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Cecil's son Xanda killed by hunter

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@douglaswise 

Firstly WildCRU’s primary purpose is conservation specifically of wild carnivores using science to find solutions to the problems faced by these species.  Resolving human wildlife conflict is an important aspect of what they do, but their raison d’être is saving species from extinction. 

 

I have read and compared both statements and I have to disagree with the idea that either of the two sides is actually lying but that’s a question of definition. During the Cecil furore WildCRU thanks to an appeal by the US TV host Jimmy Kimmel unexpectedly found themselves receiving loads of donations from people who had never heard of WildCRU before,  in the end they raised 1 million $s it’s entirely understandable that they would exploit this situation to solicit further donations they need the money. Furthermore regardless of what is or isn’t happening to lions in Hwange lions in most parts of their range across Africa are in serious trouble, when the world’s media was focussed on lions, because of the death of Cecil it made perfect sense to exploit his death to draw attention to the situation facing all lions. The Cecil Summit organised in 2016 was simply a meeting of experts on lion conservation from across Africa and around the world focused on finding ways to save the lion, it didn’t actually having anything to do with Cecil per say it wasn’t a conference on trophy hunting. As soon as the fuss over Cecil’s death had died down the media moved on and forgot about lions, Dr MacDonald’s objective was simply to see that lions are not forgotten about and to create a movement for lion conservation, to as he put it turn a Cecil Moment into a Cecil Movement. I would suggest that this was a smart thing to do. Thanks to my lifelong interest in wildlife conservation I was aware of WildCRU and the work that they do, many people though would never have heard of this organisation had it not been for the Cecil affair, the death of this one lion focused the media’s attention on lions and their plight, in a way that has never happened before. I really don’t see a problem with using Cecil’s name to further lion conservation, I can however see why some hunters would rather he was forgotten, from their point of view the name Cecil just reminds people of the existence of lion hunting and draws support to the anti-hunting cause. However as I say in WildCRU's case it's nothing to do with promoting an anti-hunting message it's all about promoting lion conservation.

 

 

The ZPHGA obviously don’t issue a statement every time a hunter shoots a lion, they have only done so in this case because of the minor media storm that has been kicked up, and they are purely conducting a damage limitation exercise, because the Cecil affair was very bad for their image. Basically both statements are part of a PR exercise the ZPHGA say the Xanda was not the father of dependant cubs, WildCRU say that he was the father of 7 cubs however they don’t state that they were dependant cubs so the two statements are not necessarily contradictory. You may say that WildCRU are being a little dishonest because people will assume that he has 7 cubs that might now be killed, rather than that he has 7 cubs that are now old enough to be out of serious danger. Is this lying? Well only if it was a deliberate attempt to mislead which you don’t know was the case. They also don’t state that he had been kicked out of his pride, but other than that, it doesn’t strike me that the two statements disagree that much at all. And as I say in both cases it is about PR, both sides would I have no doubt been approached by various media organisations asking for a statement and both would have been keen to get their message aired.

 

In my post, yes I was speculating when I said that it might be necessary to raise the minimum shootable age of a lion to 8 years old, but that is not simply an idea that I plucked out of my head. The minimum age of 6 years old was decided on the basis of research conducted by Craig Packer in the Serengeti where there is a fast turnover of male lions. Males do not get to hold prides for very long there before they are usurped by invading males. The habitat in the Serengeti is very different to that in Hwange or for that matter in Selous and other places where most lion hunting takes place, I believe it has been suggested that in some of these other areas lions are able to hold prides for much longer. It has then been posited that the 6 year minimum age may not be appropriate in all hunting areas and that in some locations needs to be raised.  When I suggested that this might be necessary I had not read the ZPHGA’s statement claiming that Xanda had been usurped, I assumed that he was still a pride male. In any case the age of 6 and over was chosen to ensure that a lion would be able to father at least one set of cubs before he is shot and to reduce the risk of infanticide which is increased when younger males are shot. It’s not about a 6 year old being an older male it’s about allowing him at least one successful breeding season to ensure his genes are passed on, raising the age by two years  would allow a strong male several breeding seasons to pass on his good genes.  Taking him out too early may allow a weaker male to come in and take over without a fight, allowing him to pass on weaker genes that he would not have been passed on if he had had to fight for the right to mate.

 

You suggested that removing older males benefits the gene pool, but male lions reach full maturity at 5 years old if Xanda was 6 I don’t honestly think you can describe him as an older male, as I said this age is intended to give them one breeding season. His father Cecil was admittedly pretty exceptional being still in fine condition at 13, this really is pretty old for a lion but again his age makes the idea that Xanda qualifies as an older male seem pretty strange to me. You say that hunting reduces the likelihood of father daughter matings, I would suggest that it is purely an assumption on your part that father daughter matings are a common occurrence, and therefore a problem for the genetics of lions, an assumption that is not correct. In order to learn a bit more about the reproductive behaviour of lions and avoid posting something out of my head that isn’t actually correct, I looked up lions in the Mammals of Africa (Vol. V) one of the three authors of the entry for lions is Craig Packer and much of the information comes from his Serengeti research. It states that young females will normally stay with their mother’s pride, but that if their father is still the pride male when they reach sexual maturity they will disperse. Females become sexually mature at between 30-38 months, therefore when a five year old male fathers cubs any females will not be sexually mature until he is around 8 years old and if he’s still around they will likely disperse.  This suggests to me that father daughter matings is not significant issue and that you are just making an assumption, because had I not checked I would have assumed the same as you. Further to what I said regarding the research and differences in habitat, it also states in MOA that the age at which lions reach full size and maturity varies according to the habitat and those in harsher environments such as in Kruger can take a year longer to reach full maturity than those in the Serengeti. My suggestion that it might be a good idea to raise the minimum shootable age of lions was not therefore plucked out of thin air.

 

Given that Xanda had apparently been ousted according to the ZPHGA an obvious question would be was he a solo male at the time and was that always the case?  Or did he have a coalition partner and if so what happened to him, was he shot by hunters? I am not going to claim that this was the case that would be pure speculation and I simply don’t know, I haven’t tried to find an answer to this question. However it is a known problem, that one male in a coalition is killed by a trophy hunter and then his brother/partner is not able to defend the pride from a rival coalition and ends up being seriously beaten up and losing the pride or is even killed by his rivals. I would nonetheless be interested to know for certain what the case was with Xanda, because what I find odd is that the Independent article linked to earlier states the following

 

Quote

Richard Cooke, the professional hunter accused of killing Xanda, also reportedly killed the cubs’ brother in 2015.

 

Leaving aside the fact that his brother may have been his coalition partner and that his death could have led to the ousting of Xanda (and that as I say would be speculation) what is odd is that we are told in the reports that Xanda was Cecil’s oldest cub, well then if Xanda was 6 how old was the brother allegedly killed in 2015? This would appear to suggest that the brother would have been underaged after all he can’t have been 6 when he was shot, I’m not accusing Richard Cooke of having shot an underaged lion I’m purely raising this because what’s being reported doesn’t make sense.Like most sensible people I know not to believe everything I read in the media so I'm just not sure what to make of this aspect of the story.

 

My point in any case would be that if Xanda was ousted because he lost his coalition partner to hunting that would be a whole different story than if he was just a solo male who was ousted by a coalition which would not be unexpected even if he is a strong male in his prime. Since we know that Xanda has cubs and they are not dependent on him for protection anymore, you could certainly argue that he had done his job and passed on his genes so it doesn’t matter that he was shot.

 

My concern as I’ve said before is purely that lion hunting has to be sustainable and the reason for this concern is the knowledge that in some locations it definitely isn’t, that comes not just from that Selous research that I sighted and other research but from evidence of bad hunting practices that I have seen for myself in Tanzania having visited game reserves where hunting takes place and from talking to people who live and work there. Here's another paper on lion hunting in Tanzania.

 

Trophy hunting and lion conservation: a question of governance?

 

However I am also aware that hunting is generally better managed in Southern Africa than it is in Tanzania where the situation really is in some places seriously poor. I should not conclude that just because lion hunting is not sustainable in some parts of Tanzania that the same is true of Zimbabwe anymore than that you should conclude that what happens in Bubye applies to other areas. My reasons for being concerned about Hwange’s lions relates to the fact the despite the lack of any prosecutions the shooting of Cecil appears to have been illegal and the fact that Brent Stapelkamp when interviewed expressed concerns about the sustainability of the hunting in the area. Beyond that I don’t have actual evidence that the hunting of lion hunting around Hwange is badly managed. Like I suspect a lot of people I also have concerns about how the management of hunting may or may not have been affected by the political situation in Zimbabwe and I have concerns about corruption. I do accept though my concerns may be unfounded.

 

Just to be clear my suggestion that shootable age might need to be raised is not about trying to as it were gradually phase out lion hunting bit by bit,  I have ever since I joined Safaritalk clearly stated on numerous occasions my support for trophy hunting as a means of conserving habitat and wildlife and while I have frequently expressed reservations about lion hunting, I recognise that the economics of trophy hunting depends on lion hunting. It is my view that a complete ban on trophy hunting as many animal campaigners would like, would be an utter disaster for wildlife populations in many areas, and I have to therefore accept if that is my view then a ban on lion hunting would be a disaster for the hunting industry and therefore for wildlife conservation.  

 

The Significance of African Lions for the Financial Viability of Trophy Hunting and the Maintenance of Wild Land

 

 

Quote

 

Abstract

Recent studies indicate that trophy hunting is impacting negatively on some lion populations, notably in Tanzania. In 2004 there was a proposal to list lions on CITES Appendix I and in 2011 animal-welfare groups petitioned the United States government to list lions as endangered under their Endangered Species Act. Such listings would likely curtail the trophy hunting of lions by limiting the import of lion trophies. Concurrent efforts are underway to encourage the European Union to ban lion trophy imports. We assessed the significance of lions to the financial viability of trophy hunting across five countries to help determine the financial impact and advisability of the proposed trade restrictions. Lion hunts attract the highest mean prices (US$24,000–US$71,000) of all trophy species. Lions generate 5–17% of gross trophy hunting income on national levels, the proportional significance highest in Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia. If lion hunting was effectively precluded, trophy hunting could potentially become financially unviable across at least 59,538 km2 that could result in a concomitant loss of habitat. However, the loss of lion hunting could have other potentially broader negative impacts including reduction of competitiveness of wildlife-based land uses relative to ecologically unfavourable alternatives. Restrictions on lion hunting may also reduce tolerance for the species among communities where local people benefit from trophy hunting, and may reduce funds available for anti-poaching. If lion off-takes were reduced to recommended maximums (0.5/1000 km2), the loss of viability and reduction in profitability would be much lower than if lion hunting was stopped altogether (7,005 km2). We recommend that interventions focus on reducing off-takes to sustainable levels, implementing age-based regulations and improving governance of trophy hunting. Such measures could ensure sustainability, while retaining incentives for the conservation of lions and their habitat from hunting.

 

 

 

I put the last part in bold as it's the part that's relevant to my concerns regarding sustainable lion hunting I have to say I haven't seriously studied this research in detail, nor do I know enough about the hunting around Hwange to know how this research relates to the Hwange situation. 

 

On the subject of a proposed buffer zone

 

In the case of various different national parks that are adjoined by hunting reserves, there is a buffer zone in place, where there is supposed to be no shooting, the objective of such a buffer zone is to ensure that the animals that the hunters are shooting, are ones that are primarily resident in the game reserve, and not ones that primarily resident in the national park. That their hunting is not impacting on the national park’s animals, that the hunters are not just sitting on the park boundary, waiting for animals to wonder out of the park, so they can shoot them or actively baiting animals out of the park. It would also as might be the case in this area of Hwange keep the hunting further away from camps and lodges, photo tourists don’t want to be hearing shots while they are on safari and the camps/lodges don’t want to be losing valuable tourist animals, nor do they want the behaviour of the wildlife to be negatively impacted by hunting. If you have a no hunting buffer zone then this has to be enforced, within the Rungwa Game Reserve in Tanzania that adjoins Ruaha NP there is a supposed to be a buffer zone where there is no shooting (I don’t recall how wide), however on one of my visits to Ruaha we came across an old machan (shooting platform) made from tree branches put up in a tree on the Rungwa bank of the Njombe River (a sand river) that forms the boundary between the reserve and the park. There can be no reason why someone would have constructed a machan in this tree other than to use it for hunting and the view from the platform was into the park. Any lion or leopard shot from that machan would have been in Ruaha or at least in the river so on the boundary line and certainly baited out of Ruaha. Whatever had been going on there was clearly illegal.

 

Ruaha National Park is now the largest park in Tanzania and the entire ecosystem the Rungwa-Kisigo Game Reserve is massive and there is room to have a buffer zone within the game reserves, elsewhere it may not always be possible. My view would generally be (where it is possible to do so) that wildlife inside the boundaries of national parks should be strictly protected and sustainable use such as trophy hunting or game cropping, should confined to surrounding game reserves ,with a buffer zone in between. If the hunting areas are only small there may not be room to have a buffer zone.

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Posted (edited)

I agree with you on most counts, @inyathi - thank you for your thoughtful post.

 

Just so people know, according to WildCRU, Xanda was looking after 3 prides and had 7 dependent cubs when he was shot.

 

He was definitely an 'active', not an 'ousted' pride male. It just so happened that his territory was along the park borders.

 

Who knows what ZimParks told the PH, but it is highly unlikely that any member of WildCRU, whether a scientist or field staff, would have told ZPHGA this rubbish story about the ousting etc. when they have the opp info up on their own website. 

 

Sounds to me like the 'ethics are everything' folks at ZPHGA are just trying to stave off any criticism of shooting a young lion in his prime by making up stories - and if I can endow them with a longer term ulterior motive - of trying to sow distrust in the animal welfare and animal rights community to harm WildCRU donations.

 

FWIW, none of the Hollywood cubs in South Luangwa made it after the one male of the coalition was shot last year. That's what happens when pride males are killed for fun.

 

And advance notice - it seems Ginger may be spared the gun, but Garlic has become a prime target for next year. When he will be surely baited and lured out of the park and killed along the park boundaries.

 

But ho hum - same old, same old - happens every year.

 

 

Edited by Sangeeta
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@inyathi - thanks for the video link too ....... Shows what WildCru have been doing and their activities.

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Another very interesting post from @inyathi Thank you

 

If the cubs had been young dependent would this mean that the hunt was therefore illegal? I think not and that this is more of a moral/ethical argument. However should the age of the permitted adult male be raised to 8 this would be more likely allow at least one set of cubs to grow through to adulthood.

 

Years ago (2006?) I was fortunate to spend some time with the WildCru team, Jane Hunt in particular, whilst volunteering at Painted Dog Conservation. The work that PDC and Wildcru work is extremely valuable IMO

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The tagline of the Zim Hunters Assoc is 'Ethics is everything'.

 

They should walk the talk.

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@inyathi:

 

I don't disagree with that much in your last post.  However, I don't believe that WildCru's primary purpose is "conservation specifically of wild predators" ( why not ask David McDonald?).  I will accept that, in partnership with Panthera, it has become an important part.  I also resent being misquoted followed by the dogmatic statement that I'm incorrect. In answering someone else's post in which it was claimed that trophy hunting could harm the lion gene pool, I replied, stating that it MAY benefit it by reducing numbers of father daughter matings.  You took the trouble to look into this and cited research that suggested that ,when young females reached puberty they were LIKELY to disperse if the original pride male was still dominating (comparative rates of dispersal in the case of a changing pride male were not cited).  You actually misquoted me by saying definitively that I had claimed that removing old males benefits the gene pool, missing out a subjunctive.  Perhaps, as a layman, you don't appreciate that this is other than semantics.  As a retired research scientist, I find it unacceptable.

 

You go on to suggest that killing a pride male allows the opportunity for a weaker male to take its place and imply that weaker males will have poorer genes.  On balance, there may be some truth in this. However, relative weakness, as I pointed out, is not necessarily genetically determined.  Furthermore, as you acknowledge later, males form coalitions.  It is perfectly reasonable to assume that a pair of weaker males can displace a single, stronger animal.  This will be constantly happening in a healthy lion population.  The biggest predator of lions is lions.  If they weren't always killing each other, there'd be far too many - provided an adequate prey population existed .  There is absolutely no doubt that lion numbers are in serious decline and the causes are well known (though that doesn't necessarily mean that researchers will move on to more useful studies).  We can agree that poorly regulated hunting is one cause, but probably not of huge significance relative to habitat fragmentation, degradation and poaching.  However, when any population is in decline, even minor causes add to major ones to exacerbate the fall (something you seem to ignore in the case of raptors and songbirds). 

 

In the case of well-regulated hunting, do you think that shooting the occasional male, even if he is a pride male, will reduce the overall lion population?  Are more dependant cubs killed than would have been the case had the ousting of pride males been left to other males?  I'm aware that cessation of lion hunting in Zimbabwe was followed by an increase in numbers in monitored (researched) areas, but I don't know if numbers increased across, for example, Hwange, as a whole. However, part of the reason for a buffer zone is to allow population reduction here rather than elsewhere in a park.  By sucking males out of the centre into the periphery in consequence of trophy hunting, it is entirely possible that levels of intra-lion conflict and hence cub mortality in core areas may be reduced.  As far as I'm aware, researchers tend to concentrate their attention round the edges.  Of course, another reason to have a buffer zone with trophy hunting is to push potentially damaging wildlife away from human populations and back to the core. Are animals being sucked out or pushed in? 

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We're a few days further now and I've had some time to digest all this and new information.

 

Clearly there is a difference between the statement of ZPHGA and WildCRU. There probably isn't any digital record of the communication they have different viewpoints about so it will come down to he-said-she-said. Which makes you think who can win or lose most from that. I think it's pretty clear who is trying to do damage control, and who can lose a lot, which is probably a good indication who is telling the truth.

 

I've seen comments from organisations who seem to believe the ZPHGA version of the story. Organisations who previously accused hunters of being dishonest and rotten to the core. It's beyond me why now, especially now, they suddenly seem to believe hunters.

 

But one thing I haven't really seen yet. A few years back a definition of a huntable male lion was developed. This was developed by several lion researchers and hunters together. This definition was later endorsed by DSC. It can be found HERE

The definition is as follows: 

a huntable male lion is at least six years of age and is not known to head a pride or be part of a coalition heading a pride with dependent cubs. The ideal huntable lion is an older individual known to be a transient, that is, no longer in breeding association with any pride.

 

The law in Zimbabwe is is that the lion must be a male and at least 6 years old. So the hunting of Xanda was legal (assuming he was hunted in an area where there was a quota for a lion) as he was a male and apparently 6.2 years old. 

 

But Xanda was heading a pride of 3 females with 7 cubs. So according to the definition developed by researchers AND HUNTERS he should not have been hunted. This definition was endorsed by DSC. I haven't seen any hunters, nor DSC, pointing this out and stating that indeed this lions should not have been hunted as he doesn't meet the definition developed or endorsed by them.

 

ZPHGA states on their website 'ethics are everything'. Yes, this shooting was legal, but given he headed a pride with 7 cubs under 18 months it clearly wasn't ethical. Yet, they 'everything' seems to be a flexible term for them. They rather chose to create confusion and claim their member was told it was OK to shoot him. Why would researchers, who typically have a great passion for the animals they study tell a hunter to shoot a male when they know this will compromise the survival of the cubs? I've met many wildlife researchers in my life, and only in  the US I've heard about a few researchers who would happily hunt the carnivores they study. I've never met a lion researcher who had a passion for killing lions. I understand ZPHGA needs to back up their members, and probably the 'best' they could do in this case was come up with he-said-she-said scenario as they have a lot less to lose than the researchers, however unlikely the he-said-she-said scenario they could come up with. Sadly even this unlikely scenario seems to confuse otherwise very hunter-critical organisations. If they were ethical real gentlemen they would state something along the lines of: Our member might have been misinformed or a mis-communication between him and the researchers led to an unfortunate result, as, in hindsight, the taking of this animal, although legal, wasn't ethical. We should work on collaborating with other parties involved in wildlife management that this type of unethical harvesting in the future will be avoided. 

 

Just my 2 cents

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It has now come out that zim  parks policy is against the hunting of lion like Xanda  who have  research collars  and  head prides 

 

please see https://conservationaction.co.za/media-articles/lion-trophy-hunting-death-xanda-zimbabwe/

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2 hours ago, COSMIC RHINO said:

It has now come out that zim  parks policy is against the hunting of lion like Xanda  who have  research collars  and  head prides 

 

please see https://conservationaction.co.za/media-articles/lion-trophy-hunting-death-xanda-zimbabwe/

 

Where do you read what you state in the article you link to? It says the HSI calls on the Zimbabwean minister of Environment, Water and Climate to hold the people involved accountable if they are found to have acted in an illegal manner. The questions about this incidents are not whether it was legal, it's quite clear it was, the questions are about if the hunt was ethical as it seems that even according to a definition developed by hunters, and endorsed by at least one large hunting organisation, this male should not have been hunted as he was heading a pride with dependable cubs. ZPHGA claims 'ethics are everything' so let's see if they indeed value ethics.

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@douglaswise I have been away from my PC for a while so haven't been able to respond until now.

 

When I typed my last post I was just slightly annoyed with what you said in a couple of your comments, because while you started off by saying "if the ZPHGA statement is correct......." it was pretty clear that you thought WildCRU were guilty of lying. It's fair enough that you thought that as the statements didn't entirely agree, someone must therefore be lying, it was the fact that you had made your mind up that it had to be WildCRU, even though the ZPHGA also had a very clear motive for lying. I din't think that any of us at that point had sufficient knowledge of the events to pass that kind of judgement, and that you were far to quick to condemn WildCRU, when both sides had possible motives for lying. You could have just said that you think one side must be lying or bending the facts if you prefer, rather than point the finger without any strong evidence at one side. I suggested maybe neither side was lying, I said that, because while I was willing to accept that WildCRU might spin the facts very slightly, to attract further donations, I didn't think it was likely that they would tell an out an out lie. However, the initial statement from WildCRU was a little vague, it didn't provide sufficient grounds for suggesting that the ZPHGA statement was very largely untrue, and given that Andrew Loveridge described Mr Cooke as one of the good guys (a statement that doesn't make much sense now) I had no cause at that point to disbelieve the ZPHGA, and accuse them of lying either. in suggesting that maybe neither side was really lying, it seems I was wrong. My annoyance led me to be perhaps a little less diplomatic than I might have been, with some of the rest of what I said.

 

As it states on WildCRU's website David MacDonald founded WildCRU to tackle the emerging biodiversity crisis (to pick just one statement), what I perhaps should have said is that they have a major focus on wild carnivores, that is undeniably the case, he started out studying red foxes and founded the IUCN's Canid Specialist Group, carnivores are his specialism hence the focus on these animals, of course they do research on other animals also.

 

I confess I did not have my copy of MOA in front of me when I was typing and so what I said was not verbatim since the book or at least the relevant page is not available online, if it was I would have just copied and pasted the relevant part, both to save time and avoid mistakes. What it says is "Females usually remain in their mothers' pride, but will also disperse if their father is still resident when they reach sexual maturity" It doesn't say that they are only likely to disperse hence I did not say that. This is the information I had to hand, I'm not going to trawl the web looking to see if there's any research that contradicts this. To put together the Mammals of Africa Jonathan Kingdon assembled the foremost experts on all of the different species or mammal families, I trust therefore that information on the behaviour of all of the species covered is the best available, and based on the most up to date science, I wouldn't assume that I needed to question it. Of course in some cases daughters may not always disperse, I recognise that, my point was that father daughter matings aren't a common enough occurrence to be a significant problem, not that they never happen, I'm sure that in very small lion populations they must do. 

 

I did make one minor mistake, I said that the section in MOA on lions has 3 authors I obviously didn't look closely enough at the names and didn't have the book next to my PC when I was typing, in fact it has 2 authors Peyton M. West and Craig Packer. 

 

When it was suggested by @pomkiwi that hunting may be bad for the gene pool you did say the opposite may be the case but then said.

 

On 22/07/2017 at 2:12 PM, douglaswise said:

By taking out a small proportion of older male lions, one will be reducing the degree of father/daughter matings

 

Perhaps I read your post a little too quickly and didn't take in your initial use of the word may, but I think I can be forgiven for misinterpreting your point. As I understand it, pride males on average only get to reign for around 3 years, so by the time their first set of female cubs reach puberty they will likely be on the verge of being usurped, if they haven't been already. If for some reason their daughters don't disperse, it won't matter that much because they won't likely be around much longer anyway, the number of father daughter mating should therefore be minimal. In implying that killing Xanda could be a good thing because it would stop him mating with his daughters, I simply thought you were presenting a rather poor argument that isn't really supported by the evidence. If I hadn't checked, I might have assumed that in a pride protected by a strong coalition, the males might hold the pride for long enough for father daughter matings to become an issue, I may have read previously that females disperse, but I don't recall knowing this until I checked.

 

Also when I read your comment this argument just reminded me too much of the ‘it has to be done for the good of the herd’ argument that I so often see presented by hunters online, as a justification for the trophy hunting of a giraffe for example, trying to claim that trophy hunting is an essential part of wildlife management like deer culling. I’ve never been at all convinced by this argument and I don’t object to properly managed trophy hunting of giraffes or any other animals that are legally hunted, so people who do strongly object to hunting certainly aren’t going to be convinced, by the argument that it was necessary for someone to shoot a particular animal. On a small fenced hunting farm this argument might be valid but not in large hunting area adjoining a huge national park. Given your clarification that you only meant that it may reduce father daughter matings, I accept that it wasn't really your intention to try and suggest that Xanda needed to be killed for the benefit of Hwange’s lion population, but what you said could be interpreted that way and I therefore didn't think it was a very helpful argument.  

 

@ForWildlife has provided the definition of a huntable lion, this definition was drawn up to ensure that hunting does not cause infanticide as a result of killing pride males and members of male coalitions, because an unnatural level of infanticide obviously impacts the population. Of course infanticide is a natural part of lion behaviour, so some infanticide won't negatively affect the population, I would suggest though that you cannot be sure if you hunt a pride male like Xanda was, that if infanticide results it won't have a negative impact and therefore it's better not to take the risk and simply not hunt such males. If we accept that Xanda was a pride male as stated by WildCRU ,and I don't doubt that this was the case given his age and pedigree, if his 7 cubs are now killed, it is reasonable to assume that this would not have happened if he had not been shot, of course only time will tell if this has any noticeable impact on the population. If this is just a one-off incident that is not repeated, then the loss of his cubs may well have no more effect than if the cause had been a natural takeover, but as I say the guidelines on when a male is huntable, were drawn up to prevent a situation like this, where Xanda's cubs may now be killed from a occurring.

 

Certainly the MOA states as you rightly point out (and as I am well aware) the trophy hunting is not the major threat to lions, but that it can be a problem and that killing too many 3-4 year old males leads to a substantial increase in infanticide. This of course is why as already stated the 6 year age limit was brought in because in some locations I believe some prides were unable to successfully raise any cubs at all. I said earlier that male lions are fully mature at 5 years old and that is when they reach their full size, but they are actually capable of mating from the age of 2 and are kicked out of their natal pride around this age or soon after. Once they are chucked out they roam as bachelors for around 3 years, honing their hunting and fighting skills, preparing for the time when they will have to challenge some pride males to try and takeover a pride. If a group of full brothers, half brothers or cousins are all chucked out together they will stay together, because this is the most dangerous time in a lion's life, only 1 in 8 males will make it to full adulthood. Any male on his own with no siblings will have to try and find another male in the same boat to team up with, otherwise he will have almost no chance of claiming a pride and may very likely not survive. Only the roughest toughest males will survive this bachelor period and go on to hold a pride for a few breeding seasons, long enough to successfully raise several litters of cubs, in general a lion will takeover a pride around 5 years old and hold it for up until no more than 10 years old and then live for perhaps another 2 years as a roaming male, dying around 12. Very few lions make it beyond 12 which is why Cecil was so remarkable at 13. I think it is reasonable to state that if you kill a 6 year old pride male, you are taking out one of the 'fittest', strongest animals given that he has survived his bachelor years and successfully taken over a pride, and that you are potentially allowing weaker animals to takeover, animals that would not naturally have been able to do so. In some case you would be allowing males to takeover a pride at a younger age than would be natural, because they don't have to fight or they have only to challenge one male instead of two or even three. Also in saying "by taking out a proportion of older males......", even if you weren't just referring to Xanda, the implication was that Xanda was an older male, I don't think given the general attitude to lion hunting, that it is helpful to suggest that a 6.2 year old lion qualifies as an older male, since he would likely have had at least a few more breeding seasons ahead of him, and perhaps another 5-6 years of life. 

 

Of course other issues such as habitat loss, persecution, loss of prey, are a far greater threat to lion populations in much of the rest of Africa, but hunters shouldn’t use this fact to try and hide the truth, that lion hunting if it is not very carefully controlled is a threat to lion populations. That it has caused declines in some trophy hunting areas. In the case of Hwange prior to the introduction of a temporary moratorium on lion hunting the quota for lions was 60, when the moratorium ended the quota was reduced to 7 lions per year, on WildCRU’s recommendations, this resulted in a significant increase in the lion population. Although hunters weren’t shooting the full quota, lion hunting around Hwange had undoubtedly been unsustainable and was having a significant negative impact on the population. The state of lion populations elsewhere makes the lion population in countries like Zimbabwe all the more important and that is why it is vital to ensure that these populations really are properly secure and not in danger of declining.

 

The updated WildCRU statement makes it clear enough that much of the ZPHGA's statements is false, to the point that most of the newspapers that reported this update to the story have accused the hunters of lying, certainly they have in their headlines, the MailOnline went so far as to state in their headline that Xanda's cubs will now be killed. The WildCRU statement does not claim this will definitely be the case but it suggests a strong likelihood that the cubs will not survive, in fact elsewhere Andrew Loveridge has put their chances of survival at 50%. The Mail Online's headline may go a bit far in stating that the cubs will be killed, but that won't matter to the people who read the story and now believe that Mr Cooke and his client have effectively killed 8 lions not just 1. If we accept the view that the ZPHGA were lying, they were doing so to cover up the fact that a pride male was killed because they know this is a bad thing, that this is unethical, that Xanda didn't truly qualify as a huntable male, after all if the hunt was entirely legal why the need to lie about any of it. Furthermore prior to their statement it would appear from a report on the South African news site news24 that ZimParks attempted to claim that there was no evidence that this lion was the son of Cecil or in anyway connected to Cecil, I have seen it stated elsewhere that only a DNA test will confirm that they were related, however the researchers have again entirely contradicted this view by pointing out, that they know for certain that the dead lion is Xanda and a son of Cecil. All lions have unique whisker spots that remain unchanged throughout the animal's life like fingerprints and the researchers have photos of the young Xanda with Cecil and his pride, they can therefore tell from his whisker spots that the lion that they collared and that was shot is definitely him. When studying lions researchers make a point of trying to get good clear photos of the faces of each lion, they can then identify any member of a pride just by looking at its face. Since the lion killed was clearly Xanda, it seems more than a little suspicious that ZimParks would try to claim that the lion was not Xanda, unless they were trying to cover up the Cecil connection to avoid another media storm and more negative publicity. Even if the hunt was entirely legal, the impression of an attempted cover up of the identity of the lion and the fact that he was a pride male has a very bad smell about it. This incident while not as bad as the Cecil affair was, is not at all good for the image of hunting, it is because of what happened to Cecil that for example airlines are now refusing to carry 'big five' trophies. If hunting is to survive and as I have said it will be a disaster for conservation if it doesn't, then hunters need to ensure that hunting is conducted ethically at all times, they need I would suggest to generate as little negative publicity as possible. Indeed I would go so far as to say that they need to keep under the radar as much as possible because no publicity is good publicity when it comes to trophy hunting. 

 

MailOnline Hunters who shot Xanda, the son of Cecil the Lion, ‘LIED’ about his death and knew that he was a father of cubs who will now be killed by another lion without his protection

news24 Zim parks authority disputes Xanda the lion's link to Cecil

 

During the Cecil furore I frequently visited the forum Africa Hunting.com just to see what hunters were saying on the matter, I checked back to see what was being said about Xanda, several people point out that they as hunters need the WildCRU researchers because it is their science that allows the quotas to be set, others don't really trust the scientists fearing they are trying to stop hunting. In a way this a lot like fishermen who are very happy to take scientists out on their boats, until the scientists start telling them that they have to catch fewer fish, then they're not so keen. One person commenting there suggests that once a 5km buffer zone has been imposed they'll come back demanding another 5kms until there's no hunting left, this is down to the suspicion that so many hunters have that any attempt to further regulate or control hunting is really an attempt to gradually phase out hunting. I said that the purpose of a buffer zone is in part to keep hunting and photo tourism apart, I would suggest that the buffer should not just be treated as an extension to the park, I appreciate that Hwange does need as much money as it can get, but there might be something to be said for limiting what sort of tourism can take place in the buffer zone, so that photo tourist operators won't some time in the near future, feel that they need to call for an extension to the buffer zone. After all It isn't simply the scientists who want a buffer zone, tourist operators do to, I don't want to get into an argument about who generates the most money and who therefore contributes the most funding to the park, I haven't looked at the figures, hunting may well bring in more money, but I do think the views of tourist operators should be taken into consideration and incidents like this make them very angry. If the imposition of a buffer zone prevents the killing of lions like Cecil and Xanda, that would actually be a very good thing for hunting, if they are acting ethically within the guidelines and not shooting lions that they are not supposed to, and the ones they do shoot are as it were unknown lions and not ones popular with tourists, they won't end up with media storms like this.

 

Africa Hunting Cecil Redux: Xanda

 

Here's a video of an interview with the researcher Andrew Loveridge from 2015 talking about Cecil

 

 

The important point that he makes is that 1.5 million square kilometres of habitat is protected in hunting reserves a far larger area of land than is protected in the national parks, this is why it is vital for trophy hunting to continue, without hunting the future of that land is in jeopardy. This is why an end to hunting would be a disaster for conservation, this is why I support well managed trophy hunting, the shooting of Xanda while not illegal was certainly unethical and the apparent attempted cover ups have as I say left a very bad smell, this in my view poses a threat to the survival of trophy hunting. The hunters have not only killed a lion that they shouldn't have, but have in the process generated a whole lot more negative publicity for trophy hunting, anti-hunting animal rights campaigners are doing everything they can to bring an end to this hunting, and with incidents like this the hunters are just providing them with further ammunition making their task that much easier.       

 

@ForWildlife In the article that @COSMIC RHINO linked it does say the following

 

Quote

It also seems clear that Xanda’s killing contravenes the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority policy, which states that male lions of any age known to be heading prides or known to be part of a coalition heading prides with dependent cubs of 18 months old or less, should not be hunted. Neither should any lion fitted with a collar.

 

I find this rather surprising as my understanding was that hunters are allowed to shoot collared animals, I’m also not quite sure how this fits with their attempts to claim that the lion was not connected to Cecil, ZimParks weren’t at that point suggesting that the lion shouldn’t have been shot as far as I can see. Immediately after the hunt Richard Cooke handed in Xanda's tracking collar so there was never any doubt that the lion was collared. I can only assume that it is still legal to shoot collared animals, but that hunters have been given guidelines not to shoot collared animals just as they have not to shoot pride males. We are after all told, that the hunt was fully legal, despite apparently contravening ZimPark's policy on two counts.

 

@douglaswise 

 

On 25/07/2017 at 4:02 PM, douglaswise said:

However, when any population is in decline, even minor causes add to major ones to exacerbate the fall (something you seem to ignore in the case of raptors and songbirds).

 

I didn’t wish to revisit this particular subject but since you bring it up, yes I do ignore this in the case of raptors and songbirds, because I don't accept that raptors play any meaningful role in the decline of songbirds and other farmland birds, that's not just my opinion, it is a view that is supported by scientific studies. We need to address the real causes of our declining birds and not simply target a convenient scapegoat in the form of raptors, for reasons that are not based on science. in the relevant threads related to this subject I made the point that in the case of raptors and other birds, if a small population of a species of UK red-listed bird is threatened by a green-listed raptor species, then it would be necessary to manage the situation and that could involve some form of control of the raptor species, but only in the specific location where the problem is occurring, I have no issue with this. If the raptor species was also either red or amber-listed then an alternative solution would have to be found. I don't wish to take this thread too far off topic so I won't post links to studies on raptors and songbirds here. Going back to lions, taking Africa as a whole habitat fragmentation, degradation and poaching may be major causes of lion decline and poorly managed trophy hunting a minor cause, but on a local level in Selous GR for example the reverse is true, at least I am not aware that there's a problem with habitat loss inside the reserve, and I'm not aware that poaching of lions or their prey is a big problem either. Addressing the issue of poorly managed trophy hunting won't stop lions declining across Africa but it will stop them declining within some of the hunting blocks in Selous, when it comes to lion conservation it isn't a case of either or, we need to address all of the issues, both the major and the minor ones that are causing declines in lion populations.  

 

As a final word the ZPHGA need to prove that they are committed to ethics as others have said, not just for the survival of lions that we all care about, but also for the survival of hunting in Zimbabwe and other African countries which some of us also care about, because the conservation of so much of Africa's wildlife depends on it.

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Very good post again @inyathi !

You make a good point about the breeding life of male lions. Since the 6-year age rule surfaced its interpretation seems to have shifted. Initially it was presented as the age at which (in the Serengeti) a male lion would have raised a first set of cubs to the age of 2-years, at which they are safe from infanticide. Lately, especially from hunters, it is often referred to that lions of 6 years or older are done breeding and about to be ousted of a pride anyway if they still control a pride. 

The latter is simply not true. Cecil was still holding a pride at age 13, the famous Duba boys had a territory for 11 years and when they died were thought to be around 17 years. Thus they only took the territory they reigned for 11 years when they were 6 years old! So rather than 6 years old being the age at which they are done breeding, it's just the age (in the Serengeti, this is likely later in more bushy areas without migratory prey) they have raised a first set of cubs to an age save from infanticide, but still have a lot of breeding potential (especially the stronger males).

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@inyathi:

 

Once again, you are making assumptions about my motives which cannot be justified by what I wrote.  As a matter of fact, I did not assume that WildCRU had been lying.  In fact, I suggested that the question was somewhat beside the point in terms of lion conservation and also that it was possible that neither side necessarily lied.  My criticism of WildCRU relates to its exploitation of the situation for fund raising purposes -  something you accept, but consider legitimate.  I recently enlarged on this on another thread under the research/scientific paper banner ("What does trophy hunting contribute to wild lion conservation?") and will therefore not do so here.

 

If one is more concerned about expanding lion numbers than about shrinking hunter numbers, I made the suggestion that lessons might be learnt from studying the situation in the Bubye Valley Conservancy.  It is my understanding that its density of wild lions is higher than anywhere else in Africa, that its funding is principally derived from hunting, that it doesn't cater to ecotourists and that its survival is now threatened by airline bans on the transport of trophies.  Lion density in Hwange is less than half, quite probably due to lower prey numbers occasioned by elephant excess.

 

I don't argue with the facts you present.  Instead, I am more concerned with those which you ignore.  I have asked questions in my various posts that you haven't addressed.  As it happens, I, too, find the idea of shooting baited lions to be somewhat distasteful - I would be happier with tracking and stalking on foot. However, we might both agree that such personal feelings are not relevant in terms of wild lion conservation.  I would, however, like to learn why hunting and conservation appear to be such a good match at Bubye, but not elsewhere.  I'm sure it probably comes down to good regulation and absence of corruption.  How can this be achieved elsewhere? Do land ownership rights need reform?  Positive ideas and comments, please 

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