|Lions: just big kitties really!|
|Tarangire Lioness - a surprisingly resilient population.|
|Lions are still outside protected areas in much of Tanzania!|
|Pale blue line is total lion density, dark blue is adult |
density, red is estimated maximum density
the same authors have already noted that in a number of populations included in this study these edge effects aren't actually seen. It's also hard to explain why a protected area effect hasn't be identified too, if edge effects are important: large sites have relatively low edge to core ratios. Hand how does spending more really save lions? If it's all spent on anti-poaching then maybe so, but that's not the case (most spending in the higher budget parks like Kruger are traditionally not spent on anti-poaching - though there's a lot of extras on rhino at the moment - but on road development and maintenance, staff salaries and general management cost, etc., etc.). So it is again very hard to see how, once a minimum spend on anti-poaching is achieved, additional funding has any additional impact (though I agree completely that many parks are chronically underfunded and as we can see from the figure, they're also unfenced). Both problems suggest to me that these correlations are unlikely to really be causal, which means that spending more or fencing more is not necessarily going to improve matters.
Finally, (well, I have to stop somewhere - there's lots more I could question, like the wisdom using the price of a North American to estimate the cost of fencing in elephants in remote places where people use chain-link fences to make snares!) I just want to put a slight different spin on the whole paper. Instead of a message of disaster, which has been quite widespread, let's look carefully at the results we see here. The bad news: "Nearly half the unfenced lion populations may decline to near extinction over the next 20–40 years". However, let's look at which populations those are - it seems (a) they're the populations already nearly extinct (Mole in Ghana) or massively depleted (Katavi in TZ) and (b) they're numerically small, relative to those populations that are not predicted to go extinct (Serengeti, Selous, etc). I've not actually done the sums (because I'm on the wrong computer), but I'd hazard a guess that we're looking at no more than 10% of the total population - hardly the doom and gloom story I've seen this study cast as elsewhere, rather it seems like we can be confident there will still be viable lion population (maybe in reduced number, and maybe with some local extinctions) in 20-40 years time. Whilst I'd like to see a rosier picture for lions too - and certainly we can do better - this isn't the apocalyptic paper I thought it must be.
|Do I want to shoot one? No. But does shooting them help save them?|
And as for the Director of Wildlife, do I think lion hunting is required to protect them? I'm not convinced of that either - certainly the currently poor regulation is causing more problems than it is solving. And certainly $75M over 4 years is tiny compared to the $1.6Billion estimated for 'non-consumptive' tourism revenue. But hunting does protect lots of habitat that it would be extremely difficult to get tourists to visit, and $75M is still not to be sniffed at. But the argument is subtler: we're not suggesting stopping hunting completely, just stopping hunting lions. What would that do to the hunting industry in Tanzania? I can only guess, as I doubt the data exist. I do know that the 60% of the hunting market identified by the Director of Wildlife is probably an overestimate - maybe 60% of tourist hunters are American, I'm very doubtful 60% of all tourist parties hunt lions, though maybe someone can tell me. Even if they did, I can't see them hanging up their rifles simply because lions are no longer on the menu: that didn't happen when Rhino came off the trophy list (even though you can still hunt them elsewhere in Africa). And whilst I know that many areas currently hunted are never going to be major tourism sites, the example of Grumeti, where a game reserve has turned into a stunning tourism operation, demonstrated that at least some of the prime areas can effectively, and probably with increased revenue, be converted to other tourism types. Of course, I do agree with the DW that a sustainable harvest of lions is possible in Tanzania (even though I don't agree with his rosy picture!), it's just a shame it's not happening now.
Packer, C., Loveridge, A., Canney, S., Caro, T., Garnett, S., Pfeifer, M., Zander, K., Swanson, A., MacNulty, D., Balme, G., Bauer, H., Begg, C., Begg, K., Bhalla, S., Bissett, C., Bodasing, T., Brink, H., Burger, A., Burton, A., Clegg, B., Dell, S., Delsink, A., Dickerson, T., Dloniak, S., Druce, D., Frank, L., Funston, P., Gichohi, N., Groom, R., Hanekom, C., Heath, B., Hunter, L., DeIongh, H., Joubert, C., Kasiki, S., Kissui, B., Knocker, W., Leathem, B., Lindsey, P., Maclennan, S., McNutt, J., Miller, S., Naylor, S., Nel, P., Ng'weno, C., Nicholls, K., Ogutu, J., Okot-Omoya, E., Patterson, B., Plumptre, A., Salerno, J., Skinner, K., Slotow, R., Sogbohossou, E., Stratford, K., Winterbach, C., Winterbach, H., & Polasky, S. (2013). Conserving large carnivores: dollars and fence Ecology Letters DOI: 10.1111/ele.12091
PACKER, C., BRINK, H., KISSUI, B., MALITI, H., KUSHNIR, H., & CARO, T. (2011). Effects of Trophy Hunting on Lion and Leopard Populations in Tanzania Conservation Biology, 25 (1), 142-153 DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2010.01576.x