Niassa is a vast protected area of 42,200 km2 in northern Mozambique with a healthy population of lions. The protected area is divided into 17 management units allocated for ecotourism and sport hunting.
Hunting fees fund 30% of the annual operational costs of the reserve as well as anti-poaching and management activities, although hunting revenues do not necessarily compensate for f inancial losses of livestock at the household level. Tanzania contains up to half of the global population of free-ranging lions and is also the main location for lion trophy hunting in Africa.
Hunting occurs on some 86% of protected land ; however, a growing proportion of hunting blocks are falling vacant – due an apparent contraction of the industry. Similarly in West Africa, just over 40% of the vast W-Arly Pendjari ecosystem of Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger is leased as hunting areas to private operators who take over management responsibilities for the areas. 75% of the meat harvested from these hunts is provided to neighbouring communities, between 30-50% of revenue is fed back to local associations and the concessions are major employers.
There is a vigorous debate around the status of trophy hunting within lion conservation, and whether it should be considered as a threat to wild populations or as a sustainable form of management and source of conservation f inance. Furthermore, there are concerns that current hunting levels are unsustainable. Hunting is usually focused on older males.
This has wider impacts because the males that replace these older lions in the pride kill cubs they have not fathered. In Tanzania, higher prof its are also being linked to less sustainable, short-term operations. Concerns over sustainability, and the ethics of hunting, have led to increased scrutiny of issues24 related to hunting and some25 site moratoriums on hunting. Several countries ban lion trophy imports and some airlines will not transport trophies. Revenues from hunting may decline as pressures against hunting grow, leaving a major gap in funding.
This could have negative consequences for lions, by undermining the competitiveness of wildlife-based land uses and by undermining tolerance for co-existence, and the ecosystem services these lionscapes protect. This threat is particularly acute in cases where hunting blocks fall vacant. Such areas then become highly vulnerable to human pressures and to political pressure for reallocation to alternative land uses.
There is an urgent need to develop alternatives to trophy hunting which ensure that areas currently or formerly used for hunting are retained within the wildlife estate, that generate signif icant revenues from and for wildlife management, and which effectively protect lions and their habitats. One potential example is the establishment of frameworks to allow philanthropic conservation investors to obtain leases for hunting concessions for non-hunting purposes, and/or to utilise carbon credit or development off-set schemes to pay for the protection of former hunting blocks.
Credits: Equilibrium Research, 2019