Leeubedryf wil sy huis in orde kry

Die leeujagbedryf het vanjaar wereldwyf opskrifte gehaal na die Amerikaner, Walter James Palmer, te midde van groot omstredenheid, Cecil die leeu in Zimbabwe geskiet het.

Lynette van Hoven Leeube wil sy huis in orde kry Die leeujagbedryf het vanjaar wereldwyd opskrifte gehaal ná die Amerikaner, Walter James Palmer, te midde van groot omstredenheid, Cecil die leen in Zimbabwe geskiet het. Op eie bodem het die dokumenter Blood Lion die tonge laat klap. Hierin word daar gewys hoe leeus in haglike omstandighede leef en mishandel word.

Geblikte leeujag lok ook groot konsternasie uit met meer as 1 000 leeus wat jaarliks op hierdie wyse geskiet word. Kenners is dit eens: Dit is tyd om die leeubedryf in orde te kry. Daarom het die Suid-Afrikaanse Roofdiertelersvereniging (SAPBA / South African Predator Breeders Association) vir prof Melville Saayman en sy span by die Tourism Research in Economic Environs and Society (Trees) by Noordwes-Universiteit se Potchefstroomkampus genader om na die waarde van die leeubedryf in SuidAfrika te kyk. Die studie, wat meesal op die hoofteelareas van Noordwes en Vrystaat gefokus sal wees, gaan ook kyk hoeveel leeus daar in die bedryf is, want getalle wissel tussen 4 000 en 6 000.

 ”n Verbod op jag in Zimbabwe en die gepaardgaande verlies van inkomste vir Zimbabwiers beteken dat sowat 2.3 miljoen kinders nou van nodige hulpmiddele ontneem is. Dit beteken dat die onderwyssektor daaronder ly en dat brood uit hub borde geneem word. Hub reeds lae lewensgehalte het nog verswak as gevolg van ‘n ondeurdagte besluit deur die regering,” se Saayman.

“Ons sien klaar dat wildstropery toeneem en dat werkloosheid toeneem. Dit is nie gesonde situasie nie.”

Volgens Saayman het die Blood Lions-dokumenter die prentjie ietwat skeefgetrek, maar ook daarin geslaag om die kollig op misdrywe, wat uitgewis moet word, te plaas.

“Blood Lions het ‘n slegte indruk van die bedryf geskep en een van ons uitdagings gaan wees om dit reg te stel. Daar is ongewenste praktyke wat die hele bedryf skade aandoen. Dit kan egter slegs aan paar persone toegeskryf word, maar dit lei tog daartoe dat wanpersepsies oor die bedryf geskep word. Daar is een of twee vrot appels in die leeuhok.”

 Saayman se verder dat Suid-Afrika se leeupopulasie ver daarvan is om gevaarligte te laat flikker, maar meer kan gedoen word om leeus doeltreffend te versprei asook beter te benut.

“Ons gaan ook kyk waarheen die oorskot leeus gaan, want daar moet ondersoek word wat die beste vir die mark sal wees. Sommige van die leeus moet terug parke toe gaan en sommiges moet aan nuwe gebiede voorgestel word om die genepoel te verbeter. Ons het ‘n gesonde getal leeus in die land en danksy ons teelprogramme sit ons nie met ‘n gevaarsituasie nie, maar ons moet kyk na wat met die oorskot leeus gebeur,” verduidelik hy.

 “Daar is verskeie moontlikhede wat die oorskot leeus betref. Hub be kan opvoedkundige doel dien, hub be kan groot rob in ekotoerisme speel, soos om met leeus te stap, en soos genoem kan hulle rondgeskuif word om die genepoel in die land te versterk. Dan kan ons ook natuurlik leeus uitvoer na lande waar daar tekort is. Dit sal web behels dat hierdie lande die versekering moet gee dat daar na die leeus gekyk sal word. Ons het dit in die verlede gedoen, maar toe word die diere gestroop.”

Saayman het ook SAPBA se toewyding aan die verbetering van die bedryf asook hub wedywering vir beter toekoms vir leeus in die land geprys. “Cecil het die bedryf baie seergemaak. Blood Lions het die bedryf benadeel. Deur die beroep vir hierdie studie wys dit web dat die bedryf ernstig is om vrot kolle uit te wis en dit sal tot voordeel van die hele bedryf strek.”

The end of canned lion hunting looks imminent

Breaking news has also come out of the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA) AGM. A motion has been passed that disassociates PHASA with the captive-bred lion industry until such a time that the industry can convince PHASA and the IUCN that the practice is beneficial to lion conservation. This came after canned lion breeders and supporters were apparently outvoted 147 to 103.

A post on the Facebook page, The ‘Con’ in Conservation states: “This won’t ever happen, so its over for them. Thanks to Ian Michler and his Blood Lions documentary, which made such a big difference.”

Blood Lions also stated on their Facebook page that the recent screening of their documentary on the lion breeding industry to European Parliament members, “may well turn out to be the most significant one to date.”

Following the screening, the UK government has decided to meet next week for a full debate on the conservation status of lions, including the role played by all forms of trophy hunting. There was a commitment from the MEPs to ensure that Blood Lions would eventually be seen by the politicians of every state in the EU.

Matthias Kruse, the editor of Jäger, the leading German hunting magazine, made the trip to Brussels especially to see Blood Lions. He announced after the screening that, as of next year, Germany’s leading hunting show that is held in Dortmund will no longer allow the advertising or selling of any form of canned or captive hunts. The show will also no longer allow the sales and marketing of any species bred as unnatural colour variations, such as golden wildebeest.

Blood Lions has also been invited to screen the film for Italian and Spanish parliaments next year.

Lion industry wants to get its house in order

The lion-hunting industry made global headlines after the American Walter James Palmer shot Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, causing great controversy.

At home the documentary Blood Lions had tongues wagging. It showed how lions lived in terrible conditions and were abused. Canned lion hunting also causes great controversy, with more than 1 000 lions being shot in this manner every year.

Experts agree: It is time to set the lion industry straight. That is why the South African Predator Breeding Association (SAPBA) contacted Prof Melville Saayman and his team at TREES (Tourism Research in Economic Environs and Society) at the North-West University’s Potchefstroom Campus to investigate the value of the lion industry in South Africa. This study, which will focus mainly on the main breeding areas of North West and the Free State, will also determine how many lions are part of the industry, as numbers vary between 4 000 and 6 000.

“A ban on hunting in Zimbabwe and the accompanying loss of income for Zimbabweans mean that approximately 2.3 million children are now deprived of the necessary aids. This means that the education sector is suffering, it means that bread is taken from their mouths. It means that 2.3 million children are worse off and their current low quality of life has deteriorated even more as a result of a bad decision by the government,” said Saayman.

“We can already see how poaching is increasing and we see unemployment increasing as well. This is not a healthy situation.”

According to Saayman, the Blood Lions documentary portrayed a rather skewed picture of the industry, but also succeeded in putting the spotlight on offences that need to be wiped out.

“Blood Lions created a bad impression of the industry and one of our challenges will be to rectify the situation. There are undesirable practices that harm the whole industry. However, this can be attributed to only a few people, but still leads to the fact that misperceptions about the industry are created. There are one or two bad apples in the lion cage.”

Saayman further says that South Africa’s lion population is far from showing problems, but more can be done to distribute the lions effectively and also to utilise them better.

“We will also determine what must be done with the surplus of lions, because it has to be determined what the best will be for the market. Some of the lions have to go back to the parks and some must be introduced to new areas to improve the gene pool. We have a healthy number of lions in the country and thanks to our breeding programmes we are not in a dangerous situation, but we will have to see what is going to happen with the surplus lions,” he explained.

“There are various possibilities as far as the surplus lions are concerned. They can serve an educational purpose, they can play a major role in ecotourism, like walking with lions and, as was mentioned before, they can be distributed to improve the gene pool in the country. Of course we can also export lions to countries where there is a shortage of lions. This will mean that those countries will have to guarantee that they will care for the lions. We did that in the past, but then the animals were poached.”

Saayman also praised SAPBA’s commitment to improving the industry, as well as to striving for a better future for lions in the country: “Cecil hurt the industry a lot. Blood Lions hurt the industry. The initiation of this study shows that the industry is serious about erasing the bad patches, and that will be to the benefit of the whole industry.”

Photo safaris trump trophy hunting

In July, the illegal killing of Zimbabwe’s iconic lion, Cecil, re-ignited the debate over the desirability of trophy hunting in Africa. Supporters of the practice argue that it contributes significantly to the continent’s economy – particularly in impoverished rural areas – and helps to fund conservation efforts. But are these assertions actually true?

In September, a New York Times article claimed that a ban on trophy hunting in Botswana lead to “a precipitous drop in income” for local communities.

However, Costas Christ, Editor at Large for National Geographic Traveler magazine believes that it’s misleading to argue that rural communities in Africa benefit more from trophy hunting than they do from non-consumptive wildlife tourism and that they have been negatively impacted by the ban on trophy hunting. “I have yet to find more than a one-off random example of trophy hunting viable as either a conservation strategy or income generator that can compete with the economic benefits of non-consumptive wildlife tourism.”

South African safari operator and conservationist, Ian Michler, agrees. He comments “There is no evidence to support the claim that rural communities benefit more from trophy hunting than they do from non-consumptive wildlife tourism. In fact, in areas where the two exist as a comparison, the opposite is true and that’s one of the primary reasons the Botswana government has stopped trophy hunting. Of course hunting offers work and creates revenue, but when measured in the bigger picture against a range of factors, including ecological and ethical ones, well-managed, non-consumptive tourism offers a significantly better long-term model”.

While Larry Rudolph and Joe Hosmer of the US-based hunters’ organisation Safari Club International, have claimed that “revenues from hunting generate $200m annually in remote rural areas of Africa”, the accuracy of this figure has been questioned. More importantly, it shrinks into insignificance if considered in the context of the whole of the African tourism industry.

In 2009, a study published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature characterised big game trophy hunting in West Africa as using “up a lot of space without generating corresponding socio-economic benefits”, making “insignificant” financial contributions to local populations and national GDPs.

A more recent briefing paper released by the World Tourism Organisation asserts that “the total international tourism receipts for Africa in 2013 reached $34.2bn” and that the number of international arrivals is predicted to more than double from a record 56 million tourists in 2013 to 134 million a year by 2030.

The authors note that Africa accounts for about half of the global wildlife watching market, which “has been estimated at 12 million trips annually and is growing at a rate of about 10% a year”. They highlight the fact that “wildlife watching represents 80% of the total annual sales of trips to Africa and sales are increasing”.

Regional case studies show that in 2005, 176 000 nature tourists spent $194m in Zambia, and in 2009, Tanzania’s popular Serengeti-Ngorongoro Circuit alone generated $500m from wildlife watching visitors.

The recently released documentary ‘Blood Lions’ estimates the annual revenue generated by a typical African hunting lodge to be $800 000 compared to $2.46m raised by an equivalent photo safari outfit. Operating all year round, the wildlife-watching business trumps the seasonal (6 months of the year) hunting company by serving a significantly larger number of tourists and making a substantially greater contribution to the local economy, for instance through airfares, wages and taxes.

A 2013 report by the organisation Economists at Large describes the role of trophy hunting in Africa as “tiny” and “completely insignificant” in the context of national economies, accounting for less than 2% of overall tourism revenues and never more than 0.27% of the GDP of the countries surveyed.

This appears to be the case even in South Africa, the continent’s most lucrative trophy hunting state. A report published by the global wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC in July puts the average annual revenue for all mammals killed by trophy hunters in South Africa between 2003 and 2010 at $55m. Approximately 20% ($10.9m) of this is accounted for by the controversial practice of hunting lions bred in captivity. In a recent opinion piece, Edna Molewa, South Africa’s Minister of Environmental Affairs, estimated the number of international hunters visiting the country in 2012 at 8 500 and the value of its trophy hunting industry in 2014 at about $80m (R1.07bn).

These figures are dwarfed in comparison with the yearly income raised by the country’s tourism industry as a whole, which is estimated at around $19bn. Non-consumptive wildlife watching tourism plays a much greater role than trophy hunting in South Africa and the eco-tourism sector has become one of the leading and fastest growing segments of the market.

Contrary to claims by the industry, very little of the money made from trophy hunting appears to be finding its way to affected communities. Based on an analysis of the literature available on the issue, the Economists at Large report finds that only 3% of this revenue actually reaches the rural communities in the areas where the hunting takes place.

By contrast, the World Tourism Organisation’s briefing paper suggests that “there is a wide range of beneficiaries from wildlife watching tourism”, including local communities which draw both direct and indirect benefits, for example through the provision of goods and services to tourists, employment opportunities, fees from national parks and social and infrastructure development programmes. In the case of the Serengeti-Ngorongoro Circuit in Tanzania, mentioned above, for instance, $100m a year is considered “pro-poor”, reaching local people in the form of wages and other benefits.

To what extent trophy hunting fosters the conservation of African wildlife remains open to debate (although at least one scientific paper published in recent years suggests that it does the opposite), but it seems clear that its supposed economic benefits are routinely overstated by its supporters.

What’s of growing concern is the immense reputational damage this small industry can potentially inflict on the continent’s much more important non-consumptive wildlife tourism sector. The dubious, unethical or downright illegal actions of some of its members can have devastating effects on public sentiment as the overwhelming worldwide outcry following the killing of Cecil attests.

For the South African tourism industry in general, and for its very substantial and valuable wildlife watching component in particular, the mounting controversy over the captive-breeding and ‘canned’ hunting of lions, which is powerfully documented in the documentary Blood Lions, adds a particularly distasteful dimension that is unlikely to find any favour among international tourists interested in experiencing our increasingly embattled wildlife in its natural surroundings.