Sunday, 10 February 2013

Walking with lions - Conservation Myth

Here's another background report outlining issues which will be developed in future on this blog. In 2005 ALERT/Lion Encounter set up their 'Walking with Lions' captive breeding and interaction project in the Vitcoria Falls. Nearly ten years later and, whilst over 100 lions have been used in captive tourist interactions, raising many thousands of dollars in the name of conservation in the process, not one lion has yet to be released back into the wild. Indeed the project doesn't even pretend that it will be able to release the lions it uses in captive interactions back into the wild, but has developed a smoke-screen of 'rehabilitation' and 'release' stages to hide the truth - lions bred in captivity, taken from their mothers and imprinted on human handlers, and then used in captive interactions with tourists, can never be released back into the wild and are doomed to spend their lives in captivity. The only thing which varies is the size of the cage. This report has been specifically targetted at the ALERT/Lion Encounter project, and refers to it directly.
Report Finds Captive Lion Reintroduction Programs in Africa Operate Under 'Conservation Myth'
(from Panthera Press Release, 31 July 2011)
A new report published in the international conservation journal Oryx concludes that commercial 'wildlife encounter' operations across Africa promoting the reintroduction of captive lions do little to further the conservation of African lions in the wild.
'Walking with lions: Why there is no role for captive-origin lions (Panthera leo) in species restoration,' was authored by a blue-ribbon panel of lion conservationists and wild cat biologists from Panthera, the IUCN Cat Specialist Group and a team of university-based lion researchers. Demonstrating that no lions have been successfully released as a result of this process, the report determines that commercial captive lion reintroduction programs operate largely under a 'conservation myth.'
The last two decades has seen a rapid growth of such operations especially across Southern Africa. Advertised as 'wildlife encounters,' the programs typically charge tourists and paying volunteers to pet, feed and walk with hand-raised and so-called tame lions. To the paying public, the stated objective is the eventual release to the wild of lions.
The Oryx paper assesses the potential of these programs to assist wild lion conservation by evaluating the role and suitability of captive lions for release. The report concludes that captive-bred lions are simply unnecessary for reintroduction projects. For more than two decades, wild lions have been translocated and rigorously monitored in over 40 parks across southern Africa with high success rates. Over 500 wild lions have been re-established by this process. More importantly, the evaluation shows that captive-bred lions and their offspring are poorly suited for survival and release compared to their wild-born counterparts.
Read more: Panthera Press Release
Download the full report here
Read more on Dr Luke Hunter's blog here.

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