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Lion Hunting and Trophy Quality Records in Zambia for the Period 1967-2000: Will the Trends in Trophy Size Drop as Lion Population Declines?

Authors:
  • The Copperbelt University, Kitwe, Zambia
Open Journal of Ecology, 2014, 4, 182-195
Published Online March 2014 in SciRes. http://www.scirp.org/journal/oje
http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/oje.2014.44019
How to cite this paper: Chomba, C., et al. (2014) Lion Hunting and Trophy Quality Records in Zambia for the Period
1967-2000: Will the Trends in Trophy Size Drop as Lion Population Declines? Open Journal of Ecology, 4, 182-195.
http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/oje.2014.44019
Lion Hunting and Trophy Quality Records in
Zambia for the Period 1967-2000: Will the
Trends in Trophy Size Drop as Lion
Population Declines?
Chansa Chomba1*, Ramadhani Senzota2, Harry Chabwela3, Vincent Nyirenda4
1School of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Disaster Management Training Centre, Mulungushi University,
Kabwe, Zambia
2Department of Zoology and Wildlife Conservation, University of Dar es Salaam, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
3Department of Biological Sciences, University of Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia
4Zambia Wildlife Authority, Chilanga, Zambia
Email: *chansachomba@rocketmail.com, *ritachansa@yahoo.com
Received 7 January 2014; revised 7 February 2014; accepted 15 February 2014
Copyright © 2014 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution International License (CC BY).
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
Abstract
Data on lion skull measurements taken were collected and analyzed to determine trends in trophy
size as an indicator of population size, and area of origin among the concessioned hunting areas in
Zambia for the period 1967-2000. A comparison of trophy quality was also made with Tanzania
and Zimbabwe which were the other two key sources of lion trophies in Africa. It was assumed
that a comprehensive analysis of lion trophy sizes obtained from trophy hunting would be used as
an indicator of hunting pressure on lion populations in Zambia. This approach was used because
trophy size is an index of abundance particularly for species such as lion which are difficult to
count using conventional census methods. Record lion trophies from Safari Club International
rating were also collected and assessed to compare trophy quality obtained from Zambia and
those of Tanzania and Zimbabwe for the same period 1967-2000 (33 years). Results obtained
suggested that Zambia’s contribution to the record trophies under Safari Club International did
not decline in the intervening period 1967-2000 and could not be used as an effective indicator of
lion population in Zambia. At regional level, Zambia had second highest 24%, after Tanzania 56%,
while Zimbabwe was third, 20%. It was found that the size of skulls could not be used as an effec-
tive indicator of population size as the record trophies did not decline while the population was
alleged to have declined on the continent. Other factors, such as genetic, low prey densities, snar-
ing, poisoning and problem animal control needed to be investigated to determine their impact on
*Corresponding author.
C. Chomba et al.
183
the lion population status.
Keywords
Lion; Trophy; Measurement; Trend; Decline; Population Size
1. Introduction
The African lion (Panthera leo) has recently emerged as a species of global conservation concern [1]. Two in-
dependently compiled estimates concluded that lion populations throughout Africa numbered from ca. 20,000 [2]
to 40,000 individuals [3]; a precipitous decline from population estimates as high as 100,000 lions less than ten
years ago [4]. Although this early estimate has been questioned, lions are widely believed to have declined dras-
tically over much of their former range [3] [5] (Figure 1(a)). The nearly two-fold discrepancy in the recent es-
timates underscores the lack of reliable data regarding current status of the species throughout its range. Such
population estimates have been disputed by many scientists who claim that this would be a gross underestimate
and the conservation of the African lion has continued in an environment of inadequate and unreliable data re-
garding the current status of the species throughout its range. In Zambia, there are conflicting statements on the
national population estimate provided by different researchers. In 2002 [2] an estimated number of 1500 ± 500
individuals was provided whilst another estimate gave a higher figure of 3575 [3] which despite being higher
than the earlier estimate [2] was still said to be an underestimate [3] given the lion’s wide distribution in the
country (Figure 1(b)).
The continued inadequate and unreliable quantifiable information has created difficulties among lion range
states and international conservation organizations such as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Range states and international organizations do not usually agree on
whether to continue or suspend the consumptive utilization of the lion as the case was in October 2004 at CITES
13th Conference of the Parties (COP 13) in Bangkok Thailand. At COP 13 a proposal was made by the Republic
of Kenya to uplift lion from Appendix II to Appendix I of CITES. Countries such as Zambia where lion hunting
was still taking place contested this proposal and asked the international scientific community to thoroughly
examine the factors causing the alleged precipitous decline rather than isolating trophy hunting to be the only
cause.
As a consequence of that request which was made by Zambia and other Southern African Countries, the
World Conservation Union (IUCN)’s Species Survival Commission’s Cat Specialist Group, Wildlife Conserva-
tion Society, African Lion Working Group, and Africa Resources Trust conducted two workshops in Cameroon
in October 2005 and South Africa in January 2006. The workshops facilitated compilation of all available data
on the current status of the African lion, and encouraged African range states to develop regional and country
specific lion conservation strategies. A major out come of these workshops was a range-wide priority setting ex-
ercise (RWPS) that identified habitat loss, declines in wild prey populations, and human-lion conflict as primary
threats to the remaining lion populations [6].
Despite the uncertainty on the accuracy and precision of the lion population estimates in Africa, it is assumed
that Zambia’s centralized geographic location; vast tracts of high-quality wilderness and low human population
density render it a potential stronghold for the remaining lion populations in southern Africa. Yet as in many
other countries, little is known about the current status of lions in Zambia, let alone the impact of trophy hunting.
The estimates provided in 2002 [2] have been questioned, because they were derived from an approach that
combined three areas of different habitats. The potential for error was high when extrapolating predator densities
obtained from small, high-density areas [7]-[9]. In addition to habitat type, lion density would be expected to
vary regionally across land use areas, and seasonally with prey abundance and distribution [9]-[12]. On the other
hand, Chardonnet [3] utilized a finer-scale resolution to produce an estimate of 3575 lions in Zambia, but for
some areas their calculations relied on lion densities recorded nearly 40 years ago [13]. Given the global [14]
[15] and continental [16] [17] declines of large carnivore populations over the same period, it is unlikely that
historic numbers accurately describe current status. Thus, reliable data on current lion occurrence, distribution,
and abundance in Zambia still remain a critical area requiring further research.
Adding to the sense of urgency, it was the fact that trophy hunting of lions in Zambia represents a very important
C. Chomba et al.
184
(a)
(b)
Figure 1. (a) Map of Africa illustrating location of major lion populations (Modified after Van Der Merwe and Bauer, 2004).
Areas not shaded with black colour in Zambia do not entail complete absence but carry marginal populations; (b) Lion con-
servation clusters/units in Zambia (Source: Zambia Wildlife Authority, 2005).
Lions in protected areas
0 600 1200 km
Countries with no information
Countries with lions roaming
outside protected areas
Produced by the Zambia Wildlife Authority in January 2005
C. Chomba et al.
185
source of revenue for Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) and local communities, and is also rated one of the
top four lion-trophy producing countries in the world together with Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa [18].
Healthy lion populations can therefore, support well-regulated and managed trophy hunting. In fact, the income
gained through commercial hunting provides economic incentives for rural communities to tolerate, even help
conserve lions. However, unsustainable levels of trophy hunting, or untimely removal of breeding males, can
trigger lion population decline through social disruption and infanticide [18]-[21]. Studies in Tanzania for in-
stance, found that selective harvesting of older (>5 - 6 years old) males produced maximum off-take of trophy
animals while reducing male turnover rate, since most males over five years of age have already bred and are no
longer in charge of a pride. By reducing male turnover, infanticide often caused by incoming males is also re-
duced, thus the negative effect on the remaining population is minimized [22] (Figures 2(a)-(d)). This way, well
managed trophy hunting becomes a useful management tool.
(a)
(b)
C. Chomba et al.
186
(c)
(d)
Figure 2. (a) Trophy hunting based on trophy size and appearance of mane; (b) Trophy hunting based on
trophy size and general appearance; (c) Conceptual male off-take at pride level; (d) Conceptual removal of
males at hunting block/Game Management Area level (Modified after, Attwell and Viljoen, 2008).
The solution to current data deficiency of population estimates in Zambia was to initiate field studies to col-
lect accurate estimates of lion population size, demographics, and productivity upon which sustainable quotas
could be based. Empirical data sets on aging of trophy lions in the field, would also aid development of a selec-
tive age based hunting program. In response to this demand, ZAWA partnered with the Zambia Lion Project
(ZLP) in 2003 and African Large Carnivore Project in 2007. In 2004, the ZLP began obtaining genetic samples
(DNA) from lions taken as trophies in GMAs. Such samples were sent to the Conservation Genetics laboratory,
Center for Tropical Research, University of California Los Angeles in the United States of America.
Preliminary results from the first 19 samples were obtained in March 2006. These results suggested that the
Luangwa Valley lions were relatively diverse genetically, with multiple matrilines contributing trophy males to
the population. So the suspicion of inbreeding was eliminated.
Further samples have since been collected and are currently undergoing microsatellite and mitochondrial
C. Chomba et al.
187
analysis. It is assumed that these additional samples will facilitate estimation of population size and assignment
of trophy males to their birth prides, thereby providing information on movements (dispersal) of males between
National Parks and Game Management Areas. A second level of genetic investigation is to assess Zambia’s
lions on a national scale. Genetic profiles of lions from three disjunctive areas, of the Luangwa Valley, Lower
Zambezi and Kafue, which will be compared to determine gene flow, or confirm any genetic isolation of lions
residing in these areas.
Such results, together with recent genetic analyses of lion population structure, size, and dispersal in a dense
habitat of Tanzania’s Selous Game Reserve [23] [24] will enable Zambia to have more accurate and reliable data
bank. When such results have been made available, the government would then make an informed decision
based on empirical evidence.
Regarding the impact of trophy hunting, a program to selectively target older males in trophy hunting was
being developed by ZLP. The Zambia Wildlife Authority, Professional Hunters Association of Zambia (PHAZ),
and the Safari Hunters Outfitters Association of Zambia (SHOAZ) working with ZLP were engaged in develop-
ing a program of age-based selective hunting in Zambia. This effort took into account the protocol in Tanzania
where coloration of the nose pad and extent of mane development [25]-[27] were being used.
Since Visual characteristics, including mane size and development, are known to vary by region, ZLP em-
ploys x-ray analyses of a premolar tooth to examine the extent of the pulp cavity, and cementum annuli ring
counts which provides age category of young, sub-adult, and adult. It is hoped that a consistency of data collec-
tion will permit robust comparison of results which will provide useful information for the trophy hunting in-
dustry as population models indicate that the loss of males through trophy hunting of older males (>5 years of
age) has minimal impact on the remaining lion population [28] (Figures 2(a)-(d)).
These studies when concluded by 2013/2014 or thereafter, are expected to dispel the suspected negative im-
pact of trophy hunting on lion population. In particular, selective removal of older males which is recorded to
have minimal disruption effect on pride structure, reproduction, and cub survivorship as confirmed by studies
where it was shown that removal of older (6 years) lions as trophies had minimal negative impacts on the re-
maining population [28] [29].
Given that the results of the studies by ZLP and ALCP will take time before results could be made available
to decision makers, the setting of off-take quotas for the lion has continued to be controversial with Safari
Hunting Operators always demanding a higher quota while the non-consumptive tour operators contest that
hunting would reduce lion populations and negatively affect the non-consumptive tourism industry and have al-
ways tried to lobby for a moratorium on lion hunting, which was achieved in 2012 when government again
banned trophy hunting.
In light of the expanding non consumptive tourism and their strong advocacy to stop lion hunting and media
reports that lions have drastically declined in Zambia, it became necessary for us to provide a historical perspec-
tive of how Zambia has performed in the area of producing SCI record lion trophies, and which areas of the
country produced the most record lion trophies.
It was assumed that if Zambia was found to be producing inferior lion trophies in the region, it would justify
the national moratorium on lion hunting.
Since lion alone generates on the average above US$ 200,000 revenue per year for ZAWA and local com-
munities, it is necessary to delve into its historical performance in the country and at regional level. This study
therefore, assessed the following; 1) number of trophy records and years when Zambia contributed to the Safari
Club International listing of record trophies in the last three decades; 2) hunting areas which contributed the
most record trophies; 3) whether record trophy contribution to SCI declined over the last three decades; 4) Zam-
bia’s proportional contribution to (SCI) in comparison with Tanzania and Zimbabwe. The Republic of South
Africa, was left out of this study because of the wide spread captive breeding of lions and also that a good por-
tion of lion hunting takes place on Game Ranches. It was also alleged that canned lion hunts were common on
Game Ranches. Botswana was also left out because it had already imposed a non-time bound hunting morato-
rium of lion.
This study focused on the period 1967-2000 and left out 2001-2013, because of the reorganization of the De-
partment of National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) into a semi autonomous Zambia Wildlife Authority
(ZAWA) which epitomized in 2000. This was followed by hunting ban imposed by government for two consec-
utive years and another ban in 2012.
C. Chomba et al.
188
2. Materials and Methods
Data on lion skull measurements for the period 1967-2000 were obtained from the archives, and these were ve-
rified by comparing with sets of data from Safari Club International Record Book of Trophy animals in Tucson
Arizona in the United States of America.
Measurements were based on the Safari Club International (SCI) method 15 [30]. In this method, the length of
skull is measured using a 5 metre steel tape. Two wooden 1 metre rulers are placed at the anterior and posterior
end of the lion skull. Measurements are then taken in inches as recommended by SCI parallel to its longitudinal
axis from the anterior to the posterior end of the skull. The width of the skull is measured by placing the two
wooden rulers on each side of the skull at the edge of the zygomatic arch or cheek bones at right angle to the
longitudinal axis. The measurement in inches is then taken across the zygomatic arches.
To obtain score when measuring in inches the record fraction is recorded in 1/16ths of an inch. Damaged skulls
are usually left out as these would give erroneous records. For repaired skulls only original skull material from
the same animal are measured, either in its original state or acceptably put back together so as not to increase
any measurement. Any other material either natural or taxidermic that had been added to the skull is not meas-
ured. Information on the Game Management Areas (GMA) in Zambia from which the trophy records were
hunted and years in which such records were posted was collected from the Zambia Wildlife Authority licensing
archives and verified with the SCI record book. For Tanzania and Zimbabwe (Figure 3), all the data on the
names of hunting areas from which the record trophies were hunted were obtained from the SCI record book.
3. Results
3.1. Number of Trophies Contributed to SCI
The total number of record lion trophies contributed to the SCI list of record trophies for the period 1967-2000
by Zambia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe was 45. Of this total, Tanzania contributed 25 (56%), Zambia 11 (24%)
and Zimbabwe had 9 (20%) (Figure 4). The contribution of record trophies varied between countries with Tan-
zania being in the lead, seconded by Zambia and Zimbabwe was last (Table 1; Figure 4).
Figure 3. Location of Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania where lion mea-
surements were col- lected.
C. Chomba et al.
189
Table 1. Safari Club International lion trophy records from Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, 1967-1999.
Name of client Date Source of trophy Measurements (inches) Score Rank
Country Area Length of skull Width of skull
Fred Rademeyer 1967 Zambia Mulobezi 15 12/16 10 2/16 25 14/16 17
William A. Bond 1972 Tanzania Selous 15
/16 10 25
14
/16 17
Franscisco Urrea Jr. 1975 Zimbabwe 15 2/16 10 15/16 26 6/16 9
Pete Papac 1979 Zambia Luangwa Valley 15 10/16 10 6/16 26 15
Peter L. Horn II 1980 Zimbabwe Kazungula 16 3/16 10 1/16 26 4/16 11
George Blond
1981
Zimbabwe
10 14/
16
25 14/
16
17
Aldo Ravelli 1981 Zimbabwe Mana-Angwa 16 10 26 15
Bub Smith 1982 Zambia Luangwa Valley 16 14/16 9 11/16 26 2/16 13
Ron Rismon 1983 Zimbabwe Ngamo Forest 15 12/16 10 6/16 26 2/16 13
Paul Palmer 1983 Zimbabwe Matesti 15
/16 10
8
/16 26
1
/16 14
William Mosesian 1983 Tanzania Rungwa 16 10 26 15
Eberhard Huser 1983 Zambia Kafue River 15 12/16 10 2/16 25 14/16 17
Lad Shunneson 1984 Zimbabwe Ngamo 15
/16 10
14
/16 26
14
/16 11
Kurt Ziegler 1984 Tanzania Mto wa Mbu 15 14/16 10 6/16 26 4/16 11
Creg Leerberg
1984
Zimbabwe
Mwenezi
16
10 3/
16
26 1/
16
14
Bill Lambert 1984 Tanzania Selous 16 10 26 15
Paul Snider Sept. 1985 Zimbabwe Deka 16 10 13/16 26 2/16 13
Lance Sablich 1986 Zambia Mumbwa west 16 10
8
/16 25
15
/16 16
Hugh Jacks
1986
Tanzania
Moyowosi
16
10 12/
16
26
15
Wayne Pensenstadler 1986 Tanzania Selous 16 10 26 15
Richard Wayne Parker 1986 Zimbabwe Matesti 15 8/16 10 8/16 26 15
Robert Hawkey 1986 Zambia Luangwa valley 15
/16 10
14
/16 26
4
/16 11
Dwight E. Farr Jr.
1987
Zimbabwe
Chete
16
10 2/
16
26 4/
16
11
Randy House 1987 Tanzania Ruaha 15 4/16 11 26 4/16 11
Ulf Askert 1987 Zambia Mulobezi 14 10/16 11 8/16 26 2/16 13
Joy G. Cocke 1987 Tanzania Selous 15
/16 10
10
/16 25
15
/16 16
Gary Walker
1988
Zambia
Mumbwa west
16
10 3/
16
26 1/
16
14
Cynthia Saizhauer 1989 Tanzania Selous 15 7/16 10 8/16 26 15
Jim Loeffer 1990 Zimbabwe Malapati 15 12/16 11 26 12/16 4
William Mosseian Aug. 1990 Tanzania Selous 16
/16 10
1
/26 26
6
/16 9
Marvin G. Pipkin
1991
Tanzania
Loliondo
16
11
26 5/
16
10
James H. Harrison 1991 Tanzania Loliondo 16 4/16 10 4/16 26 2/16 13
Wally Dallenbach 1993 Zimbabwe Ngamo Forest 15 9/16 10 10/16 26 3/16 12
Bernard van Doren 1993 Tanzania Njingwe 15
/16 10
4
/16 26
1
/
16
14
Jerry Jones
1994
Tanzania
Lukwati
16
10 5/
16
25 15/
16
16
Eusebio Zuloaga 1994 Tanzania Mbono 16 8/16 10 8/16 27 2
Dick Cabela 1995 Tanzania Fort Ikoma 15 8/16 10 8/16 26 15
Eusebio Zuloaga 1995 Tanzania Mbono 16 4/16 9 12/16 26 15
Tom E. Smith 1995 Tanzania Rungwa Ikili 15 11 26 15
William Mosesian 1996 Tanzania Kilombero 16 6/16 10 6/16 26 13/16 3
Dan Wintersteen 1996 Zimbabwe Tsjolotjo 15
/16 10
9
/16 26
2
/16 8
Hanley Sayers Jr. 1996 Tanzania Melele 15 14/16 10 4/16 26 2/16 13
William Brisben 1997 Zambia Mumbwa west 16
/16 10
5
/16 26
10
/16 5
Chad Brisben 1997 Zambia Mumbwa west 15 6/16 10 11/16 26 1/16 14
Jack Fiske 1998 Zambia Luangwa Valley 16
/16 10
4
/16 26
4
/16 11
C. Chomba et al.
190
Figure 4. Proportional contributions of lion record trophies to Safari Club International, by
Zambia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
The lion record trophy contribution was irregular for Zambia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, being more frequent
in some years and absent in others (Figure 4; Table 1).This difference was significant (χ2 = 22.65, DF = 10, α =
0.05, P < 0.05) being aggregated in the 1980s and towards the end of the 1990s and almost virtually absent in the
late 1960s-1970s (Figure 4).
The regional trend in lion record trophy contribution showed a steady but weak positive increase (y = 0.0638x +
0.2784; R2 = 0.1916) mainly spurred by Tanzania (Figure 5).
The trend for Zambia was also positive but much weaker than that of the sub region, (y = 0.0124x + 0.1231;
R2 = 0.0404 (Figure 5).
Contrary to the popular view, the results showed that the lion record trophy contribution to SCI list of record
trophies did not decline for the period 1967-2000 both in Zambia and at sub regional level.
Zambia contributed 11 record lion trophies in the 33 years. The contribution varied from year to year being
more frequent in some years than others (Table 1; Figure 5). The highest contribution was in the 1980s and late
1990s. The least contribution was in the 1960s and 1970s when the lion populations were in fact higher than the
present time. During the period 1967-2000 Zambia registered a weak but positive increase in the number of lion
record trophies suggesting that despite the current low lion populations estimates in Zambia, trophy quality was
not negatively affected (Figure 5).
3.2. Source of Record Trophies
Regarding popular lion hunting areas in Zambia, it was found that out of the 11 lion record trophies contributed
to the SCI list by Zambia seven (7) (64%) were hunted from the Kafue ecosystem (mainly Mumbwa West GMA)
and four (4) (36%) from the Luangwa Valley ecosystem. Other areas did not contribute any thing. This differ-
ence in lion record trophy contribution to the SCI listing between the Kafue and Luangwa Valley ecosystems
dispelled the popular belief that the Luangwa Valley is the most important lion hunting area in Zambia (Table 2).
Although it has the largest lion population in the country it only contributed 4 of the 11 trophies.
4. Discussion
4.1. Population Size and Trophy Quality
Results obtained in this study show that despite the low population estimates Professional Hunters (PH) were
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
Tanzania Zambia Zimbabwe
Name of country
Number of trophy records;
Percent (%) relative frequency
Number of trophy records Percent relative frequency
C. Chomba et al.
191
Figure 5. Record of record trophies contributed to Safari Club International and trends for
the period 1967-2000.
Table 2. Number of record trophies, areas from which they were hunted in Zambia for the period 1967-2000.
Year Score Skull length Skull width Rank Source Ecosystem
1967 25 14/16 15 13/16 10 2/16 17 Mulobezi Kafue
1979 26 15 10/16 10 6/16 15 Luangwa Valley Luangwa Valley
1982 26 2/16 16 14/16 9 13/16 13 Luangwa Valley Luangwa Valley
1983 25 14/16 15 12/16 10 2/16 17 Kafue River/Mumbwa west Kafue
1986 25 13/16 16 10 8/16 16 Mumbwa west Kafue
26 4/16 16 6/16 10 14/16 11 Luangwa Valley Luangwa Valley
1987 26 1/16 14 10/16 11 4/16 13 Mulobezi Kafue
1988 26 1/16 15 14/16 10 3/16 14 Mumbwa West Kafue
1997 26 1/16 15 6/16 10 11/16 14 Mumbwa west Kafue
26 10./16 16 6/16 10 10/16 5 Mumbwa west Kafue
1998 26 4/16 16 4/16 10 8/16 11 Luangwa valley Kafue
NOTES: Only years when record trophies were registered are shown.
still able to find record male trophies, suggesting genetic implications rather than population size alone. Howev-
er, it is still important to ensure that lion quotas are sustainable. ZAWA needs to take a precaution on the current
increasing proportion of up to 35% of the hunted lions being sub adults [28]. Implying that there are no controls
in the field by ZAWA to ensure that PH’s code of ethics is strictly enforced at all times. It is also a warning that
perhaps the quotas were too high to sustain the current increasing demand and a down ward adjustment of >35%
may be necessary. A total ban, though desirable in view of population decline, may not prevent male mortalities
through intra-specific fights. As is already known, when the number of male lions increases in a locality, males
can fight each other to death, and one would argue that such individuals killed through intra-specific fights could
be harvested to raise income for conservation and community projects. So, the current debate on whether to hunt
y = 0.0638x + 0.2784
R
2
= 0.1916
y = 0.0124x + 0.1231
R
2
= 0.0404
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
1967
1969
1971
1973
1975
1977
1979
1981
1983
1985
1987
1989
1991
1993
1995
1997
1999
Years 1967-1999
Number of record
trophies
Zambia
Total for Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe
Linear (Total for Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe)
Linear (Zambia)
C. Chomba et al.
192
or not to hunt lions in Zambia still remains controversial.
The difference in trophy quality between the Luangwa Valley with an estimated population of 2237 and the
Kafue ecosystem with 1334 was supported by results obtained by White [28]. She asserted that there could be a
genetic difference between the two lion populations. If trophy size was strictly a function of population size, one
would have expected a higher proportion of record lion trophies to SCI listing to have come from the Luangwa
Valley ecosystem which also has the highest population estimate in the country. This disparity cannot be ex-
plained by the current data and perhaps further research would be required to determine the alleged genetic dif-
ferences.
In light of the above, it was also expected that during the period 1960-1970s when the lion population was
much higher than at the present time, Zambia should have contributed more record trophies than in the 1980s
and 1990s. It is therefore surprising that the lion record trophy contribution to SCI listing increased when the
lion population size was declining. The low proportional contribution in the 1960s-1970s cannot be explained by
these results. We also suggest that the current increase in SCI listing (up to 2000) may not be sustained if the
population continues to decline.
At regional level, it would appear though, going by the large lion population in Tanzania (which has the larg-
est lion population in the world), that its contribution to SCI listing remained highest and will probably continue
to be in the lead until a tipping point has been reached in future. This tipping point in population size at which
trophy quality starts to decline is currently not known and requires further research.
4.2. Speculative Causes of Population Decline
With these results, it can be speculated that lion trophy hunting alone has not been the cause of the decline in
lion populations in Zambia and other countries. Trophy hunting as an activity regulated and monitored by
ZAWA would not be responsible for the reduction in lion populations. It is suggested that the likely impact of
trophy hunting would be indirect through the selective removal of large males or if trophy hunting selectively
takes pride males which often results in a more rapid changeover of pride males. This often results in an in-
creased rate of infanticide within the pride as each new coalition of males frequently kills the cubs that are
present. If the rate of change of pride males takes place at intervals of less than about two (2) years for instance,
then it is possible to have a situation where successive litters of cubs are being born to the pride, but with the in-
creased likelihood of infanticide, fewer animals are likely to reach maturity and the infanticide that may follow
reduce cub survival. Selective hunting of large males but not necessarily older males would also lead to a reduc-
tion of males with long and preferably dark mane. The persistence of such selective hunting may perhaps reduce
the incidence of such desirable traits in the population promoting the resurgence of males with less or no mane
as has been reported in the Luangwa Valley [29].
This phenomenon has been recorded in elephants where the heavy poaching in the late 1970s-1990s for heavy
tuskers led to a resurgence of tusk less elephants particularly in the Luangwa Valley. Whether this phenomenon
can also apply to the lion is yet unknown.
On the basis of the results obtained in this study, we here suggest that factors characterizing the significant
reduction in lion population in Zambia cannot be attributed to lion trophy hunting alone and its use an effective
indicator of overall population abundance may be misleading as areas with few lions have yielded more record
trophies that areas with higher lion population estimates. It would appear though that there is a tipping point of
population estimate below which the number of record trophies may start to decline. Additionally, trophy quality
in the field is mainly determined by the mane, yet the Safari Club International system uses a sum of skull mea-
surements, for ranking. Conversely, a large bodied and large skulled lion can have poor mane, while a small
bodied and small skulled lion may have an exceptionally long and often dark mane [30]. The record trophy list
therefore, may not be a true reflection of what the hunting clients’ desire. Because of the lack of apparent rela-
tionship between body size and size of mane, the trophy measurements assessed for Zambia, could also not be
used as an affective indicator of population size. It is however, assumed that use of trophy size as an indicator of
population size is often based on the understanding that when the population is large, hunters will seek the old
and large bodied males. As the population declines and trophy numbers decline, hunters would then take young-
er males with small skull size or pride males of between 4 - 6 years.
We suggest that in addition to lion trophy hunting and the setting of sustainable lion quotas, ZAWA should
also consider other factors such as; human encroachment and loss of habitat in GMAs, loss or reduction of prey
C. Chomba et al.
193
density to poaching, Problem Animal Control (PAC), snaring, inter and intra specific competition, population
isolation and negative perceptions on lion by local communities.
4.2.1. Encroachment and Destruction of Habitats
Human encroachment and destruction of habitat particularly in GMAs results in loss of habitat for lion and prey
species and increases human-lion conflicts particularly in areas with livestock. Inherent with encroachment is
increased incidence of poaching of buffalo and other antelopes, which form the food base for lion. Movement of
cattle into GMAs which is often facilitated by tsetse fly eradication is also likely to exacerbate the human lion
conflict as more livestock is introduced in GMAs.
4.2.2. Decline in Prey Density
Available evidence indicates that poaching of most prey species and bush meat trade combined with continued
reduction in wildlife habitat could be the major factors affecting the growth of wildlife populations in the coun-
try [29]. Proliferation of firearms during the liberation struggle in some of Zambia’s neighbours exacerbated
poaching whilst continued inadequate funding to ZAWA has continued to constrain its anti-poaching capacity,
which further contributes to the decline in the population of prey species.
4.2.3. Problem Animal Control
Every time there is a suspected problem lion, designated Problem Animal Control (PAC) professionals should
investigate the circumstances of livestock loss to assess the best course of action. Alternatives to destroying li-
ons by shooting should include driving away the animal and sensitisation and awareness of the communities.
Where livestock is the major source of conflict, communities should be advised and encouraged to restrict live-
stock from straying into sensitive wildlife habitats of the GMA. The PAC professionals must be able to distin-
guish between predation of live animals and scavenging of dead ones.
In all cases where investigation proves that lions have attacked a person, the lions should be removed at the
first opportunity irrespective of the circumstances of the attack. It is important that every effort is made to estab-
lish which lions are responsible for undesirable activities before any attempt to eliminate them is undertaken.
Investigation and removal should be followed by education to minimize future problems.
4.2.4. Conflict with Livestock and Public Attitude
In pastoral areas, livestock-lion conflicts have resulted in increased negative attitude and low tolerance levels
towards the lion. This sometimes leads to total extermination of the species as the case was on the Kafue Flats
ecosystem. Increased livestock populations in GMAs will undoubtedly increase incidences of both livestock-lion
and human lion conflicts. In most cases, local communities have responded to these conflicts by poisoning the
lion as part of their own PAC programme.
4.2.5. Poaching/Snaring
Lion poaching is not common as most local communities poach for meat. However, lions often get caught up in
wire snares set to catch antelope species. In most cases, lions that have survived snaring become a menace to li-
vestock and humans as they are in most cases no longer able to hunt game. Consequently, ZAWA has opted to
kill such lions under its PAC programme as such lions are of little value to the trophy hunting industry.
4.2.6. Inter- and Intra-Specific Competition
Studies such as those by Purchase [31] [32] on lion feeding behaviour have shown a high degree of dietary
overlap between lion and hyaena. Prides lacking males are particularly prone to kleptoparasitism from hyaena,
and high numbers of hyaena can suppress lion population under such circumstances. Unsustainable harvesting of
pride males may expose prides to high levels of kleptoparasitism. A quick turn over of males in a pride would
also slow down the population growth rate as new males have the tendency of killing cubs sired by the previous
males.
4.2.7. Population Isolation
Destruction of wildlife corridors has resulted in most protected areas becoming ecological islands. Isolated
populations in the long term experience loss of genetic variability [29].
C. Chomba et al.
194
4.2.8. Negative Value Placed on the African Lion
Continued loss of livestock and human life has compelled local communities to consider the African lion as a
vermin that needs to be exterminated despite its tourism value and community income from lion trophy hunting,
which benefits communities in areas with CBNRM, programmes. Livestock as a private resource is considered
more valuable both at individual and society levels compared to the lion, a public resource. Consequently, more
value is placed on livestock compared to the lion.
5. Conclusions
The current results on the alleged impact of lion trophy hunting on population estimates do not seem to suggest
any significant negative impact on population size as the size of skulls collected did not differ significantly.
In the absence of empirical data, it is difficult to ascertain the actual impact of trophy hunting on the lion pop-
ulation in Zambia, although it would be logical to suggest that trophy sizes will decline in future if the popula-
tion continues to decline. It is however, generally accepted that unregulated trophy hunting would on a long-
term have negative impact on the species population through removal of pride males resulting in increased rate
of infanticide within the pride. In areas with significantly higher hyena populations removal of pride males could
result, as shown by studies elsewhere, into strong inter-specific competition between the lion and hyena for food.
Lionesses are easily dominated by groups of hyena and it is generally the pride males, which defend the prides
from the hyaena. If males are over hunted, killed as problem animals or caught in wire snares, lionesses may be
out-competed by strong hyena clans. This may have been one of the reasons for the disappearance of the Liuwa
plain lions in west Zambezi Upper Game Management Area.
In PAC, the first and most effective response should be to inform rural people on the best means of protecting
livestock and human life from predators, before a problem arises. In most cases, improved livestock manage-
ment practices can dramatically reduce depredation, while knowledge on the ecology and behaviour of particular
carnivores can prevent loss of human life and livestock. Education and knowledge is cheaper and more effective
in the long term than is repetitive PAC intervention. At a general level, we would expect people to be more pre-
pared to take preventative action in areas where wildlife contributes to their financial well-being through tour-
ism.
Translocation may be used as an alternative under certain circumstances. The caution however, is that trans-
location of trapped problem predators may not be successful particularly when it leads to suffering and death.
Lions, leopards and hyenas are territorial; strangers translocated into “suitable” habitat are often chased and
killed by residents. If they escape from or avoid resident animals, they will generally be re-displaced and try and
find their way home, often taking livestock along the way. If caught in cage traps, it is likely that they will
damage their claws and teeth while trying to escape, making them less able to hunt and defend themselves in the
wild. Further research is suggested in this area of conservation.
Acknowledgements
We wish to thank the Zambia Wildlife Authority management for supporting and encouraging this study and for
the PHAZ and Safari Operators in providing various data.
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