This is why Trophy Hunting will not Save Our Lions

Kenya has long since abolished trophy hunting in favour of protecting its wildlife and has opted for ecotourism instead. Last December, for the first time, the Maasai Olympics were held as a competitive replacement for traditional lion hunting; yet another Kenyan stride to preserve its precious ecosystem. Zambia and Botswana took a united stand against hunting and have both issued laws against the trophy killings. As of 2014, lions in these countries will be safe from the legal hunt for their heads – a hugely important step in conserving the species and maintaining the sheer magnificence of some of Southern Africa’s most premier wildlife areas.

Conversely, Tanzania’s wildlife authorities steadfastly support its ‘sustainable’ hunting practice, claiming their stronghold lion population can be attributed to its hunting industry. South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe also sell their wild lions to trophy seekers in the name of income and conservation, the argument being that the millions of US$ brought into the country through big game hunting is what is sustaining ecosystems and local communities. What needs to be understood is that we are no longer living in an Africa that is overflowing with wildlife, we are no longer on prime hunting ground; we are now the keepers of a land that is losing its enchantment at a rate of knots. Lions are declining at a rapidity of 5-8% per year, according to renowned filmmaker and founder of Big Cats Initiative, Dereck Joubert. Over the last 50 years, we have lost almost all of Africa’s lions – 95% have died due to human ignorance and greed. This fast decline calls for change. We cannot carry on hunting lions in the face of a crisis that is screaming towards the ultimate extinction of Africa’s biggest cat.

Trophy Hunting

Hunting these big cats is leading us to a count down to the last lions left in Africa (image


I asked Dereck what he believes is the most destructive force against lions in Africa and his simple answer succinctly pinpointed humans. He continued, “Roughly 25% of the lions killed today are from trophy hunters. I pick them first because this is something we can restrain ourselves from doing and in a stroke, save 556 male lions of the possibly 2500 males left.” It’s as straightforward as a mathematical equation, which should mean that it is not up for debate. Aside from the numbers and the studies that have traced the reasons behind the hurtling demise of this irreplaceable species, there are such saddening truths about where these lions have come from and how they land up on hunting ranches. If the facts don’t get to you, the unethicality of this practice should.

An article published in the Times Live revealed that at least five South African farmers had been accused in an inter-border lion smuggling case in order to benefit their hunting businesses. Wildlife smuggling and the trade in exotic animals happens in Southeast Asia, Thailand and Laos according to reports, but this was a blood-curdling tale of farmers receiving lion cubs that had been stolen from Bostwanan lionesses after having shot the suckling mothers. The Problem Animal Control Group is in place to deal with predators causing problems in Botswana, but have instead contacted South African farmers who, for a price, can benefit from this undercover dealing. The mother lioness is shot and her body buried, while her cubs are smuggled into a life of captivity until they are earmarked for a hunt in which they will be shot 48 hours after being released into the veld for the first time in their stunted lives. The buried mother? Well, she’s dug up and taken apart to sell to Vietnam because ill-informed (or determinedly ignorant) people are not only after her cubs, they’re after her skin, claws and bones too.

Trophy Hunting

Hunting individual wild male lions can consequently lead to the death of up to 14 lions, says Dereck Joubert. (image Greg du Toit)


The approach of ‘sustainable hunting’ has been knocked down by the best of the conservational thinkers and leaders in the field. Adam Cruise, philosopher and author of ‘In the Pursuit of Solitude’, addressed my question on the topic: “The problem with the hunting-as-conservation argument is that it is often thrown up as the ONLY alternative to conserving wild lions. This is simply not the case. Besides, even as an alternative it is questionable whether such practices do in fact conserve wild lions. Those that are in favour of hunting point to the obvious economic benefit, but a benefit for whom? The lions? The property owners? The rangers? Local government? Local community? The real issue here is that there are other alternatives. Here’s a novel one: let’s not kill lions at all. If we were to prevent the killing of lions absolutely and completely, whether from poaching or hunting, would that not conserve them too?”

Due to the fact that we are facing a tragedy of irreversible proportions should we allow lions to become extinct, it is necessary to bite the bullet and look at conservational methods that might save the species, but that also speak volumes of the greediness and corruption that has leaked into our humanness. The notion of farming a population of lions to be hunted is based on the assumption that the wild lions will be left alone to breed and regrow the population, while hunters will still get their fix. Dereck eloquently explained to me precisely why this won’t work: “If you speak to hunters, there are two distinct kinds of people who hunt lions. Those that want the real experience and those that want the trophy. Wild versus Canned. There is no overlap between the two. Canned lions will not substitute for wild lions for hunting, and do not alleviate the pressure on wild populations.”

In addition to this, he pointed out that, “Botswana has shut down hunting because it wants to protect its wildlife, but also because hunter’s gunshots mask poaching activity, making it difficult to follow up.” The fact that poaching is systematically wiping out hundreds of rhinos and elephants every year means that we cannot afford to miss the signals. To risk mistaking a gunshot for a hunter’s is an insult to the anti-poaching troops that tirelessly track and trace the signs that more often than not lead to the most horrific and demoralising crime scenes.

Trophy Hunting

Hunting for a lion trophy is not sustainable and will lead to their extinction (image Marius Coetzee)

David Bristow, author of ‘Africa’s Finest’ among other environmental masterpieces, puts into perfect words exactly what ‘farmed’ lions means: “For me, farming lions is as sick as farming battery chickens, or cow factories that are so prevalent today. The appeal of lions is their wildness, their untameability. To tame them is to make a mockery of their lion-ness.”

Aside from David’s passionate perspective on the immorality of a practice such as this, there is a perfectly good economical reason for why we cannot sustainably hunt these sought after creatures. Dereck responded to my hypothetical proposal with the following:

“1 Billion People sized market, 6,000 lions in captivity. Captive bred lions (or rhinos) will never keep up with the demand of this market. What legal, farm-raised lions and rhinos will do is feed and grow the market (who would commercially farm with the intention of flooding the market anyway?), but also create a grey market of confusing, legal trade masking the illegal trade … 100 Years ago, maybe farmed tigers or rhinos might have been an option when the world’s population of humans was 1.5 billion and the rhinos numbered 3 million. Today the scales are wrong.”

The idea of ‘sustainable hunting’ as conservation is not merely rejected, it is countered by the far stronger, entirely ethical, supportive structure of ecotourism. The revenue that is said to carry so much weight in the tourism industry in Africa is matched and beaten by the income that is brought in through community involvement, local employment and eco-safaris. It overrides the monetary benefits that hunting farms are basing their arguments on. David explains, “What is needed most is for safari operators to enter into partnerships with their neighbouring communities to make things work, to share equitably in the spoils of tourism and make wild habitat and lions included. It is really up to the safari industry, simple as that.”

When we weigh hunting and ecotourism against each other in a contest vying for conservational credit, it is not simply a matter of a moral code, it is a matter of saving a species. In this case, it is the lion. The leader of the African ecosystem, an icon; or, a desired wall-trophy and a lifeless reminder of a bullet shot, once, in Africa. It is essential that we do not lose this remarkable species, and the facts are that using lion farms for product trade and hunting purposes poses unconquerable risks.

Adam emphasises, “Can we afford to risk tempting the insatiability of the exponentially burgeoning market from Asia? Do we and will we ever have enough lions to satiate this demand? It’s a move that’s simply too risky to make. Being wrong means that lions may never avert extinction. ‘Farmers’ of lions charge top dollar to hunt a lion – this is out of reach of most local Africans who would still succumb to the temptation to poach, especially if the demand for lion products remains. Poaching will not cease because of professional hunting, and in fact may even increase accordingly.”

Trophy Hunting

Trophy hunting means that cubs are taken from their mothers and bred in captivity, ultimately destroying the wild lion population (image


We cannot afford to have lions readily available for the public’s consumption and for hunters’ satisfactions, because those desires are, as Adam said, insatiable. Developments in ecotourism are proving to be a flying success, and people living rurally in Africa are being approached by initiatives promising to employ them and incentivise their communities in order to conserve the wildlife that this continent’s health and wealth depends on. How hypocritical does it seem, then, to want to provide captive-bred lions just to satisfy people’s desire to kill? Lions, elephants and rhinos are out of the question – it is not sustainable; there are not enough numbers for trigger happy humans to mount their taxidermy art on their walls. It is a shock to realise that the greed of people has led us to a point where we are scrambling to save a species, so much so, that we breed lions just so we can kill them.

The input I received from Dereck, Adam and David on this topic could not have been more eloquently summarised than by the following:

“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”

That, of course, was Gandhi.

Chloe Cooper

Author: Chloe Cooper

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  1. In South Africa we breed lions to be hunted! None of our wild lions are hunted! Im very sure you are against this as well, yet we have solved the problem of not killing wild lions!!!

    Before making incorrect statements please do your homework on your chosen topics.
    I estimate we have about 5000-10000 captive bred lions in South Africa much more than what the hunting market requires.

    About the lion bones being sold to Asia. Some Asian countries has banned the trade in Tiger body parts including bones. The far east will either kill them illegally or look for an alternative. We in South Africa with our captive bred lion hunting has solved this problem entirely. Lions being hunted are only hunted for skin and skull. We now have the opportunity of once again conserving animals like the Tiger by selling these bones to the far east.

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    • Hi Barend

      Thanks for your comments. I know of a few occasions where wild lions have been hunted in South Africa. Its not restricted to canned lions.

      The article above points out that the breeding of lions in a canned environment is actually resulting in wild lions being poached in order to supply the breeders. Take the time read to the Times Live Article.

      In addition, the breeding of canned lions is creating a market for lion parts in the East, and the demand coming from the East is unsustainable and putting major pressure on the wild lion population.

      Please have a look at this research as well:

      There is simply no excuse for canned or wild lion hunting anymore.

      But to be honest the shooting lions is sick and no longer defendable in a world where natural resources are on the brink of collapse including lion numbers.

      And as Derek Joubert says: ““If you speak to hunters, there are two distinct kinds of people who hunt lions. Those that want the real experience and those that want the trophy. Wild versus Canned. There is no overlap between the two. Canned lions will not substitute for wild lions for hunting, and do not alleviate the pressure on wild populations.”

      Brett Thomson, Sun Safaris

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      • Well replied and written Brett. As fro Barend’s reply…..he sees lion hunting in purely financial terms. Nothing less, nothing more. I doubt he has ever really enjoyed the glint in the eye of a live male lion, looking over his family, enjoying what wild male lions do best.
        Thank you for your input and support on this despicable topic.

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      • Excellent response Brett, thank you.

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    • Wild lions are indeed still hunted in south africa…one i know was shot this past weekend…he was wild and died for man’s frustrating and bizarre desires…

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    • Barend D … I do not believe for one moment that you are that ignorant or stupid to claim that “no wild lions are shot in SA”. Lion hunting permits are issued on a regular basis in the Western Buffer Zone of the Kruger ( Timbavati, Klaserie, Balule etc) as are Rhino hunting permits. Timbavati has had 2 recent bad publicity events regarding the shooting of Lion and Rhino for trophies.


      It is unacceptable, period

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    • You are S. Africa’s SHAME and you think it’s conservation it is all about greed .
      You have no right to take a life of any species .

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    • Yes and you make alot of money out of breeding lions for canned hunts, totally barbaric and unethical not to mention immoral.
      I suppose you also hope that wild lions are wiped out then you will have the monopoly on lion sales dead or alive.
      Why does money drive you people so much?
      Have you no compassion for the animals bred in captivity who were made to run free?
      You make many many of us out here sick.

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    • Barend,
      It is with your mentality that animals have no chance!! You must be just another Suid-Afrikaanse “BOK.” Jou donner!! Perhaps they should breed your children and have them up for trophy hunting!! But then again that won’t be enough. You should have to watch since it is a sport after all. Then you can be the old male put up for the most money as part of the hunt!!! You need to also do your homework…and take you hunting goggles off!!!!! In fact stop smoking whatever it is you are smoking. You must be delusional “estimating” that there are 5000-10000 captive lions…really!!!!! If you don’t get it by now, it is not just about killing “wild lions” it is about killing for fun!!

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    • I can’t believe you just wrote, “In South Africa, we breed lions to be hunted!” and think this is remotely okay as a civilized behavior. You are an absolute moron standing behind this bullshit practice of serial murder. Who cares how a lion is brought into this world, you do not have the right to take its life because American and European serial killers want a trophy for their wall and want to get off on taking a life. I grew up in South Africa and I’m ashamed to identify myself with the country over this particular issue. There is no excuse in the world to hunt lions in the wild or through canned hunts. What kind of sick asshole gets off on stealing a beautiful life like this? It’s bullshit on conservation, too, because the money never reaches the right pockets and just keeps perpetuating a vicious and murderous cycle. The South African government should be ashamed of itself. It needs to follow the example of Botswana and Zambia and outlaw trophy hunting. You will always be a second rate, third world country with this gutless mentality. The only thing South Africa has got going for it on an international level is the amazing wild life and even that’s for sale to soulless murderers from all over the world. I advocate hunting lion farmers and would love to see the tables turned on them by an advanced species that considers them prey. This entire canned industry makes me sick to my stomach. South Africa is the laughing stock of the world. You’ve just climbed out of the sewer of Apartheid, and now you’re complicit in the extermination of an entire species. Don’t ever use the word ‘conservation’ and the term ‘we breed lions to be hunted’ in the same argument.

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    • Barend,

      The world is overpopulated with greedy and ignorant people. It is not sustainable to hunt any animals because we need to conserve all our resources and ecosystems. Without protecting animals and our environment, the human species will be the next species that will become extinct.

      Also, animals have feelings just like we do, they feel pain and they feel love for their own families. It is inhumane to hunt any animals, especially when there are so few animals left. Animals can teach people so much just by observing them interacting with each other. I feel an overwhelming sense of peace by simply watching animals with their own families, having nothing to give their offspring but love and protection. Seeing nature is the only proof I have that there is a God who is loving and seeing animals in the wild makes me feel amazed at their beauty, diversity, and uniqueness.

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  2. Looks like I am moving my next trip to Kenya,Zambia or Botswana instead of SA.

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  3. As I said many times before, I would like to see ”hunters” without their guns and rifles standing in front of lions and lionesses…What do you think would happen? Would ”hunters” be willing to do such a test of their ”courage”?

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  4. The only reason we in South Africa have anything in the wild left is that we had so much to start off with. The inevitability of moneymaking with all it`s excuses will mean the extinction of those species that we all consider BIG 5 and many more others of course.This is rapidly approaching the critical point that will fall below the level of self recovery of a species. When that occurs then the total wipeout apart from the odd specimens zoos and circuses, will happen. Humans caused this looming catastrophe and only humans can stop the disaster…if it is not already too late ……..Fred Orban

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  5. Barend, you think you are protecting the tigers? Unfortunately, by providing the East the lions parts you are still keeping the Eastern myths alive. One fool feeding another.

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  6. I remember when the Cooke report showed the heartbreaking video of the mother lioness who was led out of an enclosure so she could be shot by a SLOB German trophy hunter in front of her cubs. I know Safari Club well….they masquerade as sportsmen and conservationists…they are nothing of the sort….they are greedy people- superior beings in fact…. with no sense of morality- and who are not used to not getting their way…..trophy hunting is a sickness- the rarer the animal the more they want it- covet it- desire it….they are all about greed……This is big money….The new head of the USFWS Dan Ashe is a country clubber- he is falling for this killing is conservation model……They granted an import permit for an endangered rhino first time in 30 years…..usually SCI would bribe USFWS personnel….now they can use the GOV……Read about John Jackson from Conservation Force- he inflates lion numbers so the vampires in SCI can import more lion trophies…..

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  7. I will not go into all the points I could make here, but in defense of Barend, the overwhelming majority of lions killed in South Africa are on wildlife ranches. I think your characterization of these as “canned” hunts is also in large degree erroneous, as many of the ranches hosing lions are of several hundred thousand acres and the lions movements are not much more restricted than in the wild. Many of these ranches once housed cattle which nearly destroyed the ecosystem and its wildlife. As with most wildlife, habitat is the key to its survival. And with humans, economics drive the decisions – thus, if ecotourism can pay its way, it will some day overcome trophy hunting in SA.

    As for hunts in the National Parks in SA, the trophy fee received from a white rhino or a lion hunt will go a long way to paying the cost of an anti-poaching patrol. By sacrificing an animal that is past its prime breeding age, many more of the species can be saved. Should SA ignore this source of funds out of principle to the detriment of the animals protected in its parks?

    This blog cites a lot of opinions of people that the author agrees with as its factual basis. I would submit that the facts are much more complex and vary by location and the culture at that location. Trophy hunting has preserved a lot of wildlife in Africa – see SA for example. If the goal is preservation of wildlife and not merely to ban hunting on personal moral grounds, to discount it completely as a solution is folly.

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  8. Mr Reiman,

    I am guessing that by the fact you mention “acres” and “ranches” that you are American? Have you ever even been to Botswana? You say “the trophy fee received from a white rhino or a lion hunt will go a long way to paying the cost of an anti-poaching patrol” So by that virtue if we let hunters shoot every rhino and lion on the planet, we will have billions of dollars to pump into anti-poaching.Anti-poaching for what Mr Reiman? I’m not sure what mathematics you did in school, but I learned that if you have ten pieces of cake and you sell ten pieces of cake, you now have no cake. You have money, but it doesn’t really taste much like cake does it? There’s no shop you can go to if you want to buy a wild pride of lions, or were you not aware of this fact?

    Stay away from our wildlife, you’re not welcome here!

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    • Well said Michael !!

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    • If people are so interested in financing conservation and anti poaching units, why not just donate towards it or join an organization that really contributes to conservation, instead of killing our beautiful majestic animals and turning them into a pathetic pile of skin and bones? Because they actually ENJOY killing, is the only reason someone would pay to kill.

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  9. Stop killing lions, and other wildlife animals for trophy, cruel and vanitous bastards…and cowards also!…

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  10. I feel alot of sadness in my heart when I read articles like this. How can us humans be so insensitive ?

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  11. Great article this!

    Unfortunately SA and Namibia, along with Tanzania, are in the forefront of promoting trophy hunting in Africa, and the illusion that it “conserves.” As a South African myself, I am embarrassed by how trivial the SA government considers the life of a lion or rhino, they are more interested in making money off of it, than its’ survival. They view it as a commodity, not as a living being.

    So for those who would rather plan their holidays in Botswana or Zambia, I say go for it, don’t help feed the trophy hunting industry in South Africa and Tanzania, but rather let it go to those who would conserve the animals by keeping them alive.

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    • Barend,

      The planet is overpopulated with greedy and ignorant people that it is not sustainable to hunt any animals any more. We need to protect all animals and their habitats because losing any species is detrimental to an entire ecosystem. We need to protect animals and our environment, otherwise human beings will become extinct.
      Also, we can learn so much by observing animals interacting with each other. Animals are sweet and innocent and deserve to live in peace with their families. I feel so amazed when I see all the variety of animals on this planet and that is the best proof that I have that God exists. It makes me so emotional to see animals who love their offspring and have nothing to give them but love and protection. It is our duty to protect every animal for they can teach us how to be humane.

      Post a Reply


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