From: Lochran Traill & Norman Owen-Smith, The Ecologist, More from this Affiliate
Published August 3, 2015 07:02 AM

Trophy hunting is not the main reason for declining population of lions in Africa

Africa has half as many lions as 20 years ago - but don't blame trophy hunting

The killing of Zimbabwe's Cecil the Lion has put a welcome spotlight on the alarming decline of Africa's lions, write Lochran Traill & Norman Owen-Smith. But to save the species, we should not obsess about trophy hunting, but tackle much more serious problems - like snaring and habitat fragmentation.

The halving of Africa's lion population over 20 years is not the result of trophy hunting. African lions have declined through the classic drivers of extinction, namely habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict and disease.

Much of the attention generated by the demise of Cecil the lion appears related to the fact that he was a member of a charismatic species, that his species is threatened and the nature of his death.

But now that Cecil, a resident of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, is gone how do we ensure that such events are not repeated? It is not as simple as banning hunting.

Trophy hunting, or the selective removal of animals from a population based on a desirable trait, is a deeply polarising issue. Ethical standpoints against the deliberate killing of animals for sport are what drive the public response that we now see.

Biologists have concerns about undesirable evolutionary outcomes that may arise from the killing of 'prime' individual animals. These animals are typically males that exhibit a desirable trait, like a large mane.

Conservationists have concerns that hunting may cause inbreeding, or drive rare species' populations in isolated protected areas to the brink of extinction.

Cecil the lion image via Shutterstock.

Read more at ENN Affiliate the Ecologist.

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