oa South African Journal of Wildlife Research - Possible relationships between the South African captive-bred lion hunting industry and the hunting and conservation of lions elsewhere in Africa : research article

Volume 42, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 2410-7220
  • E-ISSN: 2410-8200



The trophy hunting of lions is contentious due to increasing evidence of impacts on wild populations, and ethical concerns surrounding the hunting of captive-bred lions in South Africa. The captive-bred lion hunting industry in South Africa has grown rapidly while the number of wild lions hunted in other African countries has declined. In 2009 and 2010, 833 and 682 lion trophies were exported from South Africa, respectively, more than double the combined export (2009, 471; 2010, 318) from other African countries. There has been an associated increase in the prevalence of the export of lion bones from South Africa: at least 645 bones/sets of bones were exported in 2010, 75.0% of which went to Asia. Such trade could be problematic if it stimulated demand for bones from wild lions or other wild felids. Captive-bred lion hunting differs from wild lion hunting in that lions are hunted in smaller areas (49.9 ± 8.4 km2 compared to 843 to 5933 km2, depending on the country), hunts are cheaper (US$20 000-40 000 compared to US$37 000-76 000 [excluding the costs of shooting other species and government charges]), shorter (3.3 compared to 14-21 days), success rates are higher (99.2% compared to 51.0-96.0%), and trophy quality is higher (skull length + breadth = 638.8 compared to 614-638 cm). Most clients perceive captive-bred and wild lion hunting to be different products but there is some overlap in markets: 48.7% of clients that had hunted captive-bred lions showed no preference regarding the type of future hunts. Owing to the size of the captive-bred hunting industry, even marginal overlap in demand could affect wild lion hunting significantly. If captive-bred lion hunting were ever prohibited, a transfer of demand to wild lion hunts could lead to elevated off-takes with negative impacts on wild populations. However, if off-takes of wild lions were held constant or reduced through effective regulation of quotas, increased demand could increase the price of wild lion hunts and strengthen financial incentives for lion conservation. These possibilities should be considered if future efforts are made to regulate captive-bred lion hunting.

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