POLL: Can lion trophy hunting support conservation?

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The recent illegal killing of Cecil, one of Africa’s most famous lions, has increased calls to outlaw trophy hunting. It’s also caused some in the hunting community to reevaluate their positions on the contentious issue, even as other hunters dig in and say killing individual animals can help the wider population.

A number of mainstream scientists, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and some conservation groups – including the World Wildlife Fund (which has not returned a request for comment on the Cecil issue) – support regulated trophy hunting.

Supporters say regulated hunts raise much-needed money for conservation and help manage populations, since game officials typically try to make sure hunters target animals that are no longer able to breed or that might inhibit the reproduction of others around them.

Cecil (lying down) and Jericho (standing) shared two prides of six lionesses and an estimated 24 young cubs. Photograph by Brent Stapelkamp

Earlier this year, the Dallas Safari Club auctioned off a permit to shoot a black rhino and used the proceeds for conservation. The club did not have anyone available for comment Wednesday but said in a statement: “Lawful, ethical, vigilant hunters play an important role in public acceptance of sustainable hunting as a vital tool for modern wildlife conservation and management.”

Club president Ben Carter previously told National Geographic that regulated trophy hunting is a tool that wildlife managers use to keep animal populations healthy and strong. “By removing counterproductive individuals from a herd, [populations] can actually grow,” Carter said.

Melissa Simpson, director of science-based conservation for the Safari Club International Foundation, previously wrote on National Geographic’s website: “As with the regulated hunters in the United States, the regulated hunters in Africa make a vital contribution to conservation efforts, primarily through the revenues their hunting expeditions generate for local communities and wildlife resource agencies.” (The foundation has not yet responded to a request for comment.)

But representing another view, Wayne Pacelle, the president of the Humane Society of the United States, says, “The first rule of protecting a rare species is to limit the human [related] killing.”

Permits aside, Cecil the Lion was not intended to be targeted. American dentist and hunter Walter Palmer says he believed he had purchased a legal permit to shoot a lion in Zimbabwe (for around $55,000).

Such permits are allowed by international treaties as long as a significant part of the proceeds are earmarked to conserving the species in the wild and scientists can prove that the taking of the select individuals will not endanger the species. Fewer than 30,000 African lions remain.

Time for Change?

Other hunters are taking a closer look at a practice that critics say is prone to corruption, fuels demand for black market wildlife products, and can be too hard to enforce on the ground, leaving lions like Cecil to end up as collateral damage.

What happened to Cecil is the result of “a few bad apples and is not typical of the vast majority of trophy hunting,” says Wayne Bisbee, a trophy hunter who founded Bisbee’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Fund in Texas to support wildlife protection. In addition to raising funds for conservation and culling herds, responsible hunters deter illegal poachers by serving as eyes and ears on the ground, Bisbee adds.

The next step for Zimbabwe should be to step up enforcement of their hunting laws, to prevent more illegal takes, says Bisbee. “Responsible hunting is going to pay for that,” he adds, pointing out that Zimbabwe is among the world’s poorest countries.


Another practice increasingly coming under scrutiny is the raising of lions on game reserves specifically for the purpose of hunting.

Late last week, Hermann Meyeridricks, president of the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa (PHASA), asked his membership to reconsider its position on the practice, which opponents call “canned hunting.”

“It has become clear to me that those against the hunting of lions bred in captivity are no longer just a small if vociferous group of animal-rights activists,” said Meyeridricks. “Even within our own ranks, as well as in the hunting fraternity as a whole, respected voices are speaking out publicly against it.”

Citing the fact that some airlines and shipping companies now refuse to transport lion trophies, Meyeridricks said “the lion issue is putting at risk not only the reputation of professional hunting in South Africa but its very survival.”

This article was first published by National Geographic on 29 Jul 2015.

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Can lion trophy hunting support conservation?

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Leigh Lofgren

how can killing an animal be saving it? That's the BS hunters will give you every time you ask them or tell them you are anti hunting. They are killers of the worst kind and we still continue to allow it and once again, money talks. Africa is also one of the most corrupt places on earth and the only ones who benefit, are the leaders and politicians.

Jane Fong

These people suffer with forms of "HOMICIDAL TENDENCIES",. Starting these "children" to be "hunters", is a sad way of child reering, teaching them that killing is OK. And acceptable. Its not teaching them protection and conservation.

Maribeth Shanley

I equate trophy hunters with human psychopathic hunters. They both hunt and kill for the pure adrenaline thrill. They both have total disregard for their prey. They both think they have all the answers and are smarter than everyone else; and they both collect trophies so they can look at them, touch them and relive the hunt and the kill in their sick minds. There is absolutely no difference except that it's a crime to kill a human but free, clear and sanctioned to kill an animal which is considered to be much less than a human. We live in… Read more »

Dave Cross

Maybe Ben Carter is a counterproductive individual and should be removed. How old is this arsehole and what contribution is he making to society?

Jim Duke

You do not kill that which you are trying to protect/preserve. Lions are our legacy, heritage. Go away trophy hunters, your hunting days are over. Join the 21st centuary. Lions are highly endangered. Ban on hunting to be applied with immediate effect–before all is lost.

Ron Crawford

This is the most ridiculous topic out there right now! Everyone knows loser hunters will always kill the biggest and strongest of the species leaving only the weak and small behind, there by leaving the species weak and unable to flourish..There is no place in this world for hunting period. Livestock are farmed for food, wild animals are meant to be left in the wild to sustain the cycle! So oalled control or thinning is just an excuse fir the NRA and gun fanatics to continue there sick & twisted fantasies of murder, which all to often eventually becomes directed… Read more »

Tim Walker

Bob Wade do you consider the likes of Elephant, Giraffe, Big Cats and Rhinos legitimate Game?

Elise Geradts

Ofcourse this is wrong and disgusting, contradiction in every way.. I think Killing for Pleasure comes from people who are mentally ill..

Dave Smith

Trophy hunting only satisfies the pschopathic blood lust of the evil hunter

Cordula Hampson

Trophy Hunting is the Con is Conservation! We are not talking here about dears or warthogs where it is right that the population has to be regulated.Or hunting for food in my eyes this are the only good reasons for hunting. We talk about animals who are facing extinction.And by the way 97% of the tourism is the one without hunting.The Hunters always like to forget about the normal Tourists who are bringing much more money into this countrys. There from I always ask myself what is it what makes you kill such an beautifull animal.This People got some very… Read more »

Bob Wade

REGULATED Hunting has and supports healthy populations and habitat all over the world. It is wildlifes best friend. Look wher wildlife is in the most trouble and see it is where Regulated HUNTIG has been eliminated and hunters dollars no longer available to protect them and the habitat. Then the unregulaed slaughter and destruction commences without controls . Aside from preserves the wildlife population does not benefit much from tourism dollars .

Bob Wade

Conservation is defined as the WISE USE of a resource .Conservation is fauna, fish and flora all over the worlds' best friend .

Bob Wade

No game animal has ever became extinct because of regulated sport hunting . Get your sh-t straight .

Lakmini Sri N

killing for conservation!?. what BS is that. If these rich A HOLES have so much money and care for conservation why not just donate that money to these countries and their wildlife protection & be known as a good samaritan instead of killing these defenseless animals & whipping them out of the planet before long! .. ghaaaa.. idiots!

Tim Walker

Animal populatins can regulate themselves (if allowed to). They don't need humans to do it for them.

Iain Gibson

I don't think the question is worded correctly. I almost voted "Yes", thought about "Don't know," but decided I had to answer "No" because I accepted that it was not requiring a literal answer. My true answer would be well it's possible, but I find the concept so disgusting I can't accept the thought of wildlife being "saved" at the expense of other's blood. I believe it brings money into the economy of a poor country, but I'm very sceptical that more than a small percentage is ring-fenced for nature conservation, and that is largely to sustain an economy built… Read more »

Paula Rock

How can anyone use the word killing in the same sentence as conservation. Slaughtering a species is not saving it. If you want a trophy—-take up bowling.

Susan Lee

Any manner of killing is JUST killing…murder most foul regardless of the mentally aberrated excuses.

Val Shepherd

Hunting does not conserve – it causes animals to become extinct.

Margaret Jones

It is for blood thirsty peverted retards, I hate them with a vengance!!

Ellena Linsky

In which dictionary does "killing" mean "saving", and "saving" is what "conservation" means as a bottom line.

Leigh Lofgren

I have met some of these big game "hunters" who have always given the line that it was saving animals in being killed…..what warped logic is that when these animals are being hunted, killed either by poachers or hunters and basically becoming fewer and fewer. Not just the lions, but elephants, rhino and more – in Selous in Tanzania, the elephant population was down from 38,000 animals to 20,000 in less than one year and they are not as easy to find and when you do, not that many to see. It is a tragedy and yes, the hunting fees… Read more »

Ken Billington

Words of wisdom elegantly expressed – thanks for sharing.

Asmat Jamal

All type of Lion Hunting should be equated to murder. Endangered species should be extended human rights. Their conservation should be the responsibility of the concerned States & Governments.

Tierra Chapman

Killing for conservation? Uh huh! Like fighting for peace and fucking for chastity? No one in their right mind is buying this blatantly transparent rationalization to enable trophy hunters their sick and violent hobby!

Melissa McDowell

End all trophy hunting NOW. PERMANENTLY!!

Carolyn Cole

Its a disgusting and barbaric practice. What legacy will we be leaving to our children if this is allowed to continure. All our beautiful animals will be extinct within 30 years. It makes me weep

Linda French

RIDICULOUS – DOES NOT WORK WHEN THEY CHEAT, LURE ANIMALS THEY SHOULD NOT CECIL WAS A LION WHO WAS BEING USED FOR STUDY HAD A PRIDE HE LOOKED AFTER – WHAT WAS THE BENEFIT TO CONSERVATION IN KILLING THIS LION!! THIS HAD THE EXACT OPPOSITE EFFECT. BAN HUNTING PERIOD. MAN UNFORTUNATELY CAN NOT BE TRUSTED ESPECIALLY THOSE GREEDY UNSYMPATHICIC, AND PATHITIC HUNTERS.

Karen Lyons Kalmenson

pitiful we be
that we euphemise
taking a precious life
as a prize.
rationalization
of slaughter…
nothing but lies!!!!

Janette Astles

No, no, no, no, no. No. Not ever. No.

Nina Stavlund

"Hunting brings millions of dollars, but non-consumptive wildlife watching brings billions. There’s no comparing the two. To say that a one-off kill brings a little bit of money once, and then denies future revenue from people who want to come and see an animal, like Cecil, is ridiculous. [Tourism] is a more sustainable alternative to killing."
~ Jeff Flocken, North American regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare – IFAW

Bobby Balfour

It's very sad that Cecil was killed but at least he has brought the issue into public awareness. Maybe he meant it to.

Bobby Balfour

I should have thought it's fairly obvious that trophy hunting and conservation are a contradiction in terms. Trophy hunters don't want a mangy old head or skin adorning their homes – they want the best and noblest which will belong to the healthiest animals. Conservation is about taking out the old, infirm, sick, injured animals to keep the species fit. Hunters just like killing and boasting about it. The suggestion that the money from killing some animals will help conserve other animals is a sop to the naive.

Linda Keith

i totally agree with you