Hunting Lions for Fun


In the wake of Cecil the lion’s killing in Zimbabwe we are seeing real conversations about hunting: its viability and its ethics.

It has opened up some tough discussions, like if we should all boycott Zimbabwe for example, but also whether lion hunting is a viable conservation tool at all.

For a start I don’t think it’s a good idea to boycott Zimbabwe. Thousands of local Zimbabweans live off photographic tourism and a range of other jobs that are not involved in hunting. Many of these people have chosen non-hunting industries because they already don’t like the business or ethics of hunting.

Just today I was filming some lions hunting zebras and I reflected on the difference between a hunting lion and a man hunting a lion. Both are undeniably violent acts. But one is necessary, the other is not. One is for food, the other is not. One involves no great celebration of death, one ends in high fives and alcohol celebrations and often some blooding rituals.

In essence, a lion hunt may be vicious but it is not cruel. The activity of Dr. Palmer’s (the hunter who paid for and killed this famous lion) is one of malicious intent and cruelty and there are almost no examples of that in nature.

Beverly and I started the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative specifically because of incidents exactly like this shooting by Dr. Palmer, which is not unique. (His excuse is incredibly weak, that he didn’t know he was on land where it is illegal to hunt and that he was shooting a collared research lion baited out of the park!) Hunters come to at least seven countries in Africa to shoot over 500 lions a year. 80 percent of those lopped-off heads and skins go back to the United States.

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