Saturday, August 01, 2015

No Lion is an Island

Says David Macdonald, director of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at the University of Oxford, in an interview in Nature whose team has been tracking Cecil and hundreds of other lions since 2008. No lion is an island.

Trophy hunting of Lions in Zimbabwe didn't begin nor will it end with Doctor Palmer.  Hunting of lions is legal in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa and lions are not considered endangered at this time although their numbers have declined along with that of their prey.  Yes, like all creatures great and small they are part of  an ever-changing ecosystem and Africa is steadily moving in the same direction as the rest of the world and allowing less and less room for wildlife.

Carefully avoiding any political statements, Macdonald opines that hunting of lions is sustainable if strictly regulated and actually might be the best way of attributing value to lions that could accrue to the benefit of those who live alongside them amd perhaps to promote toleration of  these creatures among the local population who see them as dangerous to life and property.  Wildlife parks bring in tourist dollars after all.

Macdonald goes so far as to suggest that the death of  this lion may have a beneficial effect if it promotes "enthusiasm for the value of nature."

"That’s the sort of enthusiasm that I hope will influence the way that policy is formulated as human enterprise strives to live alongside biodiversity. That would be a suitable memorial for the apparently illegal death of this particular, charismatic and unusually fascinating individual lion."

Unfortunately some of this "enthusiasm" results from misinformation, oversimplification and hyperbole in the sensationalist press and such enthusiasm tends to be short lived, producing less than helpful action if any at all.

The overall goal of conservation is the maintenance of sustainable populations rather than sentimental attachments to Bambi or even Cecil and that sometimes involves direct intervention.  Hunting is sometimes necessary if sometimes sad and upsetting to squeamish people like me.  Poaching is of course the enemy of regulation and population control and  it's a far, far larger problem than the occasional  rogue trying to relive the 18th century White Hunter experience can be.  It would be good if he can be made and example of, but will the public then forget while hordes of poachers continue to hunt with machine guns, flaunting a death penalty because of huge rewards for selling animal parts in Asia?

Madonald shares my hope that the current furor will bring some further attention to what's really going on; to the bigger and long term problems of conservation and to helping African nations to see the value of wildlife and its preservation despite the cost.  Much has been done with the help of wealthier European nations. Much more needs to be done.

No comments: