Despite global outrage of the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe by American dentist Walter Palmer, European Union Member States are to continue allowing trophy hunters to bring their lion trophies into Europe following decisions made by the EU’s Scientific Review group. It has been agreed that lion trophies can still be brought into Europe from Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa, and from Zambia subject to approval on a case-by-case basis.
The EU has introduced a ban on lion trophies from West African states although they can still be brought in from a number of countries in the east and south of the lion’s African range, where it is said that hunting them is “sustainable”.
Between 2004 and 2013, 3,308 specimens derived from African lions and designated as ‘hunting trophies’ were imported into the EU (see this article).Proponents of trophy hunting claim that the practice helps maintain healthy populations, and generates significant income for conservation. However, lions are disappearing fast across much of Africa, and now occupy as little as 8% of their historic range. In Tanzania, numbers have declined by two-thirds since 1993.
The Born Free Foundation is extremely disappointed by the Scientific Review Group’s decisions but maintains that, as a major market for wildlife products, Europe can and must act on issues such as unsustainable and cruel trophy hunting, and wildlife trafficking. To this end, Born Free has taken a leading role in encouraging the European Commission to develop an Action Plan Against Wildlife Trafficking, and advising the MEP focus group; MEPs4Wildlife which was formed in April this year.
Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder, chair of MEPs4Wildlife, strongly criticised the Scientific Review Group’s decisions – “You cannot help preserve lions by shooting them. In the long-term, far more money will be made through safari tourism and ensuring this species survives for future generations. I am urging the EU’s Scientific Review Group to reconsider this move at its next meeting in December and ensure decisions are made on the basis of scientific evidence, not political pressure.”
Both The Born Free Foundation and MEPs4Wildlife are participating in upcoming events in the European Parliament to highlight the issue of wildlife trade. The first considers The EU’s accession to CITES (20th October 2015) and the second will review the prevalence of illegal trade in the EU (11thNovember 2015). You can register your interest in these events via The Born Free Foundation –email@example.com