Zambia bans game hunting

‘Tourists come to Zambia to see the lion and if we lose the lion we will be killing our tourism industry,’ says minister

Zambia has banned the hunting of lions and other endangered wild cats such as leopards because it sees more value in tourism than blood sport, the country’s tourism minister said.

Sylvia Masebo told Reuters on Thursday that big cat numbers were also too low to have a sustainable hunting industry, saying: “Tourists come to Zambia to see the lion and if we lose the lion we will be killing our tourism industry.”

The estimated $3m (£1.9m) Zambia earned a year from safari hunting was too little to merit the continued depletion of wildlife, she said.

Zambia’s leopard population is not known while lion numbers are not believed to exceed 4,500.

Estimates for the lion population in Africa as a whole vary from 15,000 to 30,000, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and is falling in the face of numerous threats including conflict with livestock farmers and loss of prey and habitat.

The UK-based conservation group LionAid says the big cat is extinct in 25 African countries and virtually extinct in 10.

Zambia’s moves follow those of neighbouring Botswana, which will ban sport hunting from 2014 as it also works to promote itself as a big game viewing destination. Wildlife-rich Kenya halted trophy and sport hunting decades ago.

Lions and leopards are among the so-called “Big 5” group of dangerous African animals coveted by some trophy hunters. The others are elephants, rhinos and Cape buffalos.

But there are growing concerns about a surge in poaching, with elephants and rhinos being targeted to meet soaring demand for ivory and rhino horn in Asian countries.

In a separate development, Zambia last week suspended 19 hunting concessions and fired the top management at the Zambia Wildlife Authority because of corruption allegations and a lack of transparency.

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