By Sarah Britten
Before I kick-off with this, let me state upfront so nobody can miss it: lion breeding in South Africa should be banned. The hunting of lions is clearly out of sync with middle class, Western public sentiment, and increasing their numbers merely exacerbates the problem. Breeding big cats for the gun is something that will go the way of bear-baiting: quaint, terrible and unimaginable. In the short to medium term, we have several thousand lions in private hands who will probably end up in the lion bone trade, because it costs a lot to feed them. We can only hope that the price for lion bone doesn’t reach a point where there’s an incentive to poach lions like rhinos. As it is, we have a lion bone trade now because tigers have virtually been wiped out in the wild.
Now, to the issue at hand. By now, just under 500 000 people have signed a petition asking the South African government to ban Melissa Bachman from entering the country again. Half-a-million people think they’ve done something useful, and that they can go on with their lives because hey, online outrage is so much easier than doing anything meaningful.
However, if you’re interested in making more than empty gestures, here are some options.
1. Before you do anything, find out about the real issues in lion and big cat conservation.
Understand that the threats to lions (and wildlife) in general are less about hunting – though that’s a problem – and more about habitat loss and the ever-increasing encroachment on wild areas. Hunting is more of a problem in countries like Tanzania where it is not always well-managed. In Namibia, where communities benefited from hunting, the size of areas under conservation has increased.
In South Africa, where, not only are lions being bred for the gun, there are so many lions on privately owned conservation land that they have to be culled, the issues are totally different. Long story short: hunting is good at expanding habitat for wildlife, not as good at conserving individual species where there is a temptation to over-hunt.
2. Donate to Panthera.
This week I put my money where my mouth is and donated $100 to the world’s leading big cat conservation entity. Project Leonardo is devoted to lion conservation in high conflict areas. More....