"Raffi" was rescued (and photographed) by the Born Free
Foundation from a cage atop a bar in the Canary Islands. He now lives happily on
5 acres at the Shamwari Private Game reserve in South Africa.
If you want to be in the killing club then you've got to kill a
lion. Safari Club International, an organization dedicated to promoting the
killing of wild animals for sport, has the lion listed on a number of its
hunting awards. The lion is one of the "Dangerous Game of Africa," the "African
29," the "Cats of the World," and the grand slam "Africa Big Five" (lion,
leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo). Safari Club International's magazine is
replete with stories about lion hunts in which hunters hang bait from tree limbs
in what one author called "the perfect setup" for an easy ambush and kill.
Another author rates the lion as the most dangerous of the Africa Big Five and
"perhaps the most difficult of all Africa's great prizes." He contends, "Most
parks in Africa hold good numbers of lions, so there need be no concern over the
In reality, the future looks bleak for the African lion (Panthera
Leo) of west and central Africa, based on the results of a workshop held in
Cameroon in June 2001. The recently published proceedings from the meeting
highlight the pressures placed on these fragmented lion populations and the need
to protect them immediately. One participant at the meeting noted that the
population estimates of between 1,500 and 2,000 lions "in the entire West
African region was considered as a shock."
The "information exchange" on "Status and Needs for Conservation
of Lions in West and Central Africa" reveals that in west and central Africa,
lions in countries such as Senegal, Mali, Benin, Sierra Leone, and Cameroon are
threatened by poachers, loss of habitat (especially for conversion of land to
agriculture and forest cutting for timber), slaughter for the use of their parts
in traditional medicines, and trophy hunting.
Roughly 30,000 lions remain in the wild. Individual
populations are small isolated, and decreasing.
The situation seems dire in some parts of southern Africa as
well. Researchers Chris and Tilde Stewart in Zambia claim that in the
northeastern part of the country, "numbers are critically low and they probably
have no future here." Little population data apparently exists for the rest of
the country. In Botswana, the Director of Wildlife placed an immediate ban on
all hunting of lions in February 2001, as a precautionary measure to prevent
further decline of lions there. The temporary ban was praised by
conservationists but assailed by trophy hunters.
Will Travers of the Born Free Foundation has stressed the need to
respond to the findings of the Cameroon workshop as a matter of urgency. "This
latest lion news must serve as a wake up call to all conservationists. Unless we
take concerted action to reduce poaching, prevent further habitat loss, stop
trade in lion parts and eliminate trophy hunting this serious situation will
soon become a crisis."
Nine Charged with Illegal Trade in
Tigers, Leopards, and Other Big Cats Appear to Have Been
Killed for Trophies
Following a lengthy investigation by the US Fish and Wildlife
Service, a series of indictments have been issued against individuals in
Michigan, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri for trafficking in protected tigers
and leopards. A couple of the individuals involved are licensed as exhibitors
under the Animal Welfare Act. Apparently, those charged were buying and killing
tigers, leopards, snow leopards, lions, mountain lions, cougars, mixed breed
cats, and black bears with the intention of introducing their meat and skins
into the lucrative animal parts trade.
At this point only one individual has been sentenced. Woody
Thompson, Jr., owner of the Willow Lake Sportsman's Club in Three Rivers,
Michigan, pled guilty to brokering the interstate sale of three tiger skins. He
was sentenced to six months of home detention, two years probation, a $2,000
fine, and he was ordered to pay $28,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife
Foundation's "Save the Tiger Fund."
More indictments are expected soon.