They just want another cheque, say critics

THE US will no longer allow lion trophies to be imported from captive lion populations in South Africa, describing this as a “major step” for the conservation of the species across Africa.

Writing in the Huffington Post yesterday Dan Ashe, the director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW), said it “cannot and will not allow trophies into the US from any nation whose lion conservation programme fails to meet key criteria for transparency scientific management and effectiveness”.

Last year, the US announced it had changed the rules relating to the import of lion trophies into the country, now requiring US hunters to obtain an import permit for their lion trophies before the hunt takes place.

“To permit the import of lion trophies, exporting nations like South Africa must provide clear evidence showing a demonstrable conservation benefit to the longterm survival of the species in the wild. In the case of lions taken from captive populations in South Africa, that burden of proof has not been met,” Ashe wrote in the publication this week.

But Chris Mercer, of the Campaign Against Canned Hunting, suggested this was “at the very least, a clever public relations coup. USFW can claim to be protecting lions, which it is not, it can claim to be supporting weak African conservation structures, which it is not, and can claim to be controlling the hunting industry, which it is not”.

Other than “adding a layer of bureaucracy” to the paperwork of foreign hunters and “infuriating hunting thugs, nothing will change on the ground. Canned lion hunting will continue unabated,” he remarked.

“Foreign lion hunters have already found a way around this restriction US imposes canned lion trophies ban it is not a ban by employing ‘pay to play’ tactics.

“Each hunter will donate, say $5 000 (R70 000), to a lion research organisation in return for a permit to import his tame lion trophy.

“In that way, he proves the ‘hunt’ will ‘enhance the survival of wild lions’ as required by the new rule. Just another layer of bureaucracy and another cheque to write,” said Mercer.

Blood Lions, a campaign to outlaw captive and canned hunting, applauded the US move, “which in many ways is even more significant than the earlier bans introduced by Australia, France and the Netherlands”.

“So many people have become part of the campaign to end these unethical practices. It is now incumbent upon the breeders and hunters as well as the South African authorities to respond accordingly” it stated.

Safari Club International, a hunting outfit, has described the US restriction as “blocking US hunters from participating in sustainable use conservation”.

Pieter Potgieter, the chairman of the SA Predator Breeders Association, says they have their own plans to demonstrate the conservation value of captive bred lions.

“This does not include money paid to organisations in exchange for a permit. We’re in the process of negotiating with the USFW to convince it that captive lion breeding makes a very important contribution to the conservation of wild lions, but they are still considering that.”

Ashe stressed that lions “are not in trouble because of responsible sport hunting” and writes how the USFW has also received applications from US hunters that hunted or will be hunting in Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe for permits to import sport-hunted lion trophies.