Walking with Lions - Con-Conservation?
Posted 18 March 2008 - 02:14 PM
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.
Posted 18 March 2008 - 08:02 PM
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.
Posted 30 March 2008 - 04:07 PM
Statement by Aquila (from Irresponsible Tourism - http://www.irrespons...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:
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.
Campaign against Canned Hunting
Posted 02 April 2008 - 04:52 PM
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.
Posted 02 April 2008 - 09:52 PM
Edited by russell, 11 August 2010 - 08:11 PM.
Au revior ST - its been a pleasure, see you in 2015!
Posted 04 April 2008 - 04:34 PM
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
Environmental Council of Zambia
P. O. Box 35131
Phone (w): +260 211 254023
Mobile: +260 955 995426
"We do not inherit the earth, we borrow it from our children" Chief Seatle
Posted 06 April 2008 - 06:21 AM
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."
Posted 06 April 2008 - 08:44 AM
Edited by russell, 11 August 2010 - 08:11 PM.
Au revior ST - its been a pleasure, see you in 2015!
Posted 06 April 2008 - 10:56 AM
Here is a link to a story that shows just how convoluted the South Africa system is. http://www.carteblan...lay.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.
Posted 06 April 2008 - 11:28 AM
Edited by russell, 11 August 2010 - 08:11 PM.
Au revior ST - its been a pleasure, see you in 2015!
Posted 06 April 2008 - 04:35 PM
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.carteblan...lay.asp?Id=2728 and
2007 - http://www.carteblan...lay.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-c...?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.antelopep...o.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.pathfinde...ut/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.lionencou....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.
Posted 09 April 2008 - 07:03 PM
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,
Posted 09 April 2008 - 08:04 PM
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.
Posted 13 April 2008 - 04:54 PM
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.
ALERT STATEMENT REGARDING DEATHS IN STAGE TWO RELEASE (from Trip Advisor discussion)
"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."
Posted 28 July 2008 - 05:17 PM
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!
Posted 11 December 2008 - 01:40 AM
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??
Posted 27 April 2009 - 07:38 PM
Science magazine (http://www.sciencema...ry/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....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.
Posted 28 April 2009 - 01:15 AM
Posted 28 April 2009 - 08:34 AM
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.
Founder, African Lion & Environmental Research Trust
Posted 28 April 2009 - 09:50 AM
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.