THE TAKING OF THE LION KNOWN AS “CECIL” OUTSIDE OF HWANGE NATIONAL PARK IN ZIMBABWE
Currently, there appears to be a good deal of speculation and possible misinformation circulating relative to the death of a well-known lion residing in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe known throughout the media as “Cecil”.
Until all the facts are known we believe it is only prudent, and fair, that we abstain from any public comment regarding this sensitive issue. Further, though our organization had no direct involvement in this particular incident, we do make our living guiding clients for both plains game and dangerous game, including lion, throughout South Africa – so we feel it appropriate that we comment regarding the hunting of lions throughout the geographic area in which we operate.
Taking away the emotion that often surrounds the killing of handsome wild animals “for sport” it is a proven scientific principal that a sustainable game management regimen rooted in science is not only good for wild animal populations in general, it is in fact a necessity in a world where humans have a long history of reserving all the best natural living areas for themselves. One does not have to look far, assuming the interest is there, to confirm this throughout the large body of published material addressing this issue.
South Africa has had a captive lion breeding program for many decades. This is a private industry that is licensed and controlled by government and managed both for profit and because the breeders themselves have a love of lions. Why a captive breeding program? Were lions not captive bred in South Africa there likely would be no lions outside of zoos, some small preserves, and the great national parks like Kruger National Park, as the last truly wild South African lion was shot as a marauder near Kamatipoort around 1927. (See reason #4 below for the explanation of the decline in lion population numbers across much of its native range.)
The reported decline in lion numbers across the African sub-continent can be principally attributed to (1) loss of habitat, (2) poaching, (3) disease, and (4) lion-human encounters in a domestic environment (snaring, poisoning, illegal shooting, etc). When lions lose their economic value because local villagers view them as a pest instead of an asset, then lions will become even more threatened. It is the value attached to lions because of their attractiveness as a huntable species that eliminates this reality. Thus, the sport hunting of lions is not a significant factor in the decline of lion populations across the subcontinent.
Quite the contrary, where properly managed under a sustainable use model, the fees paid by hunters to harvest mature lions that are past their breeding prime contributes economically to the survival of lion populations as a whole because local villagers are disincentivized to regard lions as nothing but livestock-killing-vermin.
Under South Africa’s captive breeding program fully licensed and governed breeders are responsible for preserving genetic diversity and for creating and maintaining the generally large populations of lions that exist in South Africa as compared to other countries. Were these breeders put out of business by government fiat (because some people believe it is “morally wrong” to harvest any animal) lions in general would suffer. The genetic diversity preserved thus far by these very breeders would be lost. As quality lion habitat throughout the continent continues to shrink (simply research human population dynamics on the African sub-continent —- where will these people find living space?) lion populations will be sequestered only in small private reserves and within National Parks that are already feeling the pinch of under-funding, low staffing levels, and habitat loss.
We understand the emotional attachment that people have to lions (and other spectacular specimens of African wildlife). As Professional Hunters that interact with lions on the most elemental level, we are repeatedly impressed with all the qualities that make this majestic animal the top predator within their unique realm. Because of the magnitude of this level of interaction we admire, respect, and love them with an intensity we feel is very unique. The fact that we hunt them as a livelihood is not something we deny nor apologize for because we believe that the hunting of individual lions has positive outcomes for the population as a whole.
Hunting Legends Africa was formed in November 2014 via the merger of Hunting Legends International with Bushmans Quiver African Safaris. There are any number of registered African Outfitters with the word “Bushman” or “Bushmans” as a part of their official registration. However, Bushmans Quiver African Safaris was not the outfitter associated with the taking of “Cecil”.