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Trophy hunting is good for lion conservation, University of Kent professors claim

By Bess Browning

University of Kent professors have claimed that trophy hunting could be beneficial for the rapidly decreasing lion population.

One year since the controversial killing of Cecil the Lion, which sparked global outrage and attracted international media attention, researchers say they have shown that hunting does work in certain circumstances.

American dentist Walter Palmer was last year condemned by animal conservationists, celebrities and the public after he wounded and later killed 13-year-old Cecil, whose subspecies was later given endangered status.

University of Kent professors has claimed that trophy hunting could be beneficial for the rapidly decreasing lion population.
University of Kent professors has claimed that trophy hunting could be beneficial for the rapidly decreasing lion population.

But a year down the line and Dr Henry Brink and Dr Bob Smith from the University of Kent’s Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology say that hunting could play an “important role” in lion conservation.

After studying at Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve, they say that if hunting companies are given long-term management rights, it could play a key role in conserving the species.

Their report says: “The protected area in the reserve is divided into blocks in which hunting rights are allocated to different companies.

“It showed that that blocks under short-term allocation were over-hunted.

"This is an important lesson for lion conservation, as loss of habitat means this species is increasingly restricted to protected areas" - Dr Henry Brink and Dr Bob Smith

“In contrast, lion trophy hunting levels were sustainable in blocks owned by the same company for 10 years or more, thereby also maintaining important habitat for this threatened species.

“The research shows that those who have secured long-term use rights to natural resources are more likely to manage them sustainably.

“This is an important lesson for lion conservation, as loss of habitat means this species is increasingly restricted to protected areas.” - Dr Henry Brink and Dr Bob Smith

Dr Smith added that their findings may surprise the public, but most lion conservationists think trophy hunting could play a key role in conserving this species because lions need large areas to thrive, and managing this land is expensive.

He says their work shows land under long-term management for trophy hunting can help fill this shortfall.

This research also supports calls to change the hunting fee system in Tanzania.

Nigel Leader-Williams explained that at present, the government sells hunting block fees cheaply, and raises more by setting high quotas and high fees for each trophy animal shot, which encourages those who are only allocated blocks over the short-term to shoot more lions, at the expense of long-term sustainability and profits.

Increasing block fees, reducing trophy fees and reducing the hunting quota could bring in the same tax revenue, while reducing the temptation of hunters to over-use lions.

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