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Zambia has officially lifted its ban on the hunting of lions and other big cats. The announcement was made by Zambia’s Minister of Tourism, Jean Kapata in Lusaka on May 15, 2015. Zapata stated at a Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) press conference that leopard hunting will resume during the 2015/2016 season with “cautionary quotas” and lion hunting will resume the following year, in 2016/2017.
The hunting ban was imposed by ZAWA in January 2013, due to their weak regulation of the industry. The report also states problems that led to the ban included “declining lion populations in some areas due to over-harvesting, hunting of underage lions and depleting of lion habitats.”
Kapata said the 2013 ban had a good basis but regulatory mechanisms were not strong enough to guarantee the conservation of lions over the long term, which negatively affected wildlife resources, as well as, the livelihood of locals in game management areas. In an effort to correct these problems, ZAWA officials procured new research and developed an effective management approach that incorporates revenue boosting safari hunting into its conservation planning.
“The government convened experts in the region to assess the status of cats in Zambia and advise on a way forward. Based on the advice given and fresh information from experts, ZAWA has produced documentation that describes the status of the lions in Zambia and prescribed guidelines that will be used to regulate cat hunting in Zambia,” Kapata said. “Some of the regulatory methods are currently being used in Tanzania, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. These have been found to be effective. We are certain as a government that the methods will be useful in the regulation of cat hunting in Zambia.”
Zambia appreciates the importance of safari hunting in wildlife management and how it provides multiple benefits to local people, especially when it is supported and properly regulated.
Lifting the ban will give lions and leopards value, providing incentive for locals to conserve the wildlife on their land. It will also create employment opportunities for rural communities and allow them to get involved in the conservation process. Further, ZAWA requires sport hunting operators in Zambia to provide rural communities a proportion of harvested game meat each year. This meat is distributed free of charge to villages that reside within game management areas.
SCI Foundation commends Zambia for acknowledging the benefits of sustainable use management and recognizing that hunting can play a valuable role in the conservation of these species. SCI Foundation works to ensure that science based conservation practices are at the foundation of wildlife policy. We look forward to watching the Zambian government as they further develop their new plans for lion conservation.