The iconic black maned lion of Hwange National Park  with his pride - Zimbabwe

Hard Truths about Conservation and Trophy Hunting

Conservation by from Brookings Institute, July 30, 2015

Yesterday, on Global Tiger Day, an iconic keystone species on the verge of extinction, the media and public were mesmerized by the killing of Zimbabwe’s beloved lion Cecil. Collared for an Oxford University research project and a major tourist attraction, Cecil was killed by a Minnesota dentist, Dr. Walter Palmer, who paid $54,000 for the hunting license. The license turned out to be fake: It is never legal to hunt a collared lion. And worse yet, the lion had been illegally lured out of its protected reserve for the hunt. Palmer claims he is a responsible hunter and was not aware of those violations, for which his Zimbabwean guides have previously been charged in the Zimbabwean court with violating. However, he already has a felony charge for illegally hunting a black bear outside of a permitted area in the United States in 2006.

The outpouring of emotions that has surrounded Cecil’s death will hopefully catalyze a strong international determination and policies to combat the escalating poaching around the world. Wildlife conservation will not necessarily be enhanced, however, by total bans on hunting. While reducing poaching as much as possible needs to be the objective, legal hunting can enhance environmental conservation and even reduce poaching, and sometimes is crucial for accomplishing those objectives. So, moving beyond the emotional reactions to the killing of Cecil, what are the pros and cons of trophy hunting for conservation?

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