly believe that they are doing the right thing. I will go back again when I am in the area.

 

But yes, why breed captive lions? There is a clear difference between a captive lion and one born in the wild; So much difference that they should be classified differently. Wild lions are endangered, captive lions are not. Can you rehabilitate a captive lion?

 

They maintained that they were breeding the endangered white lions. But white lions are just genetic anomalies. Are they freaks? Is interbreeding of close family members a problem? There was another white lion born in the wild (timbavati) the other day. This does bring to question what were they breeding lions for? Feeding 90 lions is not easy, they eat a bit more than your average tabby cat. I would hate to think what would happen should their sponsor withdraw.

 

It may also be unfair to target only South Africa in this case. There are still people breeding lions outside of South Africa and outside of Africa, who controls them?

 

By far the majority of tourists and the public are extremely ignorant.

 

I can’t wait to see the video, it’s an extremely complex subject.

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Hiya, I have done much background research into this and yes, it is extremely difficult to know if a project is legitimate in its aims or not... there are so many 'voluntourism' agents offerring lion projects in SA, many without even naming the Park involved, so it is very difficult for volunteers to know the status of a project before committing their support (and money!).

 

I posted the link regarding the Travellers worldwide project as to me it looked like the SA breeder was proposing a reintroduction programme very similar to the ALERT one in Zimbabwe. And yes, white lions have no conservation value in this regard.

 

For those of you who havent seen it, there was a recent attack on a UK tourist at a 'walking with lions' operator in Zimbabwe - see

 

Daily Telegraph - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml...01/nlion101.xml

Daily Mail - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/arti...in_page_id=1770

 

I am trying to confirm if this indeed happened at the ALERT Lion Encounter project (either in Gweru or Victoria Falls). The newspaper reports refer to the project breeding lions for reintroductions - and only ALERT claim this. The only other operator I know of in Zimbabwe, Shearwater, walk lions that are rented from the Lion and Cheetah Park (Harare), and which are not part of any claimed conservation re-introduction scheme.

 

The report also claims that the operator stated that this was the first inicident of its kind. I know of several incidents involving both Antelope Park and the Harare Lion and Cheetah park (although many appear to go unreported) - see

 

http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200508/s1442606.htm

http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/04/29/1909260.htm

http://www.news24.com/News24/Africa/Zimbab...2107918,00.html

 

Regards

Q

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African lion encounters: a bloody con

Chris Haslam

From The Sunday Times

February 10, 2008

 

Chris Haslam reveals the gruesome truth behind big-cat conservation projects that are championed by British tour operators

 

For full article please visit -

http://travel.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_a...icle3333595.ece

 

It’s the latest attraction for tourists visiting southern Africa, but conservationists are warning that walking with lions is – quite literally – a bloody con.

 

For full article please visit -

http://travel.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_a...icle3333595.ece

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P R E S S S T A T E M E N T

 

ISSUED JOINTLY BY ANTELOPE PARK, ALERT, AND SIR RANULPH FIENNES IN RESPONSE TO THE SUNDAY TIMES ARTICLE “AFRICAN LION ENCOUNTERS: A BLOODY CON,” PUBLISHED ON FEBRUARY 10, 2008

 

 

To: online.editor@timesonline.co.uk

newsdesk@sunday-times.co.uk

travel@sunday-times.co.uk

Chris_Haslam@ipcmedia.com

 

Date: 11th February 2008

 

Contact: Marleen Lammers, PR Manager, Antelope Park, Gweru, Zimbabwe Email: marleen@africanencounter.org

David Youldon, Chief Operating Officer, ALERT, Gweru, Zimbabwe Email: david@africanencounter.org

Sarah Raine, PR Manager, Real Gap, Kent, United Kingdom

Email: Sarah.Raine@realgap.co.uk

 

The article “African Lion Encounters: A Bloody Con,” which was written by Chris Haslam, and published in the Sunday Times on Sunday February 10, is full of inaccuracies. We feel that this article strongly misrepresents ALERT, a trust that is dedicated to ensuring the future of the African Lion, and Antelope Park, where the programme is based.

 

The article claims that “as many as 59 lion cubs raised at Antelope Park have been sold to big-game-hunting operations to be shot for sport.” No lion from Antelope Park has ever been, and never will be, intentionally sold for canned hunting. African Encounter is completely against canned hunting. Our freely available information clearly states this. A total of 39 lions have been sold by Antelope Park since the current owners acquired the property in 1987. 37 of those lions were sold, in two groups, one in 1999 and the majority in 2002 to a captive centre in South Africa. There was a pre-condition on the provision of an export permit by the Zimbabwe Wildlife Authority that those lions could not be used for canned hunting.

 

Furthermore, the lions that were exported were to be monitored by the relevant wildlife authorities within South Africa to ensure that the provisions of the sale were upheld. Two further lions were sold to a private breeder within Zimbabwe, not associated in any way with hunting, in 2005. No other sales of lions have ever taken place.

 

The article also states that tourists and volunteers “are told that the lion cubs are being raised for release in the wild,” and that “captive-bred, hand-reared lions have the potential to become man-eaters, and thus can never be allowed to roam free.” At no time are any visitors to the project informed that the captive bred lions will be released into an unfenced area. We are fully aware of the fact that captive bred lions without a natural fear of humans can become man-eaters, and this is why this form of release has never formed part of the release programme. All the information provided by Antelope Park and ALERT clearly states that the captive lions are rehabilitated into a fenced, managed eco-system, free of humans, where they will have offspring. These cubs are raised by the pride (stage 3 of the programme), in a natural environment free of any human contact. They will therefore be able to be released into the wild with the same avoidance behaviours towards humans as any wild born lion.

 

Furthermore, the article states that Antelope Park employs tourists and gap-year students as guides. Antelope Park does not use fee-paying tourists or gap-year students as guides. These self-funded eco-tourists pay for the opportunity to work alongside our guides and lion handlers to further the conservation, research and community work that we undertake.

 

As a specific example of these eco-tourists, the article mentions “agencies such as Real Gap.” David Stitt, Managing Director of Real Gap comments: "As market leaders in the gap break market, Real Gap's policy is to endorse responsible conservation programmes. Antelope Park is an ethical, well-managed programme. It is clear in all our correspondence with our volunteers that the lions that they work with are part of a captive programme. Our volunteers do not have physical contact with those lions in the stages of the programme where the aim is eventual release into the reserves and national parks."

 

In addition, the Sunday Times article quotes two scientists, Dr Sarel van der Merwe and Dr Luke Hunter of the Wildlife Conservation Society, on the pitfalls of releasing lions into the wild. Antelope Park has actually received a letter from Dr van der Merwe advising us and supporting us on the work and research that we were doing. In an email that was sent on June 12, 2004, he told us the following: "Generally speaking, the feeling amongst scientists is 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." Additionally, we have also received the following from Dr Pieter Kat, a senior lion expert, in June 2005:

 

"…we can begin programmes of lion reintroduction in a wide variety of depopulated areas. Such programmes 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 Antelope Park. 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."

 

In August 2007, we released our first pride of lions into stage two; a managed ecosystem where the lions have been successfully hunting for six months now. They have brought down prey from warthog to adult giraffe, which is a remarkable achievement from the captive cubs that they were. The ALERT and Antelope Park programme is also involved in conservation of other species, research and community development in order to provide sustainable programs to the benefit of Africa's wildlife and its people.

 

With regards to the treatment of our lions, a letter we received from WWF Southern Africa Regional office (written on January 10, 2005) following visits by independent ecologists, Zimbabwe Park And Wildlife Authority, and Society for the Protection of Animals, states that the Antelope Park programme is "highly ethical and extremely well managed." Keith Dutlow BVSc, MRCVS and Lisa Marabini BVSc, MRCVS, two vets we have been working with during the past two years, complied to this in a reaction to the article, stating that “as independent consultant vets to Antelope Park since February 2006, we can attest that since that time, no animal has ever been de-clawed, de-fanged, or drugged for entertainment purposes. Also, every lion at Antelope Park has been micro-chipped and no lions have been sold to other operators nor removed from the program under suspicious circumstances since our involvement.”

 

Furthermore, according to the article, “[n]either the Alert programme nor Sir Ranulph Fiennes could be reached for comment.” Neither Antelope Park nor ALERT are aware of any attempts of the Sunday Times to contact them for information. In fact, the email below sent to us by Sacha Lehrfreund from the Sunday Times Picture Desk, on 6th February, requesting photographs was responded to immediately with an offer of furnishing The Times with details of our lion rehabilitation and release programme, but no such offer was accepted. When no response was received, our marketing department placed a call to the picture desk on Thursday February 7th, but this was rudely dismissed. The paper’s representative claimed to have no time to talk to us, and refused to transfer us to any of her colleagues.

 

From: Evans, Sara [mailto:sara.evans@sunday-times.co.uk]

Sent: Wednesday, February 06, 2008 1:46 PM

To: info@africanencounter.org

Subject: Walking with Lions - Pictures for the Sunday Times, London

 

Hello

 

We are running a feature in the Travel section about 'Walking with Lions' and I'm hoping that you could supply us with some photographs from Antelope Park, preferably of people walking alongside lions. We will of course credit your organisation. The article would appear on 10th February and we go to press tomorrow, so I'm hoping that you are able to help at such short notice.

 

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Thanks

Sacha

 

Sacha Lehrfreund

Sunday Times Travel

Picture Desk

 

Contrary to the article’s claims, Sir Ranulph Fiennes was never contacted by the Sunday Times either. His response to the article is as follows: “I am proud to be a small part of ALERT and I am ashamed of the uninformed Sunday Times article “African lion encounters: a bloody con” as an example of the worst type of libelous, inaccurate writing. This by a journalist bent on thrashing ALERT, a highly worthwhile body of individuals, black and white, in Zimbabwe whose sterling non profit efforts to protect the endangered African lion deserve praise not lies.”

 

Anyone is free to visit Antelope Park to see for themselves how we operate, and how our various conservation, research and community programmes are benefiting Africa. We feel that anyone wanting to make comment about the voracity of our aims should at least make an effort to find out about the programme and read the freely available literature.

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Thanks for enlightening me David.

 

Your explanation is very plausible. I should also be more careful before I believe everything I read.

 

Sounds like you got sucker punched big time. I hope the damage is not permanent and you and your project are able to recover.

 

It’s a highly charged emotional subject and will sell newspapers. The Sunday Times are pretty comfortable that you won’t sue, as they know you don’t have the budget.

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The one thing missing from the press release is any justification of the scientific or conservation value of allowing people to interact with the lions. That is probably the most controversial part of the program as its the part that habituates these lions to humans.

 

I would be interested to know if Sarel van der Merwe and Luke Hunter have specifically supported that element - somehow I doubt it.

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On the ALERT Facebook support group, David Youldon (ALERT Chief Operating Officer) has posted the following comments in response to recent statements by leading scientific researchers on the conservation merit of their project. In presenting a balanced argument I am copying his text here. We shall, no doubt, have a response from Dr Sarel van der Merwe et al in due course.

 

-----------------------------

 

"The following text has been offered as a quote from three lion experts, Paula White, Luke Hunter and Craig Packer. Although ALERT recognizes the opinions held within the text are a probably a true reflection of these experts' opinions, we do not believe this is a quote as we find no evidence that a joint statement was prepared by them, no quotation marks are given to suggest who said what and there is evidence that the text was written by Ian Manning, a respected conservationist based in Zambia. None of these experts have ever visited the project or requested information about how the program operates before forming their opinions.

 

TEXT OF THE OPPOSITION STATEMENT [with comments from David in capital letters for clarity]

 

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. (ALERT HAS CLEARLY DEMONSTRATED THAT MONEY RAISED BY THE PROGRAM GOES INTO RELEASE AREAS, CONSERVATION FOR OTHER SPECIES, RESEARCH PROGRAMS AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMS). The purported conservation value of a captive breeding and release program for lions has not been demonstrated (WE ARE A NEW CONSERVATION PROGRAM AND AS WE PROCEED WITH THE LATER STAGES OF THE RELEASE PROGRAM THE CONSERVATION VALUE WILL BE PROVEN - ALL NEW IDEAS START THIS WAY AND RECIEVE SUPPORT AND CRITICISM IN EQUAL MEASURES). 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. (THIS SUGGESTS THAT WE RELEASE CAPTIVE BRED LIONS INTO THE WILD. WE DO NOT. WE RELEASE CUBS BORN IN STAGE THREE WHICH WILL HAVE NATURAL AVOIDANCE BEHAVIOURS) Teaching hand reared cubs to hunt as sub-adults will not decrease their dependence on humans, nor will it alter their imprinted behaviors (OUR RELEASE LIONS ARE KILLING ADULT GIRAFFE!!). Indeed, semi-tame lions may be as dangerous as wild lions (USUALLY THE ARGUEMENT IS THAT SEMI-TAME LIONS ARE MORE DANGEROUS AND THAT IS WHY THIS TYPE OF RELEASE HAS NEVER FORMED PART OF OUR RELEASE PROTOCOLS) . Recently (August, 2006) in South Africa, three 2½ year-old lions escaped from a game farm and killed two workers. The lions were obtained as cubs and raised by hand. In Tanzania, wild lions kill nearly one hundred people each year, the majority of them villagers. Alteration of lion behavior through captive breeding, hand rearing, and release of semi-tame animals or their habituated offspring (THE OFFSPRING BORN IN STAGE THREE ARE NOT HABITUATED) 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 (WE WILL ONLY BREED BASED ON DEMAND IN STAGE FOUR AND HAVE CONTROLS IN PLACE TO REDUCE PRODUCTION IN ALL STAGES OF THE PROGRAM). 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. (ALERT HAS CLEARLY STATED MANY TIMES THAT WE WILL NEVER PUT OUR LIONS IN A POSITION WHERE THEY CAN BE HUNTED). 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 (ALERT APPLIED TO TAKE PART IN THIS RESEARCH), and a genetic assessment of lion subpopulations (WE WORK WITH JEAN DUBACH IN CHICAGO, A WORLD EXPERT ON LION GENETICS TO ADD TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF GENETICS IN LION POPULATIONS). 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 (THEY DO BUT ARE THEY EVER GOING TO GET THAT OPPORTUNITY IF THE LOCAL COMMUNITIES ARE DESTROYING THEM QUICKER THAN THEY CAN REPOPULATE). 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 (WE WILL ENSURE STUDIES ARE CARRIED OUT TO ASCERTAIN APPROPRIATE DENSITIES BEFORE ANY RELEASE INTO STAGE FOUR).

 

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.

 

Another expert in the field of lion conservation is Sarel van der Merwe of the African Lion Working Group. He says:

 

1 - ‘Rehabilitated’ captive-bred lions can only be released into relatively small areas, such as properly fenced-off game farms and private nature reserves. In such case, invasive management will always be necessary, such as removing of the breeding males to prevent inbreeding, replacing them with younger, non-related males, which are fully adapted to that specific ecosystem. (YES, THIS IS TRUE AND IS A MANAGEMENT METHOD USED IN HUNDREDS OF RESERVES ACROSS AFRICA)

 

2 - In such case the older males will have to be placed elsewhere – and where will that be? I’m of opinion that such males will have to be hunted for trophy purposes, such as was the case in Pilansberg. Trophy hunting, if scientifically managed, is not a negative, though it will always be controversial. (WE AGREE HUNTING HAS ITS CONSERVATION BENEFITS BUT OUR MALES WILL BE PLACED IN OTHER RELEASE AREAS TO LIVE OUT A NATURAL LIFE AND NOT HUNTED)

 

3 - Rehabilitated lions do not have natural fear or respect for humans, and, as was the case with the Born-Free lions of George and Joy Adamson, they will become man-eaters. Few people are aware of this, and I’ve always wondered of this fact remains untold because it may suit some people’s philosophies. Such lions also become livestock raiders. (AGAIN WE DO NOT RELEASE CAPTIVE BRED LIONS INTO THE WILD. IT IS THEIR OFFSPRING WITH ALL THE NATURAL HUMAN AVOIDANCE BEHAVIOURS OF ANY WILD CUB THAT ARE RELEASED INTO THE WILD)

 

4 - There are no vacuums left in Africa where free-ranging lions can be reintroduced. Human encroachment will have to be controlled, and to achieve that, we will have to convince African governments to cooperate – please refer to the Regional Lion Strategies of IUCN. (WE CAN OFFER A RANGE OF RELEASE TYPES IN STAGE FOUR APPROPRIATE TO THE LION POPULATION OR LACK OF IT IN THE RELEASE AREA FROM WHOLE PRIDES TO MALE ONLY COALITIONS TO ADD A NATURAL GENE FLOW TO AN AREA OR BY BONDING FEMALES TO EXISTING WILD PRIDES USING PROVEN BOMA BONDING TECHNIQUES TO AUGMENT EXISTING POPULATIONS)

 

The Alert Project has no conservation value at all. Wild, free-ranging lion populations cannot be saved from extinction through this method (WE NEVER CLAIMED IT WOULD - A RANGE OF SOLUTIONS IS NEEDED AND WE BELIEVE THIS PROGRAM IS A WORTHY PART OF THAT RANGE OF OPTIONS). We should rather spend our money and expertise to find ways of protecting existing wild lion populations (BUT ALL THE LIONS WILL BE GONE BY THE TIME WE GET THIS RIGHT!).

 

He also said, in an email to Andrew Conolly, founder of the release program: ""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"

 

-----------------

[end of quote]

 

In regards to the recent article printed in the Sunday Times, David has stated

 

"We are in the process of providing the Sunday Times will all relevant documents to confirm the content of our press statement, including letters from the buyers of those lions, from vets, the WWF etc. Those documents will be made available for anyone that wants to view them at our offices in Harare, please contact +263 (0)4 702814-7 to arrange to view these documents."

 

In regard to their proposed expansion to Livingstone, Zamibia, David states-

 

"As of February 2008 we are still awaiting the export permit from Zimbabwe, and the findings of the EIA are only now about to be published by the Environmental Council of Zambia."

 

(these last quotes are taken directly from ALERT Facebook support group discussion 'struggling to understand')

 

For me there are still a lot of question marks over this particular project.

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I think what it boils down to is this..

 

There is no justification I can see for allowing people to interact with lions other than to raise money. ALERT says the money raised goes to conservation and other projects (interesting to note that it doesnt all go back to lion conservation) - that appears to be their sole justification.

 

Hand reared lions can only be released into controlled areas and not into the wild, so the project is generating numbers of lions that cannot be released into the wild.

 

The question is - do the ends justify the means ?

 

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 (THEY DO BUT ARE THEY EVER GOING TO GET THAT OPPORTUNITY IF THE LOCAL COMMUNITIES ARE DESTROYING THEM QUICKER THAN THEY CAN REPOPULATE).

 

In that situation, captive breeding is of no help as the lions would be killed soon after release. A better use of money is to tackle the conflict issues rather than breeding more lions to introduce into areas where conflict occurs.

 

4 - There are no vacuums left in Africa where free-ranging lions can be reintroduced. Human encroachment will have to be controlled, and to achieve that, we will have to convince African governments to cooperate – please refer to the Regional Lion Strategies of IUCN. (WE CAN OFFER A RANGE OF RELEASE TYPES IN STAGE FOUR APPROPRIATE TO THE LION POPULATION OR LACK OF IT IN THE RELEASE AREA FROM WHOLE PRIDES TO MALE ONLY COALITIONS TO ADD A NATURAL GENE FLOW TO AN AREA OR BY BONDING FEMALES TO EXISTING WILD PRIDES USING PROVEN BOMA BONDING TECHNIQUES TO AUGMENT EXISTING POPULATIONS)

 

An interesting reponse from ALERT which fails to address the key issue - yes they may have various release options but if there is nowhere to release the lions then that doesnt help.

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As I mentioned on struggling to understand, If they have these lions at a level where they can hunt and breed from more semi-wild lions, why continue the walking operation? Did I say continue or mean try and expand further into Zambia.

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A better use of money is to tackle the conflict issues rather than breeding more lions to introduce into areas where conflict occurs.

 

An interesting reponse from ALERT which fails to address the key issue - yes they may have various release options but if there is nowhere to release the lions then that doesnt help.

 

Unfortunately only part of the post made by ALERT has been quoted. The remainder of the post is as follows which answers your justified questions:

 

"Lions (Panthera leo) are listed as Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Appendix II and are regarded as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List [Version 3.1 2001].

 

“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. This suspected reduction is based on direct observation; appropriate indices of abundance; a decline in area of occupation, extent of occupation and habitat quality; and actual and potential levels of exploitation.”

 

“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, range of 29,000 - 47,000.”

 

“Like lion numbers, habitat for lions is also suspected to have declined over the past two decades. Since the 1960s, the human population, land cultivation and numbers of livestock have steadily increased (Ferreras and Cousins 1996, Chardonnet 2002). Myers (1975) suggested lion range to total two million square miles or 5,178,000 km², remarking that extent was likely only about half of lion range in the 1950s. The African Mammal Databank project estimated the lion’s potential area of occurrence at approximately 10 million km², while noting that much of the most suitable habitat is fragmented and unprotected. The most detailed range calculation is Chardonnet’s (2002) estimate of approximately three million km², with about half having some form of protection, from national park to hunting reserve. Overall, habitat for 18% of African lion populations is described currently as declining. (Chardonnet 2002)”

 

“The increase of agriculture and pastoralism has reduced the lion’s wild prey base. Lions can be serious problem animals when living alongside humans, as is increasingly the case. Lion predation on livestock is the main form of conflict. The economic impact of stock raiding can be significant: Patterson et al. (2004) estimated that each lion cost ranchers in Kenya living alongside Tsavo East National Park US$290 per year in livestock losses. The scavenging behaviour of lions makes them particularly vulnerable to poisoned carcasses put out to eliminate predators. Lions also kill people.”

 

“Lions are generally perceived by Africans as having a negative value”

 

Source: 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. <www.iucnredlist.org>

 

“Throughout much of Africa, the lion is perceived by local communities as having negative economic value, either through loss of life and livestock, or through loss of income-generating opportunities restricted by protection of the habitat and wild prey lions need to survive. Because area-specific lion conservation measures have often been developed without consultation and active participation of local communities, their needs and capacities have not been taken into account, and there is a resulting lack of support for lion conservation and often a management failure.” (Conservation Strategy for the Lion Panthera leo in Eastern and Southern Africa 2006). “Outside reserves, legal protection may have questionable value when it concerns a species that comes into conflict with people, often in remote areas with poor infrastructure. Under such circumstances, legal protection may serve only to alienate people from conservation activities.” (2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. <www.iucnredlist.org>)

 

And what of other species? African wild dogs and cheetah amongst many others are all struggling to survive due to habitat loss, decline in their prey base and through conflict with humans.

 

Given the recent, rapid reduction in lion populations across Africa it is ALERT’s opinion that habitat protection methods implemented at the cost of hundreds of millions of dollars over the last 30 to 40 years have failed the lion and many other species. Further, as stated by the IUCN, “the causes of this reduction are not well understood, are unlikely to have ceased, and may not be reversible.”

 

Of course ALERT believes in habitat protection, and there have been many success stories to applaud, but given we are clearly failing the lion we believe that a range of solutions must be found before the lion becomes critically endangered. Those habitat protection methods that have worked in the past should be extended, and ALERT is already involved in this, funding anti-poaching units for example; we hope with greater funding to further enhance our role in this area in the near future through education, research and working with communities to reduce livestock lion conflicts.

 

But new ideas are necessary to compliment those existing methods if we are to have any real long term success in habitat protection. ALERT supports the notion that only through local community support can the lion, and other species in Africa survive. If the livelihood of communities bordering conservation areas is intrinsically linked to the health of that environment then the community will have reason to protect it, motivated by Africans to the benefit of Africans.

 

But can the lion wait for us to get habitat protection right? Will the numbers be so low; populations so widespread and genetic diversity so narrowed within the next twenty years leaving the species in crisis? We, as well as many, many others believe there is a very real possibility of this nightmare scenario.

 

ALERT therefore feels it is our responsibility to perfect a solution to the problem of how to reintroduce lion into areas that need them when that need arrives; and we feel that we should perfect that solution now before it is too late. Where will these lions come from?; when lions populations are at critical level, inbreeding is rife and disease such as TB, already a devastating problem in some supposedly viable populations, is riddled throughout the population, our eyes will inevitably have to turn to a new source – captive bred lions are a viable option. As we have always stated, if at the point that we have proven our release protocols there is no need for the program, then it will be scaled back until such time that it is needed. Controls are possible in every stage of the release program to reduce production if necessary; through removal of breeding males from females or temporary contraception, not through culling or giving over lions to hunters as has been suggested by some. We will take things slowly in order to make sure each part of our release program is effective and properly researched, but the evidence is too great to deny that action must be taken now to ensure the future of the African lion.

 

“…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. ….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. Pieter Kat – ALERT consultant ecologist

 

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

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OK David, can you please answer a couple of direct questions as you havent addressed this point in any of your posts that I can see...

 

What benefits are there in allowing the public to interact or walk with the lions ? Are there any benefits other than that it is a source of funding for the project ?

 

This would appear to be the controversial area of your project yet it is the point you seem to avoid.

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This is an area that has been covered many times before but I am happy to repeat the answer. I am assuming in this answer that you have accepted (although not necessarily agreed) with the idea that our staff walk with the lions so that they have pre-release training, the lack of which is one of the accepted reasons for past predator release failings.

 

The purpose of allowing the public to walk with the lions is firstly to raise funds for the program that pays for the staff to take the lions out, it pays for food and housing for the lions, as well as vetinerary care, microchipping and DNA testing amongst many other costs. We operate a contraversial and pioneering program which is difficult to raise sponsorship for in the current corporate sponsorhip climate which favours "safe" projects, and at the moment, community programs within the organization's home country. We operate in Zimbabwe without corporates with much spare money to run a corporate responsibility program that we could benefit from. Also, internationals and individual donors view the country in a very dim light and many take the view that to support any initiative in the country is to support the current regime.

 

Those funds that we raise go not only into our lion release program, but also into meeting our other goals, such as community development, which as I have explained, is a necessary part of the overall success of the program.

 

The walk with lions also raises huge awareness of the plight of the lion, an issue that has barely reached the concienceness of most people. Through our program we have raised the issue on radio, in print and soon in a TV documentary. I believe that by the end of 2008 our two year awareness campaign will have raised the issue of the plight of the lion to tens of millions of people who knew nothing about it before. And those people will hopefully donate money to programs that help not only the lion but the prey species it relies on. Those donations may come to us and we will be able to further implement our methods of habitat protection. Some may go to other worthy organizations with other or similar ideas on how to improve the situation of the species - but at least they might start giving - after all, the lion is an icon that people respond to.

 

We believe we have a workable solution to habitat protection, we also believe we have a workable solution to how to help augment wild populations until such time that all the creditable conservation organizations involved in assisting the lion have had a chance to implement their plans and stop the decline. Once done, our captive lion program will not be needed and as we said, we shut it down until such time it is needed again. But at least a solution will have been found and proven so that it can be used if necessary. At the moment there is significant demand from parks and reserves and our expansion into Zambia is not to increase the number of lions in stage one. Having between 4 and 6 lions in stage one in Zambia rather in Zimbabwe is not going to create a huge supply to the canned hunting industry as some have suggested, it is not going to lead us to have to cull the lions as has also been suggested. The main focus on our expansion into Zambia is the 2 stage two release areas and 1 stage three that we have inititally planned. The Zambian government is interested in nine other stage three areas - but we are not saying that we will need them. If the demand for stage four is insufficient then one or two of these release areas will be all that is needed - and stage one will be scaled back or closed as needed to restock stage two and three as required by the demands in stage four. These are facts about the program that we have stated many times

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Thanks David.

 

I'm not convinced by the claim that pre-release walks are necessary for training. Captive lions that were originally hand reared with no training are perfectly capable of killing by themselves.

Going straight from a small enclosure to the wild wouldnt be effective, but moving into a large fenced area as a half-way house where they are expected to hunt for themselves but are monitored closely and given some food initially is a viable option. This has been done successfully with large carnivores on a number of occasions.

 

I can understand why the lion walks are done from a fund-raising perspective - fund raising is always difficult. Given that this is the controversial aspect of the project though, would the lion walks be stopped if sufficient funding was raised in other ways ?

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Thanks Predator for you post. Yes, we have said before that if we were able to fund the whole program without having guests on the walks then we would action that, but at present that is not possible.

 

I do appreciate that lions have shown the ability to hunt given a soft release, i.e. supplementary feeding until such time that they learn, if taken straight from a captive environment to a semi-wild or wild one, however we do believe that through the experiences the lions get in stage one (we do not train the lions to hunt, we just give them the opportunities to practice), that they have a higher chance of survival. Our lions in stage two made their first kill on the 4th morning after release taking down an adult eland.

 

Given that a cornerstone of our release protocol is that we release prides and not individuals (another common problem in past releases) we do think that the additional practice required to take down the larger game needed to feed a pride rather than an individual, is necessary before that release into stage two. By looking at the progress of our lions they usually start off by killing birds, rabbits and duiker; enough to keep one lion going, but not a pride. If each lion at release into stage two was only able to look out for itself until it had the required experience to take down larger prey we would probably see dispersal right from the release day and a breakdown in the pride structure that we are trying to create. We believe this pride structure is necessary for the cubs to be born into in stage three giving them the most natural environment to grow up in and and the best possible chance when they are released into stage four. I hope that made sense.

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Thanks. I can see your logic and it does sound to make sense to me, but I dont really have the detailed knowledge to comment on the validity of the plans.

 

I am aware of a case where three captive lions which are normally fed each day and reside in a 400 acre enclosure have proved very adept at killing any game that leaps the fence - they take down kudu that jump the fence, despite them having been hand reared and having had no training.

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I've just found some details on the Aquila Game Park mentioned in the article. In the interests of fairness (ALERT have posted their responce on this and many other forums) I think it needs to be shared:-

 

Statement by Aquila (from Irresponsible Tourism - http://www.irresponsibletourism.info/forum...mp;PID=203#203)

 

Chris Haslam African Lion Encounters : A bloody con (ST 10 February) wants to link the 4500 hectare Aquila Private Game Reserve conservancy (in the Karoo, near Cape Town) with a lion park nearly 1000 miles away in Zimbabwe in the practice of selling lion cubs for canned hunting.

 

The truth is that Aquila does no such thing. In fact, Aquila has never sold a single lion or cheetah cub – let alone for canned hunting.

 

This was confirmed prior to the release of the article by the internationally-regarded Campaign Against Canned Lions. Its Chris Mercer wrote to us : “We accept that you have no links with canned hunting; that you have not sold any animals into that dreadful industry, and that the lions you have purchased have been placed into a 120 hectare sanctuary where they will not be hunted’.

 

Haslam was copied with this letter. Yet he does not disclose that in his article.

 

It’s true that Aquila once allowed visitors to assist feeding the rescued lion cubs as they still had to be bottle fed-and were too defenceless to be released. This practice ceased several years ago but not because of any complaints as implied by your article. Nor were visitors ever charged for the experience as was also implied by the article. These cubs moreover were saved from a captive breeding facility and not “born free” as the article insinuates.

 

As part of our conservation function, we offer a ( free) educational interaction with our cheetahs. They were also captive bred, not “born free” as the article insinuates. The experience is strictly controlled and in the interest of cheetah survival worldwide.

 

Note from Chris Mercer of the CACH:

 

Dear Sir

 

We wish to place on record that we have no quarrel with the ethics of your eco-tourism resort. We accept that you have no links at all with canned hunting; that you have not sold any animals into that dreadful industry, and that the lions you purchased have been placed into a 120 hectare sanctuary where they will not be hunted.

 

The confusion all stems from the fact that for a time, Aquila offered lion cub-petting to its visitors, which we know has been stopped.

 

We did receive an email from the Sunday Times enquiring whether you still offered cub petting, and we replied saying that you no longer do so.

 

We congratulate you on the excellent facility you have established at Aquila Game Park as well as your conservation ethics, and hope that you will continue to receive good support from the eco-tourism industry.

 

Kind regards

 

Chris Mercer

Campaign against Canned Hunting

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‘27 QUESTIONS FOR 37 LIONS’

 

ANTELOPE PARK / ALERT CAPTIVE BREEDING, ‘WALKING WITH LIONS’, ‘REHABILITATION’ AND PROPOSED ‘REINTRODUCTION’ PROGRAMME, ZIMBABWE

 

AN OPEN INVITATION FOR ANTELOPE PARK / ALERT TO ANSWER QUESTIONS ABOUT THEIR PROJECT

 

Even before the recent UK press coverage (The Sunday Times: African encounters: a bloody con (10/02/08)) there was much debate on the conservation merits of the Antelope Park/ALERT captive lion breeding and tourist lion walking project, and its associated ‘rehabilitation’ and proposed ‘reintroduction’ programme.

 

In an attempt to clarify some of the confusion regarding the project, and its complex multi-stage ‘rehabilitation’ and ‘reintroduction’ proposals, we openly invite Antelope Park and the ALERT project to answer the following questions, arising from discussions with David Youldon, the ALERT Chief Operating Officer, in internet forums such as Facebook, Safaritalk and TripAdvisor.

 

Document attached...

OpenLetterApril08.doc

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Posted (edited)

....

Edited by russell

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The Environmental Impact Assessment for the proposed ALERT expansion into Zambia have finally been released for public consultation - although nothing yet on the ECZ website - http://www.necz.org.zm/index.html

 

ENVIRONMENTAL COUNCIL OF ZAMBIA

 

CALL FOR COMMENTS AND INVITATION TO A PUBLIC HEARING

 

REVIEW OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT (EIA) REPORT

 

SUBMITTED BY AFRICAN LION & ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH TRUST (ALERT) FOR THE PROPOSED DAMBWA FOREST No.22 JOINT MANAGEMENT AREA LION REHABILITATION PROJECT.

 

African Lion & Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) is proposing to resuscitate Dambwa Forest No.22 and re-stock the Forestry area with Lions. The forest is adjacent to the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park in Livingstone.

 

The overall objective of the project is to reverse the declining trends in African Lion populations through a breeding and release into the wild program. The program will aim at producing 8 lion cubs per year that will be subjected to a controlled breeding programme to produce cubs raised in the natural ecosystem.

 

This notice therefore, serves to inform members of the general public, interested and affected parties that an Environmental Impact Assessment Report for the Dambwa Forest Joint Management Area Lion Rehabilitation Project has been received by the Environmental Council of Zambia (ECZ) for review, in line with the provisions of the Environmental Protection and Pollution Control Act Number 12 of 1990 as read with the Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations; SI. No. 28, of 1997 and is available for scrutiny at the following places:

 

Livingstone City Council, Civic Centre;

Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) Offices, in Livingstone;

Environmental Council Of Zambia – Southern Regional Office in Livingstone;

Environmental Council Of Zambia Information Documentation Centre (IDC) in Lusaka .

 

The report will be available for scrutiny during office hours from 08:00 hours to 13:00 hours and 14:00hours to 17:00 hours. Interested and affected parties may send their written submissions to the undersigned. The deadline for submission of comments is 23rd April, 2008.

 

This notice also serves to invite members of the general public to a public hearing for the African Lion & Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) to be held on 12th April 2008 at David Livingstone Training College at 14:00hours.

 

Chama Mwansa Nyendwa

Communications Officer

Environmental Council of Zambia

P. O. Box 35131

LUSAKA

Phone (w): +260 211 254023

Mobile: +260 955 995426

Email: cmwansa@necz.org.zm

www.necz.org.zm

 

"We do not inherit the earth, we borrow it from our children" Chief Seatle

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An article “African lion encounters: a bloody con” printed in the Travel Section of the Sunday Times newspaper on 10 February 10 2008 said that as many as 59 lion cubs raised at Antelope Park had been sold to big game hunting operations to be shot for sport.

 

Antelope Park filed a complaint with the newspaper as well as with the Press Complaints Commission as well as publishing a press release refuting these claims. Evidence to corroborate our position was provided to both the newspaper and the commission and also made available to other interested parties.

 

Today, the newspaper has printed a retraction of that allegation

 

"We accept that the owners of the park never have and never will intentionally sell lions for “canned” hunting....We regret any impression that Antelope Park co-operated in the supply of animals for hunting."

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Posted (edited)

.....

Edited by russell

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I do want to make it very clear again that ALERT have NEVER sold a lion to anyone at anytime. Any sales that you refer to are by another organization and took place some years before ALERT existed.

 

Here is a link to a story that shows just how convoluted the South Africa system is. http://www.carteblanche.co.za/display/Display.asp?id=1917

It is stories like this that were discovered by Antelope Park (some might say too late - but hindsignt is.... and that made them decide to cease any further exports to the country - a responsible decision. Antelope Park sold lions in good faith using the legal frameworks availble to them to ensure that the lions could not be used in canned hunting. To require them to track the animals (which were microchipped for id purposes) after sale is not their responsibility.

 

Given the above, and the system in South Africa which is a disgrace, the use of the word "intentional" is entirely responsible.

 

As stated many times, both Antelope Park and ALERT support the campaign to ensure that the practice of canned hunting is made illegal everywhere.

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Posted (edited)

....

Edited by russell

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