Saving the Last Lions

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Oct 19th, 2009, 09:37 AM
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Saving the Last Lions

Good article written by Dereck Joubert that ran last week in the Washington Post and other papers... (editors: I have been given permission to repost here).

By Dereck Joubert

Just 50 years ago there were close to a half-million lions in Africa -- about 450,000 in all. Today there are between 16,000 and 23,000. And yet, unlike elephants (a far more numerous species), lions have no protection under the international accord governing such matters.

Big cats are in trouble everywhere. The number of tigers has dipped below 3,000. Indeed, as we look at the lion population today, it's the shadow of the tiger's history that scares me most. Tiger bones are used extensively in the East for medicines and mythological (read nonsense) cures for ailments or limp libidos, and the demand is increasing. A growing demand and a disappearing supply is a formula for disaster.

The solution we are seeing play out is a switch from tiger bones to lion bones, which can be easily sold off as tiger bones. It's ironic that the most famous animal in Africa, perhaps in the world, can't even be poached on its own value but only as a "mock tiger."

This week the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is meeting to decide whether lions, whose numbers have declined by 50 percent in the past 20 years, are worthy of protection under Appendix I to the convention: the listing of the most endangered animals. The problem is that the safari hunting industry and buyers in Asia are opposing it, because such a decree would limit what they can do with the trophies. Fact: Appendix I does not mean you can't shoot a lion -- it means you can't import the skin to hang on the wall. And the answer to the question we are asked a thousand times is: Yes, you can still go to Africa to kill a lion.

CITES needs a country to sponsor the motion for lion protection. We can't, so far, get one to put its hand up first, to take on the issue and save lions. No one will risk offending big safari hunting lobbies. It would seem that many are just not thinking this through. Extinction threatens by the year 2020. Then there will be no lions to hunt, or to protect.

(Meanwhile another ominous development poses a further threat to wildlife. A pesticide is being used by poachers to kill lions and many other animals. Sprinkled on meat, it kills lions, hyenas, vultures and other creatures in minutes).

We don't have much time. The biggest threat isn't hunters, poachers or poison makers -- it is our own complacency, the lazy hope that someone else is taking care of the great beasts of Africa.

Lions and other large predators are disappearing even as we learn more about the collapse of entire ecosystems. The $200 billion a year reaped from ecotourism will be lost, causing suffering among communities all over Africa that rely on this trade.

As explorers in residence at National Geographic, my wife, Beverly, and I are calling on everyone with even a remote interest in big cats, or in Africa, to make sure that these wild systems keep working well. Scientists, conservationists -- everyone -- must come together, work together and support this effort now: the Big Cats Initiative. It's a movement that doesn't want to exclude a single soul or leave out any idea on how to reduce the conflict. We have a short window of time in which we can remedy this. It is closing very rapidly.

Dereck Joubert and his wife, Beverly Joubert, are National Geographic explorers in residence. They have spent years making films and writing about the big cats of Africa.

To view some of their photos and films, visit http://www.wildlifeconservationfilms.com

For more information on the Big Cat Initiative, visit http://www.nationalgeographic.com/bigcats and also http://www.bigcatinitiative.com/
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Oct 19th, 2009, 09:41 AM
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Further note on this:

According to Dereck's text, the vote would have been last week and I do not have information on the outcome of this supposed vote.

Here is a link to a hunting forum which indicates that lions will likely remain a CITES Appendix II species. Hope this is not the case obviously.

http://www.africahunting.com/hunting...-i-update.html

James
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Oct 19th, 2009, 10:59 AM
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Thanks James
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Oct 19th, 2009, 11:18 AM
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James,

Do you know any connection between the Wilderness Wildlife Trust and the BCI?

Craig
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Oct 19th, 2009, 01:35 PM
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Hi Craig,

I am unaware of any direct relationship between WS and the Joubert's latest initiative.

D&B are currently on a "speed tour" of the States to promote their conservation efforts - let's hope it doesn't fall on too many deaf ears!

On a VERY positive note, President Khama was re-elected as Botswana's President yesterday (for another 5-year term).

As many here will no doubt know, Mr. Khama has been a big supporter of wildlife in his country.
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Oct 19th, 2009, 01:47 PM
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Woo Hoo for Khama!! Batswana that we met really like him.
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Oct 19th, 2009, 02:10 PM
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Thanks James. I hope your family is OK. I sent you a note back in July. I met D&B in Minneapolis in the winter of 2007.

Craig
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Oct 19th, 2009, 06:41 PM
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Yes, and Hunting has been completely banned in BOTS.
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Oct 20th, 2009, 02:03 PM
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HariS
I know that lion hunting has been banned for 3 years now and remains banned for the time being. But you really mean "HUNTING" as a whole? No buffs, no eles no nothing?

That would be fantastic - but I doubt it.

SV
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Oct 20th, 2009, 02:11 PM
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jweis
With your request for support you are running into open doors here. We support the canned hunting campaign as well as all cheetah foundations, snow leopard protection etc etc - you name it, we are involved in one way or the other.

Regarding the tiger population: The latest census say the number is between 1400 and 1100. Having visited 4 parks in India and knowing there are no fences - I have no clue how they did any census. More realistic is an estimation betwen 900 and 1100 - countrywide INDIA! Scientists and conservationists estimate that the tiger will be gone within the next 10 years in India.

As you say there won't be any country raising its hands first: Kenya should be that country as hunting is forbidden there for almost 40 years. And yes - Kenya's lion population as well as rare birds and all other animals are suffering because of the "purple killer". An interesting article here:
http://stopwildlifepoisoning.wildlif.../#comment-3467

SV
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Oct 20th, 2009, 04:13 PM
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Thanks for the post, JWeis.
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Oct 20th, 2009, 06:22 PM
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SV,

That's correct - No Hunting at all in Botswana any more!
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Oct 20th, 2009, 11:42 PM
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Hari - I am afraid that this is not the case - there are still hunting operators going strong in Bots, although no lion hunting is permitted... Also many changes hopefully in store... The President has been openly critical

Right now the new policies are all in draft form but they are being processed. There is going to be a 25km buffer zone no hunting, around any National Park boundary so that is going to take out 75 percent of the hunting in the Chobe enclave (that small bit between Kasane and Linyanti along river). This will be very positive. WS are also working on getting new (read current hunting) concessions and this should happen next year.

Then it seems that all concession leases that come up for renewal are only going to be allowed to be photographic and not hunting. Word of mouth is that this means that the longest any current hunting concession will keep running is two years as all the leases will come up by then. However, none of this is confirmed yet.

Also, I believe the hunting will continue but most of what will be left will be around Ghanzi and then west, and also along the eastern border with Zim as there are quite a few hunting concessions there. It seems the main drive has been to eliminate the hunting concession impact on any of the wetland protected areas..Chobe, Linyanti, Savuti, and Okavango.

All of this should take final effect by the time the last concession comes up for renewal...again all these intentions are in draft form but the hunting community is reading the writing on the wall, and apart from those hunters who operate to the east of the Delta on the Zim border and to the south, around nxai pan...those who are chobe/delta based hunters are almost all looking to either get out or get involved in deals with sub-leasing to photo safari companies.

Hope this info is helpful.

James
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Oct 20th, 2009, 11:48 PM
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Sorry...

When I say the President has been openly critical, I meant to say that he has been openly critical of hunting and that the latest draft regulations indicate that the government is serious about moving hunting out of the wetlands.

JW
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Oct 21st, 2009, 12:51 AM
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Botswana leading the way in Africa again. I hope the draft proposal does become law. I've never got the logic of 'preserving' animals by killing them. I hope other African countries follow Botswana's lead- and soon. At the risk of ignition the 'Wilderness Wars' again - I really admire that company for putting their (our!) money where their mouth is on hunting and are carrying out a long term strategy to acquire concessions from hunting operators and joining them up, so animals that become used to vehicles on photo safari properties don't then wander onto 'hunting' properties and become easy to kill because of the habituation to vehicles.
Go Botswana!
Thanks for the post jweis
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Oct 21st, 2009, 03:40 AM
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Thanks for the info, James. I suppose, we'll know more details as and when things unfold with regards to all the changes.
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Oct 21st, 2009, 03:45 AM
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Thinks. This is really encouraging.
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Oct 21st, 2009, 08:36 AM
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James
Thank you for the information and of course needless to say I hope hunting will be banned in Botswana altogether!
The buffer zone idea sounds good. Contrary to Zambia where the buffer zones are "wildlife management areas" means hunting.

HariS
I know you love the Kwando camps and you have the most experiences with them.
I also know that Kwando allows hunting in their concession - by sub-contractors.
What is your knowledge on that? Is hunting still conducted there?

Mega
"so animals that become used to vehicles on photo safari properties don't then wander onto 'hunting' properties and become easy to kill because of the habituation to vehicles."
That's exactly the prob in Zambia where these animals fall easy victims to hunters.

SV
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