Another Hwange Lion Executed for a Trophy

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Banner Image – Pictures of Seduli courtesy of Big Cat Conservation

Big Cat Conservation is reporting (14 August 2019) that another male lion (11 years old – ref Note [1] below), Seduli has been lured from the protection of Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe to be executed for a hunter’s trophy needs – the hunt allegedly provided by South African outfitter, Chattaronga Bow Hunting Safaris.

Seduli was in a coalition with another male lion, Mopane, with both lions frequently seen by photographic safari lodges in and around Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.

Again, how does luring a healthy male lion to its death from a photographic tourism area support the hunters’ claims that their ‘sport’ conserves lion habitat not suitable for photographic tourism? Instead, these noble hunters seem to lure lions from protected parks into empty hunting concessions, depleting the lion gene pool within the targeted park – Seduli was not ‘old and weak’ but a fit and healthy specimen it would seem. So another claim the noble hunter often cites, that they only “harvest” too old/injured/weak specimens lacks any credibility in reality (again).

Where is the independent, peer reviewed science that says the hunters’ attrition (seemingly endorsed by Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority) is sustainable at Hwange, or is this killing of Seduli just about the income again with no recognisable conservation credentials/imperative whatsoever?

Update: According to Wildlife Conservation Research Unit’s (WildCRU’s) November 2016 “Report on Lion Conservation with Particular Respect to the Issue of Trophy Hunting,” the largest increase in Zimbabwe’s lion sub-populations “was in Gonarezhou, the nonhunted population, which had a 7,900% increase..,” the “lowest level [of lion sub-population increase] was in Hwange.”

WildCRU’s 2016 report concludes “With these lowered quotas and age-based systems, there is little evidence that trophy hunting is negatively affecting Zimbabwe’s lion population at a national scale…” However, that is not necessarily the full story:

WildCRU has previously highlighted the problem at Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe – “69 out of 100 males were estimated to have died from age-independent causes in Hwange, and will continue to do so if estimated death rates remain unchanged. This means these males do not die of old age. The most likely cause of death is to be killed by trophy hunters or local farmers protecting their herds” – Wild CRU, “David Macdonald explains that Cecil’s death was part of a much wider story,” Dr Andrew Loveridge, Professor David Macdonald and Dr Julia Barthold, 23 February 2016. So, does the above statement sound like trophy hunters are helping lion conservation in Hwange, Zimbabwe? – Source: Wild CRU

In addition…….”From such information, Macdonald should surely know that lion trophy hunting is costly to lions” – “for example, just one of his published papers on lions in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe states that 72% of mortality of “tagged” lions in his protected national park study area was attributable to trophy hunting” – Source: LionAid, 7 December 2016

Also see Brent Stapelkamp’s  (WildCRU project in Hwange) insightful comments given at Appendix 1 – Is trophy hunting of key pride members a catalyst driving surviving pride members into human/wildlife conflict, which suggests that the threat posed by trophy hunting in isolation is clearly underestimated in the Report (and the data available to WildCRU that proves that link has been intentionally over-looked perhaps)?

 

Note [1] 

There has been an attempt to ensure ‘minimal’ (sic) impact on a given pride’s dynamics from trophy hunting. However, a 6 years of age limit assumes the age at which a male lion holds a senior rank (tenure) within a pride is 4 years of age, with 2 further years of reproduction. This assumption has been challenged in studies (Nicholls et al.), which concluded that pride tenure can extend to lions of a mean age of 7.8 years.

In July 2015, Cecil was a pride male, in his prime with his off-spring in the pride. Cecil was 13 years old – so the assumption of a pride male’s tenure appears at best to be subjective. Cecil was also lured (baited) to his death from the protection of Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe by an American trophy hunting dentist, Walter Palmer (and ‘Professional Hunter’ Theo Bronkhorst).

Plus, the ability to accurately age lions in the field and the penalties for not doing so accurately have no correlation to any post-kill penalties for the hunting party. The only real penalty is depleting the gene pool and hindering real conservation of the species – an under-age lion is dead regardless of any genuine ageing mistake and/or financial penalty imposed on the hunting party post-kill etc.

The feasibility of determining any lion’s age from distance, in the field is incredibly unreliable (Loveridge A.J., Packer C. & Dutton A. (2009)), particularly the ‘recommended’ method to hunters and their guides of using a lion’s nose colouration as a key indicator of age (Whitman and Packer, 2007). Aging error in the field using a target lion’s nose pigmentation as the key indicator is a problem (Caro T.M., Young C.R., Cauldwell A.E. & Brown D.D.E, 2009; Whitman K.L., Starfield A.W., Quadling H. & Packer C., 2004):

i Nose pigmentation >/=  70% – There is a 95% probability the target lion 6 years of age;

ii Nose pigmentation >/= 40% – There is only a 62% probability the target lion is 6 years of age.

Further Reading

Trophy hunters kill popular Zimbabwean lion Seduli – on World Lion Day,” Africa Geographic, 15 August 2019

Trophy Hunting; Busting the myths and exposing the cruelty,” Born Free Foundation, July 2019

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