Walking with Lions - Con-Conservation?

197 posts in this topic

For me there are two issues here:


1 - What was the fate of the 37 lions sold to South Africa in 1999 and 2002? Who where they sold to? Were they hunted? (despite the attempts of ALERT to prevent this)?


2 - What conditions and securities will ALERT be able to place on lions produced by the project in stage four? Which countries will ALERT sell lions, and which countries will they not sell lions? Will ALERT only sell lions to government bodies and NGOs, or will they also sell to private individuals/landowners? What will stop future sales and exports being questioned in this manner?


Essentially, questions 12 and 13 of my recent open letter to ALERT.


As Russell says, are we to believe that Andrew Conolly, who bought Antelope Park in 1987, and bred captive lions for over ten years, completely missed the Cook Report and Carte Blanche exposures in 1997 and knew nothing of the canned hunting industry in neighbouring South Africa before selling his lions in 1999 and 2002? Did he not question why there was such demand and financial value on such animals in SA?


It is interesting to note the link David provides (Carte Blanche 2002) states as part of its leading quote - "This means that virtually any lion in captivity in this country is in line to be trophy hunted. ".


[There are two other Carte Blanche reports which may interest people -

2005 - http://www.carteblanche.co.za/Display/Display.asp?Id=2728 and

2007 - http://www.carteblanche.co.za/display/Display.asp?Id=3312 ]


David - I understand you are preparing a new supporters pack, which I welcome and hope will answer some points of detail. I think you need more material explaining your project, and urge ALERT to develop their website (still just a holding page after 2 years). When one looks at the highly polished Antelope Park, African Encounter, African Impact, Pathfinders and Lion Encounter websites it appears strange that for a group of organisations which use the internet so efficiently, that the highest profile element, and most controversial, has very little information.


Regarding the relationship between ALERT and these organisations, I recently wrote to Jacqui Kirk to ask about the ALERT Trustees:


"Thank you for your query regarding the trustees of ALERT. The Trust is currently registered in the United Kingdom, Zambia & Zimbabwe. The trustees for ALERT UK are Mr Clive Ronald Needham, Mr Charles Arthur Cain and Miss Lisa Walker as you discovered for yourself from the Charity Commission. In addition Andrew Conolly and Kevin Liddle have been added as directors of the company and are in the process of being added as Charitable Trustees.


Andrew Conolly is however a trustee of ALERT Zambia and ALERT Zimbabwe."


(Charity Commission UK - http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/regis...?chyno=1120572)


I believe that Andrew Conolly, as the owner of Antelope Park, and 'chairman' of African Encounter (as well as the founder of all the above named organisations), potentially has a conflict of interests in acting as a Trustee for ALERT, and believe that charity legislation in the UK would prevent this. I also understand that Trustees cannot be paid by the Charity or recieve any financial benefits.


The financial and organisational relationships between these organisations are already subject to much debate - particularly in relation to Antelope Park, African Encounter and Saf Par operating the lion walks (as commercial operations) and the amount of funds raised and passed to ALERT together with the lions after stage one lion walking is completed. [Questions 1, 2, 3 and 4 of my open letter.]


Lets hope ALERT have a good accountant - perhaps David clarify who this is for me please?




Some links on the 'African Encounter' family of businessess for information:


ALERT - http://www.lionalert.org/

After two years in operation, still just a holding page with minimal information. Founded by Andrew Connolly.


ANTELOPE PARK - http://www.antelopepark.co.zw/index.html

Bought by the Connolly's in 1987. Development site for lion walks in 1990s. Home of captive breeding and 'walking with lions' programme.


AFRICAN ENCOUNTER - http://www.africanencounter.org/

African Encounter is "an industry trusted leader when it comes to the authentic African safari experience and travel in Zimbabwe". The 'parent' compant to African Impact and Pathfinders. Andrew Connolly is named 'Chairman' and founder.


AFRICAN IMPACT - http://www.africanimpact.com/

African Impact offers paying volunteers the chance to participate in working holidays abroad. Founded by Andrew Connolly.


PATHFINDERS - http://www.pathfindersafrica.com/about/pathfinders/

Pathfinders has strong links to its sister company, African Impact, and its parent company, African Encounter. Founded by Andrew Connolly.


A.C.T.S - http://www.actsoverland.com/

African Christian Tours and Safaris . Founded by Andrew Conolly. Part of African Encounter.


CELEBRATE AFRICA - http://www.actsoverland.com/

Wedding services. No doubt founded by Andrew Conolly and part of African Encounter.


LION ENCOUNTER - http://www.lionencounter.com/index.html

A joint venture between African Encounter and Safari par Excellence promoting 'walking with lions' in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.


SAFARI PAR EXELLENCE - http://www.safpar.co.za/lions.html

Independent tourist activity provider in Victoria Falls and Lion Encounter partner.

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Just want to draw people's attention to David's notes on enclosures in his blog (link via the safaritalk homepage).


I have replied with questions for David which to date (along with the 27 questions in my open letter) remain unanswered...


thanks for the continuing interest in this issue,


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Just want to draw people's attention to David's notes on enclosures in his blog (link via the safaritalk homepage).


Just added a comment. The Namibian rules specify a minimum 1 hectare per lion - thats 10,000 square metres which is a lot larger than the ALERT enclosures. In fact if ALERT was based in Namibia then they'd only be allowed to hold 2 lions in the area they have compared to the 61 lions they actually have.

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David's comment on his blog "As at 1st April 2008 at Antelope Park, a total of 61 lions of differing ages were being held in enclosures" is another one of his economical truths - I understand Antelope Park currently have over 70 lions - so David is excluding some from these calculations... perhaps he can clarify which lions?


Stage 2 - Zimbabwe Dollar Block Site


Today, ALERT are introducing three more females into their Zim Dollar Block stage two enclosure - this is the same site where two females died last year...


"This morning under the watchful eye of ALERT and Antelope Park staff as well as African Impact voluntourists, Nala, Narnia and Athena took their first steps out into the Dollar Block release site, alongside Phyre, Ashanti and Kenge - who have been at the site and hunting for themselves since our first release in August last year.


The six lionesses have spent the last few weeks in a holding enclosure next to the release site to give them a chance to bond before being released.


In the coming months we are hoping to add a male, Milo, to the pride once the girls are ready to accept him." (Jacqui Kirk, Facebook support group)


One wonders on the wisdom of introducing these three new females into a group which has been established there for over 6 months and in which two 'unfamiliar' lionesses have died. I understood that pride social bonding is supposed to happen in stage one, before release into stage two...


I'm also trying to find out the exact size of the stage two enclosure and holding pens... again perhaps David can clarify this...


Background on this stage


"At 10am on the 29th of August 2007, in the presence of Sir Ranulph Fiennes, invited guests, African Impact volunteers and the staff of ALERT and African Encounter, ALERT trustee and founder of the Lion Rehabilitation and Release into the Wild Program officially released a pride of 2 males and 5 females into our first ever stage two release. This is the first time a pride of captive bred lions have been released into the wild as part of our four stage rehabilitation & release program. The captive bred lions are rehabilitated into a managed natural environment where they will have cubs that are born in the wild and have no experience of humans. Those cubs will be raised by the pride and can be released into national parks and reserves across Africa that needs them when they are old enough." (Facebook)


"All seven of the release pride of 2 males and 5 females were born at Antelope Park. All were raised and took part in stage one of the program also at Antelope Park except for Mampara & Muti who, at a young age, were transferred to our stage one walking site in Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe." (ALERT Newsletter Sept 2007)


Maxwell is currently in the holding enclosure as we took the decision to remove one of the males to bring the ratio of males to females back in line.” (ALERT Newsletter Dec 2007)


See below for the ALERT statement regarding the two lion deaths. The two females which died (Mampara & Muti) were from Victoria Falls... so having two seperate 'walking with lions' operations lead to the deaths in stage two when these unfamiliar lions were brought together. The lions were first grouped together at Antelope Park on 21/08/07, just over a week before they were transported and released to the site on the 29/08/07. This is obviously an inadequate period for pride social bonding.




"On the morning of 23rd October 2007 our research team discovered the body of Muti, one of our females in stage two of the reintroduction program at the Dollar Block reserve in Zimbabwe. The two co-introduced males, Maxwell and Luke were in the vicinity, and we presume that Muti's death might have been caused by an aggressive encounter.


On the 28th of October Maxwell & Luke were witnessed attacking Mampara, another of the females. During the fight she seemed to have sustained only a single puncture wound to one of her back legs. Her subsequent death suggests that possible internal injuries might also have occurred.


This is a very sad moment for all the staff on the project who had worked with Muti & Mampara to prepare them for release, as early indications suggested they were doing very well at hunting and bonding with the other released lions.


We have extensively discussed this event with our expert consultants; Dr. Don Heath and Dr. Pieter Kat, to try and understand what may have caused this to happen. Although all seven lions seemed to be well bonded in the first weeks after release, the males had been seen starting to chase the females around. Such interactions also occur among wild lions; often after a pride takeover the new males will engage in such activity, but this rarely results in injury as the young females are faster than the males and can get out of the way. When a male can isolate a female however he will attempt to dominate, and such aggression in this case might have resulted in the death of two of the females. We, as well as other lion breeding programs, have experienced such mortality, although the causes of such events are often difficult to determine.


The principal objective of stage two was to release captive born lions back into a natural situation where they could entirely feed for themselves. This was achieved and the lions had started to successfully hunt prey species at the release site and could be considered competent hunters. This should be considered remarkable progress from the captive born cubs that they were. Our careful and dedicated programs have made this a reality.


Early indications were that the released pride was bonding well and behaving in a manner akin to a wild pride. As a result of these recent events we will give even more focus to research into sociality within release prides to ensure that males and females are socially compatible.


Reintroduction of intelligent animals with complex sociality is always difficult. We do the best we can with the information we have available. The reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park in the USA in 1995 was a similarly complex issue and not without problems and setbacks, although the introduced wolves were wild-caught in Canada. Lions are a species with a solitary heritage in an uncomfortable group situation. They are all individuals attempting to make their best way in a group.


We can only make assumptions as to why Muti & Mampara died - there are many complexities to this occurrence that might not involve male aggression per se. We continually review and refine our release protocols, and will do so again in continued consultation with Dr. Don Heath and Dr. Pieter Kat.


We have acknowledged from the start that this innovative, original, and complex program would encounter setbacks. We have no ability to incorporate advice from concurrent or past programs. We are pioneers, and accept all responsibilities associated with that designation. As the lions attain their skills, so will we. ALERT is ultimately dedicated to the conservation of this magnificent species. All beginnings are difficult, but we will dedicate our adaptive and considered energies to succeed."

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Just to update everyone on the status of the ALERT Lion Encounter's plans to expand to Zambia...


David Youldon (ALERT) has recently posted the following statement (see his blog on safaritalk):


"Back in 2004 an application was made to ZAWA, the Zambian Wildlife Authority and the Zambian Forestry Commission to lease land in the Dambwa Forest outside Livingstone. A public meeting was held on 19th October 2005 to advise local communities about our plans.


On 10th August 2006 Andrew Conolly, founder and Chairman of ALERT flew to Livingstone to sign that lease agreement giving 15,000 acres of the Forest to ALERT. Our intention is to build three release sites; two stage 2 sites (500 & 1500 acres) and a stage 3 (10,000 acres). We understand that the 18 months between application and approval is the fastest confirmation of a conservation program in Zambia’s history. A Forest Concession Agreement was subsequently approved.


On 17 May 2007 a scoping meeting was held with stakeholders in advance of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to ascertain concerns about the project that should be considered within the assessment.


The EIA was completed and submitted to the Environmental Council of Zambia (ECZ) on 25th February 2008. As part of their considerations a second public hearing was held by ECZ on 12th April 2008.


ECZ made their decision regarding the proposed ALERT program in the Dambwa Forest on 30th May 2008, and here is what they said….


“The ECZ has since reviewed the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and based on the information provided by yourselves and from written and verbal statements by interested and affected parties and our site verification inspection findings, we have approved your project proposal.”


Our road map for how we proceed from this point will be reviewed and we will keep you updated as our plans to develop our release sites in Zambia are implemented over the coming months."


[end of David's quote]


The plans met with much local opposition - and for good reason, indeed another lion walking project has recently tried to establish itself in Livingstone, Zambia, without all the necessary permits and permissions. More evidence, if needed, that the ALERT project generates copy-cat lion walking projects, without all the conservation 'hype' and which are nothing more than commercial operations exploiting captive animals. (Their arrival in Victoria Falls resulted in another lion walking operation starting soon after) - irrelevant of the conservation worth of the ALERT project.


Local opposition to the project has, effectively, been ignored and silenced - indeed Ian Manning, who has campaigned on this and many other issues in Zambia was recently deported from Zambia! (see Ian's blog also here on safaritalk - although he has been a bit busy recently and unable to update it!).


We now wait and see how ALERT will progress with their project in Zambia (although it remains to be seen if the project is financially sound and can afford the huge amounts of fencing and land which the latter stages of the project will require).


Meanwhile we will see how many more copy-cat operations pop up... and continue to count the number of lions which go through these walking projects before they get anywhere near releasing lions into the wild - I guess the number is easily now over 100 lions in Zimbabwe have already been condemned to lives in captivity.


Please do not support lion walking or lion interaction programmes - support wild conservation and reserach instead!

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Anyone following the continuing growth of the ALERT project will be interested in the latest developments there (I'm sure David Youldon will post his own spin on this under his blog in due course, but in the meantime...)


ALERT import lions to Zambia - from South Africa!!


Latest news from the ALERT Facebook support group is that 10 lion cubs have been imported into Livingstone, Zambia, for use in its expanded 'Walking with Lions' project. The new location, which has been developed with facilities and extensively fenced, lies partly within a supposedly protected National Park - the Mosi-oa-Tunya NP - and is also part of the Victoria Falls UNESCO World Heritage Site. We believe ALERTs actions threaten the long-term status of the land, and also threatens the listing of the whole area as a World Heritage Site (see previous posts in this debate, which admittedly is getting a bit too long - Game Warden, perhaps we need our own blog?!).


I understand all the cubs come from a breeding facility in Orange Free State, South Africa, raising concerns over their suitability for use in the 'Walking with Lions' interactive experience and also ALERTs own captive breeding programme, as well as reaffirming Antelope Park's and ALERTs links to suspected canned hunting breeding facilities in South Africa. Presumably the project has taken the decision use these lion cubs to short-cut the delay in getting export permits for its lions from Zimbabwe (and I guess to keep the income coming in from the volunteers, which have been few and far between in Zimbabwe this year). Free State in SA is home to over 80 captive lion breeding facilities, and has a long association as a centre of the canned hunting industry. I've been investigating lion breeding facilities in SA for some time now, and I honestly dont think there are any that don't have links to the canned hunting industry - perhaps David will correct me on this and openly name the source of these new lions? And what of the genetic pedigree of these lions? (I'm half expecting that they are hoping that they will get to breed some white lions in the future!?!)


The project is still waiting authorisation to export a group of Stage Two lions into Zambia - authorisation which is being delayed by the political problems Zimbabwe is currently experiencing. Lets hope they have more luck with this release than with their first Stage Two release, in Zimbabwe, which resulted in the death of two lionesses.


Latest news from stage 2


Meanwhile, latest news from this first site in Zimbabwe, the 'Dollar Block' (no, apparently not named after the sums of money their paying 'volunteers' have put into ALERT and all the business companies which Antelope Park owner Andy Conelly has built up around it), is that they have given up on the site, taken down the fences and returned the lions to 'temporary' enclosures at Antelope Park. They will now be released into a new extension of the Park, but there have been rumours from ALERTs own volunteers that this 'Stage 2' release was undergoing problems and that the lions were "very thin and starving". This resulted in David having to do some 'rumour control' PR on their own group. I've asked David some direct questions about 'Stage 2', but as with my 'open letter' questions to ALERT and Antelope Park many months ago, they are currently left un-answered. ALERT still claim this stage to be a success, but as they had to remove the two male lions which they originally released (after the death of two females), they still haven’t re-integrated any males into this all female pride. And where is Luke, one of the males, who hasn't been mentioned since??


I've been doing some math on the lions which have been used in the project over the years, using data from their own newsletters, and I'm actually surprised myself as to how many lions are going through the project (and so far only a handful have made it into the only 'Stage 2' release, above). If all these lions are currently at Antelope Park then those enclosures that David so proudly told us about a few months ago must be full to the brim! I really think its time that this project openly answered the questions put to them about their lions - how many do they currently have (listed by name, sex and age), and what’s happened to the rest of them?? Don’t forget, Antelope Park has been 'Walking with Lions' since the 1990s, way before they came up with the ALERT 'rehabilitation' and 'reintroduction' concept.


The good news though is that after nearly five years in operation, ALERT have found a volunteer who will create a website for them... we watch and wait in anticipation of some real information on this project instead of the spin which David so carefully posts in his newsletters and blogs. As far as the volunteers are concerned its all about cuddly cubs and exciting details of 'first kills'...


Call to stop ‘Walking with Lions’


David Youldon has previously stated:


“Once we have our Stage Two and Three release sites fully operational we will only be breeding at a level that our release sites can support, and if we have to shut down any part of Stage One such that we do not have lions retired from Stage One with nowhere to go, then we have always stated that we will do that.” (Facebook).


He has also added:


“Stage Three and Four are unproven as yet, and we still have work to do on making sure that our protocols for stage Two are perfected, but we are making huge progress on that front, and through much consultation we are confident that our plans for Stage Three and Four will work, but we will obviously have to review, as we do with everything, once we get to that point.” (Facebook).


I believe that to continue operating Stage One of the project, the captive breeding of lions and their commercial use in ‘Walking with Lions’, without suitable Stage Two and Three release sites secured, is irresponsible. They have already walked more than 100 lions since establishing their second Stage One lion walking operation in Victoria Falls (in 2005), and to claim that they will only limit Stage One once Stages Two and Three are 'fully operational' is just crazy. How many lions do they need for Stages Two and Three?? Stages Three and Four of their project are, by their own admission, as yet unproven (they haven't even started Stage Three yet!), but they are happy to continue to breed lions for use in Stage One... and now at three different sites (Antelope Park, Victoria Falls and now Livingstone, Zambia). Each site needs about 10 lion cubs every 12 months, so thats a turnover of 30 cubs every year... come on guys, this is nothing more than commercial exploitation under the name of conservation!!


I call on ALERT to immediately halt all lion breeding in Stage One of their project, and subsequent ‘Walking with Lions’, until suitable Stage Two and Three sites have been identified and secured for the lions that have already been used in Stage One and are currently held 'temporary' enclosures at the Antelope Park breeding facility. I believe that they should not restart such operations until all these lions are at least 'rehabilitated' into Stage Two, and that Stages Three and Four are fully tested.


Does anyone agree with me??

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Slowly but surely attention is focussing on the conservation value (or lack of) for the ALERT lion captive breeding and 'reintroduction' project in Zimbabwe.


Science magazine (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/summary/324/5925/331) have recently (17 April 2009) published an article entitled 'Will Captive Breeding Save Africa’s King of Beasts?', written by Jerry Guo.


A PDF version of the article is available at - http://www.panthera.org/documents/Guo.2009...nginScience.pdf


The article again quotes leading scientific lion experts as stating that the project has little scientific or conservation merit. Some selected quotes:


“There’s no sound science behind what they’re doing,” charges Paula White, a lion ecologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Tropical Research.


“In most cases, lion reintroductions are poorly thought out, do little to benefit conservation, and use valuable resources that could be used to benefit existing populations desperately in need of protection,” adds Andrew Loveridge, a research fellow at the University of Oxford in the U.K. who studies lions in Zimbabwe.


With some 23,000 lions in Africa, the most pressing need is habitat preservation, not adding to an ample population, argues Luke Hunter, executive director of New York City–based cat conservation nonprofit Panthera. “Reintroduction of captive-bred animals as a means to establish wild carnivores is probably the last resort,” he says. “Even if ALERT was going to succeed, so what?” Hunter asks. “It’s not an answer at any scale that’s going to matter.”


ALERT however are still a registered charity in the UK, based on the conservation value of their work, and they continue to recieve paying volunteers and tourist clients who 'walk with lions' in the belief that they are actually contributing something to lion conservation.


To date there has been no response from ALERT to the article or its content.


Thanks to everyone who is still following this complex and confusing issue. Please keep spreading the word on this highly dubious project.



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Thank you Quentin Jones, for your effort in this cause.

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To the Editor, Science Magazine, ref: “Will Captive Breeding Save Africa’s King of Beasts” (News Focus, April 17, 2009).


We are surprised you would have allowed recent publication of the poorly researched and obviously biased article “Will Captive Breeding Save Africa’s King of Beasts” (News Focus, April 17, 2009). A complex issue seems to have deserved no more than tabloid coverage.


Your reporter was given all relevant materials and information on his visit to the African Lion and Environment Research Trust (ALERT) location in Zimbabwe. He still managed to get his facts wrong on the planned reintroduction programs, which do not involve lions allegedly cowed with sticks to ensure compliant behavior during a wilderness stroll with picture-posing tourists. This is pure sensationalism, and not worthy of your magazine. ALERT is certainly not following a “standard reintroduction protocol” – rather, a highly innovative and experimental procedure constantly and objectively evaluated for effectiveness.


Also, your reporter chose to include comments from “experts” who express no more than thoughts not related to their areas of expertise. For example, Mr Luke Hunter is allowed to pass judgement on issues relating to virology. Your readers will surely acknowledge that virology is a rather specialized discipline requiring years of dedicated study and application, and slightly out of the remit of an ecologist.


The truth on African soil is different from the opinions formed by your reporter and interviewed experts in the USA and the UK. The inescapable fact is that lions are a bit thin on the ground at the present time. The great majority of protected areas in Africa are depopulated in terms of lions, and ALERT has received a great number of expressions of interest from various African government bodies to restore lion populations and thereby system biodiversity and function in such areas. Lion depopulation surely implies a dearth of populations from which to source wild-caught individuals for such reintroductions.


ALERT has an unique approach to restoring such populations. Others might express the opinion that this constitutes no more than a drop in the bucket, but we are of the opinion that is better than the present empty container.


Andrew Conolly

Founder, African Lion & Environmental Research Trust

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Dear Sniktawk


Have you sucesfully reintroduced into the Wild and where did this reintroduction take place?


As you presumably have taken the time to read in our literature and updates that are widely available we have so far achieved success in stage two of the four stage program. We are not in a hurry to achieve stage four to appease those that think that speed is an important factor - in fact, if you read around the subject you will find that speed is likely to have a negative effect on success. We will continue to proceed at a pace that is relevant to this organization in order to achieve the best possible outcomes


Are you aware of any other sucesfull reintroduction projects, where are they and what sucess have they had?


Yes, there are many successes for a multitude of species, including lions. There are also many failures. I suggest you take the time to read around the subject as there is plenty of information available to those that are interested.


Where do you consider Lions to be "a bit thin on the ground"?


That would be Africa. OK -so Tanzania has healthy populations (and by healthy I do of course include those that are multiply infected with a variety of harmful diseases with negative effects on reproduction, longevity, immune deficiency etc etc). but where else? Many people look at the pure number of lions without looking deeper at how the continent-wide population is structured nor the issues of evolutionary potential, disease prevalence, political and socio-economic issues and a host of other issues relevant to conservation in Africa. There is no scientific evidence to support the idea that lions are anything but in deep, deep trouble. Again, I would suggest doing some background research, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of papers that show that something must be done.


Given the "important" nature of your work, why do you think it needs to supported by gullible tourists , rather than donations from respectable Wildlife charities?


We don't. Plus any suggestion that donations from respectable wildlife charities are the answer to Africa's challenges is I am afraid well out of step with the realities on the ground in Africa.




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If I asked a doctor had they cured cancer yet and they said "no" would you support a campaign to withdraw funding from cancer research? No, I am not comparing what we are doing to cancer research, but we have not yet finished what we set out to do yet? Why is that a problem? We are working towards a goal and will continue to do so. Isn't that how all development works!


"I have no real idea why don't you look for yourself". You can twist my words but maybe a better spin on that would have been, I do not have the time to review every reintroduction program and list them here for you as there are so many of them, but if you are interested why not read the many articles available on the subject.


"You have no facts but never mind" Same deal. I have my facts and have spent much time reading on this subject, talking to people and finding out about the issues but again, I do not have the time to go through the details here and now. However, again, there is a plethora of information available to you if you want to learn more.


"Not really an answer, so where does your money come from?" You asked "why do you think it needs to supported by gullible tourists , rather than donations from respectable Wildlife charities?" I answered that we do not think that. ALERT is funded through donations from individuals, corporates and a variety of fundraising activities such as events and sponsorship schemes.




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Hi David, good to have your attention here once again. I hope you are finding life in Livingstone to your satisfaction - at least you have no more excuses of poor internet coverage for the lack of replies to the questions raised in this, and on other, forum threads.


Congratulations on a nice piece of cleverly worded spin from your master Mr Connelly - no prizes for guessing who wrote the words for him - give yourself a pat on the back. Knowing Mr Connelly's reputation I am quite confident that these are not his own words.


It is very easy to try and draw lines between Africa and 'experts' from the US and UK. The truth is, these experts have pedigrees in lion research well beyond the wildest dreams of you, your project or its advisors. For me, the most pertinent quote in the Science article comes from Dr Andrew Loveridge, a Zimbabwe born researcher who has been working in Hwange for over 10 years:


“In most cases, lion reintroductions are poorly thought out, do little to benefit conservation, and use valuable resources that could be used to benefit existing populations desperately in need of protection,” adds Andrew Loveridge, a research fellow at the University of Oxford in the U.K. who studies lions in Zimbabwe.


The point here is that your project requires huge financial sums of money to secure land, build fences and maintain lions ad infinitum - and this is just stage two of your program. I believe your model is financially unsustainable, and that you will have to continue to breed and walk lions, and exploit paying volunteers and tourists, in stage one to support stage two - something which will lead to ever increasing numbers of lions trapped in this middle stage. How many lions have ALERT now handled through stage one - over 100?? How do ALERT propose to address this problem? What are your limits for the numbers of lions in Stage 2 - if it is land, finances or availablility of release sites in Stage Three then I strongly suggest that you aleady have more lions than you can manage.


I asked you, and Mr Connelly, in an open letter over a year ago to please provide a list of all the lions used in 'walking with lions' at Antelope Park and through the ALERT project. I repeat this request, with their names, sexes, paternal and maternal lines (and origins if not bred at Antelope Park), and their current status - causes of death, or, if still alive, their current locations (down to the enclosure sizes). This is basic management information which you must have... please, lets see it. After one year and still no open information... what is it that you are hiding?? That you had to put down many of the older lions because you dont have the space for them? That you have run out of horse and bush meat to feed them? Until you answer these questions openly, then the rumours which surround your project will continue to gain weight.


Whilst we have you attention here, perhaps you can answer some other questions which you may have missed.


Regarding the 10 lion cubs which Antelope Park/ALERT obtained from South Africa for use in its new operation in Livingstone, Zambia, can you confirm if these cubs have been bought or rented, and who from?


If the lions have been bought, how can you assertain their suitablility for use in your lion walking and breeding programme which you have gone to great length to establish? Do you know the parents, their disposition and genetic histories?


If they have been rented, how can you be assured of their futures once they are retuurned to South Africa?


More to the point, can you confirm that the SA breeder which supplied the lions has no links to the breeding and sale of lions into the canned hunting industry in SA? If so, then please name the breeder involved. If not, then ALERT and Antelope Park are once again indirectly supporting the canned hunting industry in SA.


David, there are many questions still unanswered about your project. I appreciate you have been busy producing glossy leaflets and trying to raise funds from every possible source to maintain your salaries, but the truth is, until you are open and honest in answering questions about the project, then you will fail to get the support of major funders or NGOs, let alone the support of the conservation community which you and your master appear to so desperately crave.




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The following is written by and posted on behalf of Dr. Pieter Kat, an advisor to ALERT and the African Lion Rehabilitation & Research into the Wild Program.


Dear "Quentin Jones"


While you seem to have assumed the role of judge and jury on the ALERT reintroduction programs, are very vocal on all issues, and constantly demand more and more information, let's introduce some reality to your doubtless avid readers. You choose to hide behind assumed names so as to be comfortable using language that is at best inappropriate and at worst slanderous. You are presumptuously self assertive without credentials. You are, frankly, unbelievable.


You seek to undermine a program you know little about, and you do not elect to accept standing invitations to sit down with us face to face to discuss your concerns. If you think we are so wrong, please come up with some constructive solutions and take up our open-ended invitation to visit the program and see for yourself. We take a pro-active approach to all stages of the reintroduction program, and would appreciate your personal input, as you represent yourself as having great insight.


Yet you continue to operate from the shadows, expecting people to believe utterances from someone who does not have the courage to reveal their identity and their relevance. Who are you Quentin? Leon Walker? Panthera Negro? Do you really have the so easily assumed right to be taken seriously? You are certainly vocal, but so are those who believe that Big Foot exists, that UFOs crowd the skies, and that Y2K was going to be the end of the world. So let's have a discussion with a real person please.


Oh, and as for those lion researchers with impeccable pedigrees? Paula White is a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Tropical Research, Institute of the Environment at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is one of 84 people with that impeccable affiliation. That expert has not to our knowledge published a single peer-reviewed paper in a scientific journal on lion reintroductions. Andrew Loveridge is a Junior Research Fellow at Oxford. Andrew documented serious declines in the lion population there, largely due to trophy hunting and human conflict issues. Andrew has published scientific papers on jackals, but not on lion reintroductions. Luke Hunter gained a PhD by conducting research on reintroduced lions and cheetahs into a private reserve in South Africa. Luke is of the opinion that reintroduction programs utilizing second-generation offspring of captive lions is not, in his personal opinion, a viable option. But Luke does not offer alternatives for what would be a viable option - possibly there are so few lions left that the wild-sourced lions he monitored for his degree are no longer available?


Come on "Quentin", instead of sniping from the sidelines come up with some reasonable alternatives. We are all ears.


Dr. Pieter Kat




With degrees in biology / geology BSc from the University of Rochester, marine biology MSc from the University of Delaware and ecology and evolution MA & PhD from Johns Hopkins University, Pieter spent 10 years in Kenya establishing biological research programs at the National Museums. His work there included documentation of biodiversity in the African Great Lakes, genetic diversity among bovid populations in Uganda, Kenya & Tanzania, research on predators in the Masai Mara, and research on a variety of diseases likely to affect predators.


Pieter then spent two years at the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and at the Center of Disease Control, Atlanta, Georgia, working on rabies virus genetics, African horse sickness, and bluetongue virus among carnivores.


He was invited by the Government of Botswana to independently study lion populations for 10 years and make recommendations on their conservation and viability and is the author of over 60 scientific papers on such diverse subjects as taxonomy, ecology, genetics, reproduction and paleontology.

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Dear Dr Kat


The adoption of 'user names', such as PantheraNergo, is widespread and accepted practice on the internet. For example many people on this forum adopt user names. I am not trying to hide. [ALERT forced me to adopt the alias of Leon Walker after blocking me from their Facebook group.]


Your post is an interesting attempt to undermine the efforts of your colleagues, and dare I say it, peers. It is a poor attempt to try and undermine the critics of the ALERT project, and attempts to deflect attention away from the main questions and queries regarding it.


You appear to brush off the efforts of researchers such as Dr Loveridge and Dr Hunter. Dr Loveridge heads one of the biggest lion research projects in Africa, with something like 100 study animals which have been fitted with GPS (and other) radio collars. Whilst his Phd work was on Jackals, he was invited by the Zimbabwe National Park Authorities to study their lion population, and his project has been running for something approaching 10 years. He is a linked to Oxford University's Wildlife and Conservation Research Unit, one of the most respected mammal, and especially carnivore, research units in the world. Dr Hunter indeed undertook his Phd in South Africa. However he has since committed his career to conservation activities, working for several respected NGOs, and more recently playing a lead role in Panthera, an organisation established to promote and fund cat research. These individuals stand at the forefront on modern lion research and conservation.


Dr Kat, I would respectfully suggest that you are the one who sits outside of mainstream lion research and conservation, on many issues. Please list your published papers on lion ecology, the results of your 10 years study in Botswana - which I understand has now been cancelled - or perhaps outline you specific skills and experience in dealing with captive lion reintroductions? [You can send PDFs of your published papers to my email address as I would be very interested in reading them.]


I do think the ALERT program is wrong. However I have no intention of sitting down with you, or any other employed members of Antelope Park or ALERT to help you with 'constructive solutions' your project. I have not sold my name or opinion for money as you have, and never will.


However I will give you my opinion for free. I believe that captive breeding and reintroduction of the African lion is unnecessary. I believe that your project exploits captive animals for commercial gain, as well as exploiting paying 'conservation volunteers' and unsuspecting tourists, who believe the cleverly worded, sensationalist, and quite frankly over-ambitious and self-important publicity claims.


The answers to the problems facing the African lion have been identified many times by independent experts, conservation NGOs, and agreed by expert panels of the IUCN. Captive breeding and reintroductions have never been put forward by any of these individuals or organisations. But perhaps you are not aware of this.


I agree, in some cases, when populations become extremely endangered, such as in the case of the Iberian lynx or Amur Leopard, captive breeding and reintroduction does have a place in conservation, and the IUCN recognises this. However such programs are only viable if suitable free-ranging habitat is available for reintroductions to take place.


The best answer for ALERT is to immediately stop captive breeding of yet more lions, stop commercial tourist and paying 'volunteer' walking with lion activities and concentrate on the welfare and future of the 100 or so lions which have already gone through this stage of your project. I say to you again, your project is financially unsustainable - you cannot maintain the lions you already have in Stage Two of your project, let alone Stage Three, without the breeding and exploitation of yet more lions for Stage One, a model which will lead to ever increasing numbers of lions entering Stage Two of your program.


So, I repeat to you, David Youldon of ALERT and Andrew Connelly of Antelope Park - please provide a list of all the lions which have gone through your facilities, their names, sexes, date of birth, date of death or current location and size of enclosures. These are your lions. This is basic management information which you must have. Failure to provide this information openly tells its own story.


As for who I am, I am nobody. I have no professional qualifications, I have no professional experience and I have no professional skills relating to lion research or conservation. I have never claimed any. However I am able to read, interpret and understand, and I am entitled to my opinion and to promote that opinion. ALERT spends much of its financial resources, raised in the name of lion conservation, on advertising, promoting and selling its commercial products. I spend absolutely nothing trying to make people look at your project and ask questions. Ultimately I believe I am doing more for lion conservation than you, Antelope Park and ALERT all put together. Dollar for dollar I am certainly more effective, and I eagerly anticipate seeing ALERT’s financial accounts when these are published as required by the UK Charity Commission.




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Anyone who doubts the credentials of 'experts' such as Dr Luke Hunter should take a look at the Panthera website (of which he is an Executive Director) and the extensive list of references. In particular, it is worth noting that Dr Hunter has done much work on the reintroduction of large carnivores. (David, perhaps you will find some interesting references here for your project...)




Dr Andrew Loveridge's website is currently under reconstruction, but the WildCRU (Wildlife Conservation and Research Unit) website of Oxford University gives a good indication of the pedigree of his research. In 2007 Dr Loveridge co-ordinated the one of the largest international conferences on felid conservation in the world.





Dr Kat's research history and scientific pedigree is somewhat more difficult to establish... perhaps David or Andrew can enlighten us on his behalf?


The only site I have been able to find is the following:





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Although this started and continued for quite a while as a very interesting and informative discussion, IMO, it has now degenerated beyond the point of usefulness. Both sides are now attacking credible scientists with little or no basis to do so.


Captive breeding and re-introductions need to be considered on a case by case basis. Limiting factors and threats differ among species and geography. In this particular case I am against the program in general for various reasons; however, that does not mean that everybody else is worthless. More specifically, I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Dr. Kat last year here in Oregon. He had some excellent data refuting the theory that it was okay to resume lion hunting in Botswana. The government at the time may not have been happy about that. My favorite WS guide helped collect information for Dr. Kat.


Questioning Dr. Kat's professional credibility just because we don't agree with a particular position is going too far (just as he may have gone too far in questioning the credibility of some others). I'm not saying we should never question "experts"; it is just that in this case the discussion/argument has slipped from informative to ridiculously personal.


I request that it either get back on track, or just let it go.

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Thanks Pangolin. I totally agree. I would prefer to see members debate in the topic that has been opened titled "Which lions would those be then?" which is an attempt to engage members in a discussion on the issues in lion conservation.


It tackles the notion of whether habitat protection and natural recolonization is enough?


If not, are wild-caught lions suitable for reintroduction programs


And if not, can captive bred lions be a viable source?


I hope members will take part in that discussion.

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Hi Sniktawk


There is no diversionary tactic. This thread has been related to the conservation value of the lion reintroduction program under discussion


The thread I have started is related to a broader discussion on lion conservation, which may or may not include the use of captive bred lions as a source for reintroduction programs. We will have to see how the discussion develops.


One key discussion that has been brought up is the habitat protection and how effective that can be in saving Africa's lions.


Also, where translocation for wild-caught lions for reintroduction is to be considered what are suitable source populations.


These discussions could bring in elements of disease, socio-economic factors, political issues, evolutionary potential, genetics and many other issues effecting lion conservation.


So personally I see them as two seperate discussions although there is some crossover. If the moderators of this site disagree then I am sure they will move my post and subsequent discussion over to this thread.




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Hi - just to pick up on some of these points...


I do not know how many people you are talking about and I know you do not know how many people and organizations support ALERT so I couldn't possibly comment on whether the people you are referring to amount to a greater support against the project than for it.


"These cubs are also often 'rented out' by the captive lion breeders to tourism operators to be petted by tourists in so called 'lion walks' - often with assurances that such cubs will be 'rehabilitated' and 'reintroduced' into the wild. "


Yes that certainly happens but our program has never rented a cub and I do not believe that there can be any doubt that we are genuine in our attempt to reintroduce.


"However, tourists should know that these hand-reared cubs can never truly be returned to the wild."


Captive bred lions have been released back into the wild. Some have been successful and some not. Our belief is that the success rate is not good enough so we are trying to develop a workable plan such that captive sources of lions can be a viable alternative to using wild-caught animals - the vast majority of which are unsuitable for reintroduction programs


"and most end up sold to private hunting concessions as tame targets for the lucrative canned hunting industry (and not just in South Africa, but neighbouring countries also). "


Sadly this is true but not in the case of our program.


“Captive breeding: The commercial breeding of lions has never been conducted in Zambia. Neither, to our knowledge, has the reintroduction of lions into the wild been successful anywhere else in the world.”


So? and yes it has, but in our opinion not enough so a workable solution should be found


“Since 1972 when the programme started how many lions have been successfully relocated to depleted NPs?” Surely an encouraging answer to this would knock a lot of criticism on the head!”


This is 27 years before the program started. Everyone already knows how we have got. We have had success in stage two, are now preparing for stage three and expect our first stage four in 2012. We have requests from Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Ghana, Benin, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Malawi, South Africa, Swaziland amongst others for lions for stage four.


This is all ground that has been covered in this thread already so it seems whether we discuss it here or on another thread what is the difference - people don't read it anyways!

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David and others, thanks for your posts.


Yes, lets try and keep this discussion on track. Perhaps if ALERT answered some of the questions put to them then we wouldn't end up repeating ourselves.


David, in the post above you say ALERT has never rented a cub. I take it then that the 10 lion cubs ALERT imported to Zambia from a breeder in South Africa were bought by ALERT/Antelope Park.


Can you please name the source of these lions so that we can settle the issue of whether or not ALERT/Antelope Park has, in the purchase of these lion cubs, either directly or indirectly supported a captive lion breeding facility in SA which feeds lions into the canned hunting industry there?


Secondly, can you please confirm that you will publish a full list of the lions which have gone through the ALERT program since its conception, at both Antelope Park and Victoria Falls, with details of their name, parentage, sex, date of birth, progress through the project and current status/location (including enclosure size). I find it very had to believe that you dont have access to this information, and if you need some help collating it or dont have the time yourself then may I suggest one of your volunteers may find it an interesting task. This is not an excessively burdening request - these are the lions in your program, for which you are responsible, and to which your volunteers and other doners have paid money to your project.


I look forward to your reply


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I have no problem with your position at all Quentin and I never have. if that is what you believe then that is great. I don't agree with you which is also fine - I am genuinely very, very proud of the work that we do and I do believe from what I have learnt about problems facing the remaining lions over the years that there is a need for our program. I think there is ever mounting evidence of a crisis for the African lion and I am very happy to be part of an organization that is not only trying to help establish what the current problems are, produce solutions to those problems in the long term but establish a program that can provide lions into area that need them - and there are plenty with no viable wild sources.


It is a shame that you do not see what happens here on the ground every day. You already know about the lions but there is also...


You do not see the hundreds of people who would otherwise be unemployed

You do not see the girl who was raped and abused by her father and given birth to his daughter at only 12 years old when her eyes light up because we have taught her about conservation and she has a hope one day of working in the industry

You do not follow our research technicians as they try to carry out reliable studies using aging materials in a country with a crumbling infrastructure yet they still put together data and present it to the wildlife authority that is using it to improve their management of a national park

You do not listen with us to the stories of an HIV patient whilst we sit with them and make their last moments more bearable

You have not toiled in the heat of the day with the workers removing alien plant species in a fragile eco-system

You do not see the piles of snares we remove and destroy everyday

You do not see the child who has a better chance in life because of the hours we patiently sit teaching them to read

You do not sit with us in the houses of families who have had their crops destroyed by elephants and asking us to help

You do not help us pull a rhino out of a hole so that it can live to see another african dawn

You do not see the people at the meetings discussing how we can help them stop lions killing their goats

And you are not there when a cub you hand raised pulls down a giraffe and has successfully become self-sustaining.


Everyday we do something little. If we had more money and more time we could do more. I want to spend my days doing these things. I want to have time to finish the web site we are designing. I want to finish writing the first three research articles I am working on. I want to have the time to write that phd I've been accepted for. I want to read and learn more about lions and I want to sit down with our many partner organizations and discuss how we can work together even better to be a part of the solution to the problems here in Africa. I don't want to spend my days reading and answering aggressive emails.


So please, if you don't like the project, ok. But I'd like to get on with my job now and do what I believe in.

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You do not see...
A lot of very emotional pictures. In my country we call this vernebeln (to lay a smoke-screen).

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Thanks David, so that's a blank refusal to address the questions I have specifically put to you? No problem - it speaks for itself.


I think you miss-judge my knowledge of your project - I know much more than you realise, and I am familiar with your work first hand. I am also very familiar with Zimbabwe, and the work you undertake in other areas, such as in Hwange, and for example, the young rhino your staff 'rescued' - during the course of which I understand the mother was scared off some distance and after which your staff/volunteers scared off even further by trying to follow. Do you know the eventual fate of this young rhino? Two sides to every story hey?


Yes I accept ALERT have made great strides to develop additional conservation and community initiatives - to me this is an attempt to window-dress your project and distract from the basic facts at the core of your project - that there is no need to captive breed, hand rear and then attempt to rehabilitate lions or reintroduce their offspring, and that your project has no value in regard to the conservation of the African lion. But anyway.


Regarding the previous statements by Andrew Connelly and Dr Kat, here is a response from Dr Luke Hunter, which I think sums up the whole thing in a nutshell:


"The views we expressed in the Science piece are echoed by the great majority of credible lion scientists and conservationists. [Dr] Kat can attack us individually all he likes; it does not change the fact that most of the lion conservation community considers his project valueless in terms of its stated conservation goals. That is not an attack on [Dr] Kat (unlike those he makes on us), rather it is an objective assessment of the value and risks of his project.


Incidentally, I spoke at length to Jerry Guo about the fact that reintroduction is much more likely to succeed with wild lions, of which there are many available. [Dr] Kat shows just how out of touch he is by suggesting the species is now too scarce for that to be an option."


So please, go back to your work and studies, and I wish you luck with them, but be aware that wherever I see your biased and one-side publicity for the ALERT project I will attempt to show the other side of the debate. If that annoys you, Andrew Connelly or Dr Kat, or distracts you from your research or Phd, then I am sorry, but like I said, two sides to every story, and your project is so far from the centre of accepted lion conservation that I feel it has to be questioned at every step.



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Posted (edited)


Edited by russell

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Adding on to the above. I have done a few quick figures.......


The cost to for 6 weeks volunteer work at Antelope Park is just under $4500 dollars. (there is also an option for the new Livingstone site and to stay at Victoria Falls.)


*The promotion I saw for the volunteer work was heavily skewed to centring aroudn the lion rehabilitation project.


The cost of a lion walk is $100 per person (roughly).


Correct me if I am wrong here.... (we will assume you can take up to 20 volunteers between the project sites. It certainly seems reasonable considering the number I have seen on your promotional videos)


I will use the long term $4500 discount rate for the six weeks. I will also subtract perhaps a 20% commission paid to African Impact for getting your volunteers.


@ $3700 per volunteer, per six weeks, gives you a potential revenue of around $614,000 per annum, based on 20 volunteers.


If you run at a 60% take up, that leaves you with around $384,000 per year.


Now the Lion Ecounters (Vic Falls only)


@$100 per person, it seems I can have a morning or afternoon option.


Lets say, as a long run average, you have 15 guests per day.


@$100 that equates to $1500 per day, or $575,000 per annum.


I understand this is only part of the lion walking revenue, it does not include antelope park, visited by a number of overland trucks, or things like DVDs of your day for a bargain $45 each.


The interesting thing would be, would ALERT's accounts show revenue anywhere near $800,000 per annum.


David, I appreciate you employ a number of Zimbabweans in these difficult times, also that there is a market for this activity, though it not my cup of tea.


My issue comes from calling yourself a Charity, yet having the transparency of a financial institution with Credit default swaps and other finanical instruments 'off balance sheet'.

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