It’s the lives of lions and leopards versus the livelihoods of local people.
This May, Zambia lifted its 2013 ban on hunting big cats because it was affecting wildlife resources and the lives of people, especially in the game management field. Profits from hunting these animals are expected to benefit both.
The ban was imposed in January 2013 to help declining lion populations caused by hunting, over-harvesting and habitat loss. Then, the population was estimated to be between 2,500 and 4,700, and both lions and leopards were facing their biggest threat since the 1980s. President of Green party of Zambia Peter Sinkamba told the Lusaka Times:
“We all know that the number of lions and other big cat species in Zambia’s major parks is depleted and limited due to poaching and other anthropogenic activities…Much as we are aware that the PF [Patriotic Front] government is facing serious budget deficit challenges, it is extremely outrageous to resort to unleashing safari hunters on to limited populations of big cat species, regardless of the fact that safari hunting is allegedly most profitable. This type of approach is definitely awful. Posterity will judge our generation harshly for having been responsible for depletions of rhinos, black lechwes and other species.”
In lieu of the ban, Zambia will adopt similar regulatory methods to those currently used in other countries like Tanzania, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Leopard hunting resumes this year, in the 2015-16 season, while lion hunting cannot resume until 2016-17 – and both with very cautionary quotas, according to Tourism and arts minister Jean Kapata.
After visiting Zambia’s largest national park, American ambassador to Zambia Eric Schultz called for protection of wildlife:
“Zambia has the chance to benefit from wildlife tourism for generations to come if conservation efforts are successful. The poaching crisis in southern Africa is a growing international concern.”