Lion hunting in Botswana

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Jul 11th, 2005, 08:45 AM
  #1
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Lion hunting in Botswana

Hi all,

I don't want to start up the hunting / anti-hunting debate with this post... rather, I'm just sharing information for those wanting to know what's going on this year with the lion hunting in Botswana.

Some here may remember that there was a lion hunting ban imposed throughout Botswana back in 2001.

The Government has lifted the ban on lion hunting for 2005. There is some confusion surrounding numbers, but a government press release said 27 lions and it may also be one lion per hunting concession.

A National Lion Symposium was held in Kasane in March. Aside from the DWNP, funding came from the Botswana hunting association. They invited selected lion biologists and researchers, Derek Joubert, and some community representatives.

The meeting was not about deciding if lion hunting would happen in Botswana or not, that decision was already made. Decision making was led by the scientists and emotion concerning the ethics of hunting lions was not taken into consideration. If you had a point to make, you had to have data to back it up, if not your idea would be instantly dismissed.

DWNP stated results of their 2004 lion survey as roughly 3000-3500. This is 500-1000 animals more than 1998. The accuracy of their methods in 2004 was questioned. They claimed to have used estimates, but were unable to supply any numbers.

Dr Craig Packer, independent researcher, then dismissed the importance of numbers, claiming that so long as a healthy population exists, there is little need to quibble over whether it is 1200 or 1500 in a particular area. He said that as long as males are shot by hunters when they are 6 years old, virtually no impact occurs on a lion population. He claimed to have proved this in Tanzania where they had 12000 lions (his figures).

In response to questions about infanticide and longer inter-birth intervals in S. Africa, he said shooting the males at 7 years old would definitely have no impact. He said quotas were not even important if this policy was followed. He said that once a male lion's nose turns more than 50 % black, it is 6 years old and it can be shot safely.

He gave irrelevant information about man-eating lions in Tanzania and Mozambique, claiming that 70 people per year are killed there. A WS representative questioned shooting 7-year-old males when they have many examples of exceptional lions holding prides and mating for much longer (ie, Duba Boys).

DWNP said Problem Animal Control or PAC is a big problem around protected areas all over Botswana, due to rising human and livestock populations.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus has been in lions for thousands of years. Researchers believe that for now FIV does not pose a threat to wild lions. Public and media misconceptions abound as people are associating it with HIV in humans.

Dr Andy Loveridge said overhunting in areas around Hwange in Zim was causing a serious decline in adult males within the park. Male lions in their study area had walked up to 50 km in less than three days. No lion hunting around Hwange for 2004 and 2005. He also said that measurements of male lions in Hwange showed that they were not quite sexually mature at 6 years old.

Derek Joubert spoke of the international public and media perceptions about lion hunting and requested that the hunting industry improve their image and conduct. By means of photographs of lions he showed that Dr Packer's method of aging lions by nose colour could be unreliable in Botswana.

The WS rep made it clear that OWS does not believe that lion hunting is sustainable in Botswana, and that they opposed it. They did not believe the ban was lifted on scientific grounds as no accurate numbers were available to see if the population was indeed recovering.

The WS rep stated the following:
OWS do not believe that lions should be hunted in Botswana. The resulting infanticide, pride instability and loss of genetic quality mean a much greater impact takes place than "just" 27 lions dying. Many of the WS concessions are close enough to community areas and some are already seeing Problem Animal conflict happening within predator ranges. We cannot afford to place more stress on these lion populations. We are not saying general hunting in some areas of other species does not bring benefits to some areas.

Amongst the hunters are those who are looking to point fingers at the photo-safari guys for "messing up" the environment. Their main points of attack are too many roads, too much offroading, and insensitivity at sightings, so operators need to make sure that minimum standards are adhered to and beyond, where possible.

UPDATE AS OF TODAY:
The lion ban remains firmly removed and some lions have already been shot. Total to be shot is 27 males. Craig Packer is the scientist who led the move to convince all that the ban was no longer necessary. Note also that the senior Mr. George Bush and "Stormin Norman" of Gulf War fame also sent letters to the Botswana government in support of lifting the ban.

Word around the hunting scene is that lion trophies are selling for big money now in Botswana, one for USD 140000 and another for USD 130000 that I heard about recently.
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Jul 11th, 2005, 09:12 AM
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bwanamitch
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Hi Jim,

what is the source of your information?

Mitch
 
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Jul 11th, 2005, 10:08 AM
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Hi Mitch,

I have a close friend who attended the Kasane meeting; also mates at OWS.

James
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Jul 11th, 2005, 10:29 AM
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James,
Thanks for posting the information!
As tourist, with dollars to spend one should consider which camps to support based on the operators policies about hunting.

Personally, I applaud WS for their approach to conservation but as in every situation there are other issues to consider.
DWNP said Problem Animal Control or PAC is a big problem around protected areas all over Botswana, due to rising human and livestock populations. Finding a balance between nature and humans often clouded by personal and emotional points of views.
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Jul 11th, 2005, 12:28 PM
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bwanamitch
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James, thank you for your reply, and Brenda, thanks for your thoughts.

In 2003 I visited a lion research camp in the Delta as a voluntary guest, and during a stay at Jack's I also had the opportunity of a half-day visit to the Makgadikgadi Lion Research camp and to talk with the resident researchers. Of course, this doesn't make me an expert on lion populations in Botswana, but it gave me some small insights. What I find disturbing is on what personal level these ban/anti-ban discussions are led in Botswana, full with blind emotions, even hatred, where people of different factions even don't talk to each other at Christmas or New Years parties. What I also find very irritating, as someone with a technical/scientific background, that some people (scientists and non-scientists) use their popularity to bias the public opinion without delivering any facts or data, only unproved convictions.

I repeat what James wrote: "Decision making was led by the scientists and emotion concerning the ethics of hunting lions was not taken into consideration. If you had a point to make, you had to have data to back it up, if not your idea would be instantly dismissed." Isn't that the best way to make such a decision? If OWS don't believe that this decision was made on scientific grounds, I wish that they would deliver better data, so that we have a lion hunting ban in 2006 and all the future.

In my opinion (as a European), discrediting a renowned US researcher and a former US president is not the right way.

I've read a lot about community based tourism in Botswana. Unfortunately, there are some communities whose concession areas are not so attractive for photo tourism, who had not the luck of selling their concession rights to a big photo safari operator. These communities also want to profit and live from tourism in Botswana. They are trying hard to establish their own small camps and lodges - or they are selling their rights to a hunting operator.

Brenda wrote: "As tourist, with dollars to spend one should consider which camps to support based on the operators policies about hunting."

Wouldn't it be desirable that those communities get the right support so that they don't have to sell their concession rights to hunting operators? That some of us not only book 5 and 6 "paw" camps but also go to the more simple and basic camps of those communities? For a good reason?

Mitch
 
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Jul 11th, 2005, 01:21 PM
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Hi Mitch,

You make some good points regarding the emotional side of this discussion; unfortunately, people have trouble looking at this issue devoid of feelings and it does cause emotion to take a front seat when perhaps it shouldn't.

I'm not sure how you miscontrued anything in my post as discrediting former President Bush; that was really not my intent for mentioning him, I just thought it an interesting tidbit. If you do a search on Bush and Lion Ban you can find lots more info on his involvement.

As far as discredting the researcher, it was only his "facts" in support of lifting the ban that were brought into question.

As for OWS, they registered the point at the symposium that DWNP neglected to count lions in any OWS concession areas. OWS's position was just that reliable and documented data on the lion populations should be obtained BEFORE any decisions are made and that the data should certainly have included their concessions.

WS continues to update the lion numbers in their concessions as this year progresses. Obviously though, the reason they are collecting these figures is so that they have reliable data to support their arguments against lion hunting.

James
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Jul 11th, 2005, 01:43 PM
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Hi James,

Thank you for your clarification. Sometimes tidbits can be misleading. Sorry, that I got you wrong.

You said, DWNP neglected to count lions in any OWS concession areas. Does this mean that they count in other concessions? And if so, why not in the OWS concessions?

Mitch
 
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Jul 11th, 2005, 02:16 PM
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Mitch,

No worries on the misread... my fault - I probably should have left that reference out anyway.

Yep, DWNP apparently felt they could get a representative census of lions in the Delta without sampling OWS concessions. The guys at OWS were a bit baffled by that one, as am I.

I certainly don't know all the facts there but only what my mates have related to me. Again, sometimes two parties can interpret the exact same data and use it to support their own arguments. Glad you have an interest in the post - thanks, James.
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Jul 11th, 2005, 02:36 PM
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Yeah, I see. Thank you.

Mitch
 
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Jul 11th, 2005, 04:32 PM
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James: Thanks for posting so much detail -- I find it of great interest.

I have no hesitation to contradict the testimony of Dr. Packer although it is obviously based only on this account and ideally I would want to read the facts as presented on paper.

To me any lion management in Botswana based on Tanzania research is immediately suspect. People frequently act as if all individuals in a species are exactly a like -- just like people there can be huge individual variation and in lions there are clearly societal differences throughout their range. Many differences between southern lions and eastern lions have been found. Because George Schaller did the first definitive work on lions in East Africa (and he is God in the biologist world) many of his findings have been considered fact everywhere. Most notably is the common misconception that male lions merely pirate kills from females and never hunt. In East Africa that may be much more common since the majority of prey is smaller, faster animals in large savannah habitats that leave males conspicuous. In Botswana where many prides specialize on buffalo, and even hippo and elephant the males often participate in hunting.

Further, most authors suggest that males are in their prime from 5-9 years of age with some declining as early as 8. I saw the Duba Boys at age 10 still dominant and I believe they have held onto one pride now at 12 or 13. It is crazy to say that there would be no effect to kill males at 6 or 7. If that had happened in the Duba Boys case 4 prides would have opened up to likely huge battles among males and large infanticide in an area thought to have the highest lion density in all of Africa. To think that killing males in this age class has no more than a 1:1 effect is ridiculous!

There are many issues and perhaps the economic benefits are worth it to Botswana but the facts being presented are clearly incorrect and misleading by understating the impact.
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Jul 11th, 2005, 11:59 PM
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It is also suspicious that they would have to bring in Craig Packer, who studies East Africa lions, to find a researcher who would support this position with such spurious arguments. As predatorbiologist has pointed out, the idea that research from east Africa populations-- where the environment is completely different than Botswana-- would be laughed out of most academic venues today. I doubt Mr Packer could get his PhD if he made this a thesis of his doctoral work.

And the government claims an large increase in population but is unable to supply the supporting numbers???? And numbers were supposedly the basis of this discussion???

It would be amusing (if not so hideous) that the hunting reps were criticizing the practice of the tourist operators in Botswana.

Derek Joubert's polite call to clean up hunting is perhaps too polite. In fact, if there are indeed so many lions in Botswana, why is it that the hunting operators seem to have eliminated the males in their own concessions, and so often have to resort to baiting lions from the parks and tourism reserves with things like buffalo carcasses and tape recordings of buffalo in distress? Somehow their actions contradict their claims that there are indeed plenty of lion to hunt "sustainably".

jweis, thank you VERY much for posting this information, as sad as it is...
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Jul 13th, 2005, 02:36 PM
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If the Tanzania research is the one I think it is then it came in two parts, the nose spot part which was observation based and a population impact projection.

This second part was a desk excercise. They built a model supplied some givens and let it run to demonstrate the effects of using age (nose spot) as the determinator for lion kills. For some patterns of killing they got major population fluctuations but forthe 6/7 yo male simulations they got a sustainable outcome.

I did read the paper but I do not recall the assumptions that were used to drive the model, but I do recall being a bit sceptical about the strength of any parallel that could be drawn from that type of desk study.

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Jul 13th, 2005, 03:24 PM
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I would definitely like to read that paper. I will have to look for it when I have more time on my hands. Field season right now has me very busy.

I do have pictures of fully maned males from Namibia that have all pink noses -- I suppose it is possible that they were 5 years old but there was no sign of black. I would be very skeptical that it is a useful age tool across all populations.
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Jul 13th, 2005, 03:47 PM
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Here is a scientific paper that explains a lot:
"Sustainable Trophy Hunting of African Lions" (http://www.lionresearch.org/current_docs/20.pdf).

Mitch
 
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Jul 14th, 2005, 02:37 PM
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PredatorBiologist,

any comments on the paper above?
 
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Jul 14th, 2005, 09:13 PM
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Hey Mitch -- thanks for posting the paper. I was working long hours today in the field and just getting to my computer for a minute. Tomorrow more of the same, I will read it over the weekend and be sure to post back on this thread.
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Jul 18th, 2005, 09:55 AM
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Finally had time to read the paper -- thanks Mitch for posting it.

I definitely have a big problem with using nose coloration to determine age classes for hunting regulations. This is based on only 32 males from two close by regions in Tanzania. Even the two regions differed with Ngorongoro population darkening more slowly than Serengeti populations. The paper even states that site-specific data may be necessary to provide accurate age estimates and that the Tanzania demographic patterns may not apply in every situation. In my own limited photos I have 3 1/2 year old males from Botswana whose noses are completely black and thus would be elegible for shooting under these proposed guidelines, on the other hand I have pictures from Namibia of lions that have to be at least 5 years of age that have nothing but pink noses. It is clear that there is a lot of variation and it is likely that there is a lot of genetic relatedness in the populations studied for the age class paper which may in fact have lead to a discernable pattern in that region only.

Further, even if the age class was reliable (clearly isn't) I wonder how many people under field conditions could determine if the nose is half black or not. Once its 75% it might be pretty easy to say thats black but when they are mottled it could be tough. It sounds like a lot of 4 and 5 year olds could be shot because they have a fair amount of black but perhaps it was a late 4 year old with 40% of the nose black. When populations are being hunted it is unlikely that hunters are going to be able to pull up 10 yards away and look through a zoom lens for 5 minutes to make these kinds of determinations. I have to think this is putting hunters in a bad decision spot and with lots of time and money invested I doubt its going to be tie goes to the lion. I think it may be a good guideline but hardly a definitive
useful mark to ensure only lions of a certain age are killed. Again, anywhere outside of N. Tanzania it seems the rule does not apply anyway -- at least not without independent site specific research.

more to follow...
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Jul 18th, 2005, 10:40 AM
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While the population model used is a neat little analysis I believe it totally ignores genetic health and the value of variation in the social dynamic. The model is a straight number counter and assumes that each individual is equal and should be equally represented genetically. The model is founded on a set formula that a male coalition should father one litter over a two year period and that as long as timing works so when older males are killed via hunting younger ones simply take over mating to coincide with the deposed males offspring having reached a survival age. A quick point of practicality -- it doesn't work this way, they are averages. Some males take over a pride at 7 years old and have their first offspring. Some males like the Duba Boys may father 7 or 8 litters over 5 year periods or more. Some males may never be able to win a competition and will have no offspring.

To suggest as the paper does that "the most impressive males are 'expendable' to the population (5-6 year olds and older) and the suggestion that quotas could be irrelevant as long as a safe age is selected are completely overreaching conclusions that totally ignore the very important factor of genetic stregth. This paper suggests that if you eliminate every male 6 and older that there is no impact on conservation. If males are in their prime from 5 to 8 and you take away 75% of the prime males than you have young males that just fall into a breeding position, they haven't earned it. Some would be males that never would have had offspring. Males that have not experienced the years of nomadic life that may be key to forming unbreakable bonds of a coalition may not be good protectors and hyenas or other prides may dominate theirs or shrink their territory until the whole pride is gone - a net population loss not counted in the model. Older males that have lost prides but escaped hunting may come back and dominate young lions and over represent their genes while lions like the Duba Boys whose genes should be overrepresented by years of dominance could be done after one litter due to hunting. Models have limitations but they need to consider the imporatance of genetic heritage and drop unbelievable lines of thought that include a "no quota" analysis that would put most of the prime age males on the chopping block. The paper even states "high-quality individuals may show precocious development and thus be shot before they are able to breed - with negative evolutionary effects on the population as a whole". Thus, they propose the key is to set an appropriate age so they can breed once, yet they don't address the fact that they could breed multiple times or that a prime coalition may not breed until 7 or 8 because there is another prime coalition that they have to wait to defeat. Very irresponsible science to draw such huge conclusions and not address the negative genetic impacts in my opinion and worse -- they have drawn the conclusion past lions to say males of any species can be hunted in this manner with no adverse population effects.
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Jul 18th, 2005, 11:48 AM
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Hi PredatorBiologist,

thank you for taking the time and writing this helpful analysis.

Mitch
 
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Jul 18th, 2005, 01:03 PM
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My pleasure -- I just wish I had the flexiblity right now to go to Botswana and do some original research of my own. Hopefully in a few years time I will make that opportunity.
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