When it comes to trophy hunting, rural African communities don’t get the gold

An immediate way we can help protect African lions against trophy hunters is to get them listed as endangered.As few as 32,000 African lions are believed to remain in the wild today.

Over the last 30 years, African countries with the highest hunting intensity have seen the steepest declines in lion populations.

Despite these facts, advocates for the trophy hunting industry regularly claim that hunting supports conservation as it provides huge benefits to economies in rural African communities.

The truth is it doesn’t.

A new report released by Economists at Large—commissioned by the International Fund for Animal Welfare and our colleagues at Born Free and Humane Society International—analyzes the available literature on the economics of trophy hunting and reveals that these rural communities actually derive very little benefit from hunting revenue. 

Nature tourism is a significant part of the economy of some African lion range countries, but revenues from trophy hunting tourism in Africa account for just 1.8 % of overall tourism. In fact, a recent Synovate poll finds that 70.4 % of Americans would pay to view lions on an African safari, while only 6.6 % of Americans would pay to hunt lions.

Besides that, even pro-hunting sources have conceded that only 3 percent of the money from trophy hunts reaches the rural communities where hunting occurs.

We must put a stop to the killing of lions for sport – it does not contribute significantly to the economies of the host countries, and as lions continue to disappear from Africa’s landscape, it is not sustainable either.

Non-lethal wildlife tourism like photography and animal-watching safaris are a much greater contributor to Africa’s tourism economy. If trophy hunting and other threats keep depleting Africa’s wildlife, then Africa’s wildlife tourism will disappear – and that would truly be destructive to many African economies.

Even some former trophy hunting countries in Africa have recognized the activity as detrimental. Earlier this year, Botswana joined Zambia in banning trophy hunting.  As the Botswana President Ian Khama noted, “The shooting of wild game for sport and trophies is no longer compatible with our commitment to preserve local fauna.”

Currently, lions are the only big cat not protected under the Endangered Species Act. An immediate way we can help protect African lions against trophy hunters is to get them listed as endangered.  A listing would generate public attention toward the species’ fragile state, implement new controls on American importation of lion trophies, and enact a US ban on consumption and trade in lion parts. Unfortunately, since more than half of lion trophies are currently imported to the US every year, this listing has the potential to significantly help wild lions in Africa.

African lions have suffered devastating blows over the past few decades with populations declining by more than 50 percent. One tangible and immediate action we can take to help them right now is protect them from trophy hunters and their misguided attempts at conservation through killing.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has acknowledged that the African lion may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), following an initial review of a petition seeking to protect the species which was filed by the IFAW, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Humane Society International (HSI), Born Free USA, and the Born Free Foundation.


The petition remains open - sign a comment at www.helpafricanlions.org, and make your voice heard.

And review our infographic below that distills a few relevant facts from the report.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Elsayed Ahmed Mohamed, Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Regional Director, Middle East and North Africa
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
Senior Vice President
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Executive Vice President
Executive Vice President
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Pauline Verheij, Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Program Manager, Wildlife Crime
Peter LaFontaine, Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Country Representative, Germany
Country Representative, Germany
Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
Director, EU Office
Tania McCrea-Steele, Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Project Lead, Global Wildlife Cybercrime
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Consulting Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy