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Safari Company Cancels Lion Hunt Raffle Under Activist Pressure

After Cecil the lion, there’s no way this could fly.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia user FlickrLickr

Martin Nel Safaris, a company based in Zimbabwe, canceled its plan to host a lion hunt raffle in February at the Safari Club International Show in Las Vegas. The event, for which owner Martin Nel had hoped to sell more than 100 tickets at $1,500 each, would have awarded the winner the chance to hunt and kill a lion.

In a statement, Nel wrote that the winner also would have had the option of having a lion collared for research, which would have been for the benefit of Zimbabwe’s Bubye Valley Conservancy.

However, public outcry from activists, politicians, and wildlife organizations shut down the event before it could happen. But Nel continued to defend sport hunting and its purported benefits to the species’ survival.

“Lions thrive given the protection afforded by well-managed areas,” Nel wrote, insisting that hunting for sport plays a strong role in the species’ conservation. Before the Conservancy, lions were persecuted by farmers, severely hurting their numbers, but their population has grown to the largest ever in Zimbabwe as a result of their relocation to hunting areas. “This exceptional conservation victory did not occur despite sport hunting, but because of it,” Nel said.

Further demonstrating the supposed benefits of trophy hunting, Alexander Songorwa, the director of wildlife in Tanzania, penned an op-ed on The New York Times in 2013 on how the sport saves lions, stating that the revenue from hunting finances game reserves, wildlife agencies, and conservation efforts.

But according to LionAid, a British lion conservation and education charity, Songorwa got his numbers wrong. He wrote that Tanzania has 16,800 lions and generates $1.96 million a year in revenue from hunting, but LionAid refutes those claims, saying that the country has less than half that estimated number of lions and receives only $556,610 a year in fees.

Beyond the obvious ethical consequences of lion hunting, LionAid further argues that the hunting-for-conservation system is just not cost-efficient. The number of lions being hunted each year is in decline, with revenue following suit.

In 2015, an American dentist sparked outrage by killing Cecil, a beloved lion in the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, in an allegedly illegal hunt. A photo of him posing next to the body circulated online, drawing ire not only from activists and conservationists, but also from ordinary animal lovers.

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