In this topic, I am not trying to resurrect the that old pro-and anti-hunting debate.
In this topic, I am simply examining ONE park – South Luangwa National Park in Zambia- and trying to understand whether lion hunting is a sustainable enterprise here, and if so, what benefits does this bring to the park and to the local communities.
To set the stage, South Luangwa NP is 9050 covers an area of sq. kms and is bordered by several GMAs or hunting concessions. These are:
As you can see, these GMAs put together are vastly larger than the park itself. In fact, just Lower Lupande, Upper Lupande and Mwanya Lumimba cover about 7500 sq. kilometers by themselves, and the average distance to the park boundaries from these GMAs is roughly 15 kms. However, even though these are very large areas, most of the terrain is not huntable. As RPS stated, there is simply not a lot of game – either predator or prey – and most wildlife is concentrated along the great Luangwa river. The most obvious reasons for this scarcity of wildlife in these GMAs could be lack of water, bushmeat hunting etc.
So the immediate questions that come to mind are these:
1) Have these GMAs all been leased out as hunting concessions?
2) If so, why are the hunting companies not digging or pumping waterholes deeper inside their concessions to provide water for their animals? How effective are their anti-poaching and snare removal programs? How do they interact with their local communities? Do they provide incentives that could prevent poaching or retaliatory killing?
3) Those of you who know this area well, please could you let me know the names of the GMA lessees or the hunters who practice in these various concessions?
I have read some scientific & non-scientific papers that were written fairly recently about lion and leopard hunting around Zambia – and more particularly around South Luangwa.
This one by Creel et al. provides solid scientific data about the effects of hunting on lions near SLNP
1) http://www.montana.e... assessment.pdf
Abstract: Large carnivores are in rapid global decline, with a broad array of consequences for the ecosystems they inhabit. To efficiently detect and address these declines requires unbiased and precise demographic data. Unfortunately, the characteristics that make large carnivores extinction-prone also pose serious challenges to obtaining these data. Rapid survey methods exist, but provide only relative measures of abundance, cannot detect declines before they become large, and provide little or no information about the causes of decline. African lions (Panthera leo) are declining throughout their range, making accurate monitoring of remaining populations urgent. We provide statistically rigorous estimates of population size, trends, survival rate and age–sex structure from Zambia’s South Luangwa lion population from 2008 to 2012, just prior to cessation of hunting in 2013. Mark-recapture models fit to data from intensive monitoring of 210 individual lions in 18 prides and 14 male coalitions indicated a declining population, low recruitment, low sub-adult and adult male survival, depletion of adult males, and a senescing adult female population. Trophy hunting was the leading cause of death, with 46 males harvested. Based on these data we recommend continuing the hunting ban at least to 2016 to allow recovery, with substantially reduced quotas, age-limits, and effective trophy monitoring mandated thereafter should hunting resume. Similar data from intensive monitoring of key Zambian lion populations is required to evaluate effects of the hunting ban and provide management guidance. Effectively integrating intensive long-term monitoring and rapid survey methods should be a priority for future management and monitoring of carnivore species.
For those of you who don’t want to plough through the whole paper, here are the salient points:
1) Hunting resulted in population declines over a 25-year period…with large declines for quotas greater than 1 lion/concession (or about 0.5 lions/1000 kms2) and by hunting males younger than 7 years.
2) Hunting requires periods of recovery – in other words, if you hunt for some years in succession, then you have to stop hunting for some years in succession.
3) If this policy were to be adopted – i.e. hunting only 1 lion per 1000 sq kms, only male lions older than 7 and after giving proper recovery periods, then the risk of extirpation falls.
4) To conclude: if more than 1 lion is hunted per 1000 sq kilometers then the risk of extirpation increases to > 10%. If lions under 7 years old are hunted, then this risk climbs even higher. If you don’t provide recovery periods, then this risk goes higher still.
5) The paper does not factor in the risks posed by snaring which are substantial in this area. Add that to the mix, and these numbers quickly become unsustainable.
6)The paper concludes that when there is continuous hunting and when males of 5 years are allowed to be hunted, then 75% of all simulations show that the lion population of SLNP could become extinct due to hunting.
Now look at this diagram:
The various colored dots show pride movement and the red + marks are locations where lions have been shot.
- Clearly, there are very few lions residing in the GMAs, so the lions that are being hunted are essentially ‘park’ lions. Otherwise, we’d be seeing more of those red + marks deeper inside the GMAs.
- We all know how easy it is to bait and lure animals from inside the park to within the GMA boundaries (Cecil is a case in point).
- In their note to @janzin, @RPS said that most of these lions never enter the GMAs. So if lions are shot within the GMAs, just across the border, then it is not unreasonable to assume that something unusual attracted them to the other side.
Now please read this very recent article from the Lusaka Times [warning – graphic images]
1) First of all, it’s rubbish to say that lion hunting will open in 2017. As we all know, it is already open.
2) Mr. Norton, the conservation-minded Chairman of the Zambian Professional Hunters Association says in the article –” The setting of a quota and the harvesting of the lion in a sustainable way is what’s absolutely of paramount importance”, and he goes on to explain all about reproductive age etc.
3) But then he goes on to say this about the 6-year rule that was proposed by the government: “We agreed with government to a compromise,” said Mr. Norton, “and we agreed that a lion that was five years old or older would be permitted.”
4) And why so? Because it is apparently hard to distinguish a 5-year old lion from a 6-year old lion!
5) By that logic, it would be equally hard to distinguish a 4-year old from a 5-year old, or a 6-year old from a 7-year old.
6) The proposed quota was indeed 1 lion per GMA, but it looks very likely that there are at least 2 per concession.
This is better than the pre-ban numbers, but how this adds up to” the setting of a quota and the harvesting of the lion in a sustainable way is what’s absolutely of paramount importance”?
And hasn’t it just been shown without a shadow of a doubt in the Creel paper above that shooting lions under 7 years of age is not sustainable? In the Luangwa Valley, where there is thick bush and no access to the type of migratory prey species as seen in the Serengeti, the huntable age has been shown to be 7, not 6 (which is the case in Tanzania) because they start reproducing later in Luangwa.
But you see, “We agreed with government to a compromise,” said Mr. Norton, “and we agreed that a lion that was five years old or older would be permitted.”
There’s so much bullshit being bandied around, it’s hard to keep up with it.
Here’s an arguably ‘biased’ letter from the anti-hunting side. I have included it here in this topic, not for its conclusions, but for the facts and figures it presents re: Zambian lion populations. And for its citations, which may be useful to those wanting to investigate further.
So let’s just concentrate on Zambia as an example of the muddled thinking that seems apparent (and can be read-across to many other examples/range states):
Zambia recently announced a lion trophy hunting quota for 2016 of 24 lions (announced by Zambia’s Minister of Tourism and Arts, Jean Kapata), when there is no clear census of the lion population in country apart from monitored subpopulations ‘protected’ in national parks.
Estimates suggest (2) that the monitored lion sub-populations in Zambia’s three largest national parks (Kafue- 264 assessed in 2011, South Luangwa – 94 assessed in 2012, Lower Zambezi – 11-34 assessed in 2009), might be as low at 307 – 465 lions in total. A lion population of 500 is widely considered the minimum population size (Packer et al., 2011) to sustain an adequate gene pool, and/or survive other overbearing threats, or stochastic events (as being witnessed in South Africa’s Kruger National Park lion population and Bovine Tuberculosis) (3) having a potentially devastating impact on the population. There is no monitored Zambian subpopulation greater than 500 lions.
The South Luangwa lion population is declining (2) and not expanding with very low sub-adult and adult male survival rates, combining depletion of adult males with a biologically ageing (senescence) female population. So lion ‘dynamics’ for successful, sustainable reproduction rates were already ‘challenged’ before trophy hunters were again permitted to ‘”harvest” key pride members. The primary cause of male mortality (2008 – 2012) was considered to be trophy hunting(2), with 46 of the park’s male lions killed for trophies (Rosenblatt et al., 2014).
There are no reliable counts of lions resident in hunting concessions. It should be noted, that Zambia’s hunting concessions (conveniently) border directly onto the ‘protected’ national parks, with past reports(2) of hunters baiting lions out of ‘protected’ park boundaries in order to obtain their (needless) lion kill/trophy. In the absence of any reliable hunting concession lion population data, the only means hunters can “harvest” lions for any given hunting quota (“off-take”) is by relying on the monitored and ‘protected’ lion populations in national parks. Therefore, any lion “off-take” has no recognisable scientific or ‘sustainable’ basis - in Zambia it can only be based on known and supposedly ‘protected’ lion population numbers (and there are not that many lions there either to support such “off-take” without significant conservation risks).
To further compound the lack of scientific foundation for Zambia’s stated lion “offtake” of 24 lions set for 2016, the Zambian Government ‘chooses’ to believe the fantasy that there might be between 1,500 – 2,500 lions in country. However, the Zambian Government/Authorities failed to reply to UNEP-WCMC(2) in 2015 on how the Zambian Government had arrived at their ‘guesstimate.’ It should be noted that quotas are often based, in-part on operators’ recommendations – not verifiable science, but on “operators” with a vested interest in setting lion population estimates and “offtake” quotas high.
A hunting quota of 24 Zambian lions (2016) is very close to the “5% of any scientifically proven population” (possibly 500, or less in Zambia’s case) recommended as a Trophy Hunting quota: “for a quota to be considered sustainable for lions, it should be limited to no more than 5 percent of the population” - Creel and Creel, 1997
Here’s one paper that examines leopard hunting in Zambia
Abstract: Human activities on the periphery of protected areas can limit carnivore populations, but measurements of the strength of such effects are limited, largely due to difficulties of obtaining precise data on population density and survival. We measured how density and survival rates of a previously unstudied leopard population varied across a gradient of protection and evaluated which anthropogenic activities accounted for observed patterns. Insights into this generalist's response to human encroachment are likely to identify limiting factors for other sympatric carnivore species. Motion‐sensitive cameras were deployed systematically in adjacent, similarly sized, and ecologically similar study areas inside and outside Zambia's South Luangwa National Park (SLNP) from 2012 to 2014. The sites differed primarily in the degree of human impacts: SLNP is strictly protected, but the adjacent area was subject to human encroachment and bushmeat poaching throughout the study, and trophy hunting of leopards prior to 2012. We used photographic capture histories with robust design capture–recapture models to estimate population size and sex‐specific survival rates for the two areas. Leopard density within SLNP was 67% greater than in the adjacent area, but annual survival rates and sex ratios did not detectably differ between the sites. Prior research indicated that wire‐snare occurrence was 5.2 times greater in the areas adjacent to the park. These results suggest that the low density of leopards on the periphery of SLNP is better explained by prey depletion, rather than by direct anthropogenic mortality. Long‐term spatial data from concurrent lion studies suggested that interspecific competition did not produce the observed patterns. Large carnivore populations are often limited by human activities, but science‐based management policies depend on methods to rigorously and quantitatively assess threats to populations of concern. Using noninvasive robust design capture–recapture methods, we systematically assessed leopard density and survival across a protection gradient and identified bushmeat poaching as the likely limiting factor. This approach is of broad value to evaluate the impacts of anthropogenic activities on carnivore populations that are distributed across gradients of protection.
I am going to leave it at this today. Section 2 will be on the finances, revenue distribution and benefits to the communities.
I am very grateful to some friends who have helped me research & collate this information & who have explained the data to me. I am sorry I cannot mention their names publicly, but I did want to mention that others have worked hard at putting this together.