Individuals Matter Among Africa’s Wild Animals

Former Sheldrick orphan Wendy returns to the Trust with her calf Wiva

A single animal bagged by a trophy hunter can quite easily cause the destruction of the entire family unit that may depend on it for nurturing, protection, or other assistance to survive in the wild.

Numerous articles, debates and meetings have discussed the status of conservation of African wildlife and trophy hunting. Vigorous supporters of animal trophy hunts are fond of stating that one animal in a family group is not important. Older animals do not provide much value to the family group, they argue. They also claim that Africa’s wildlife is just that — wildlife, “stock” to be stalked, shot, brought home as a trophy to be hung on a wall, — and all well-paid for.

But there is a different way to think about this. Three experts explain why individuals matter in three of Africa’s Big Five: a pride of African lions, a herd of elephants, and a crash of rhino.

African Lions

Dereck Jourbert, award-winning filmmaker, conservationist, and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, founder of the Big Cats Initiative:

Becca Bryan: You have conducted and published research on the African lion for decades. Do you believe that an individual lion matters in the pride? If so, what compels you to think that?

Dereck Joubert: Lions are individuals, not just a collective, and each has a unique relationship within the pride. If we just consider the hunt, at first, lions within a pride have different strengths. For example, some consistently circle down a left flank (or right) when circling prey. This proves they are individuals and they have different skills. Becoming expert in something the rest of the pride is not aids the success and survival of the pride. So individuals matter to the pride’s success.

Having a full compliment of individual males is important, because without them a solitary male —> Read More