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Lion numbers could improve with new sustainable hunting quotas

Posted December 17, 2013
Lion numbers could improve with new sustainable hunting quotas
This image shows lions in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Credit: Nils Bunnefeld
Researchers have devised a simple and reliable way to set sustainable quotas for hunting lions, to help lion populations to grow, in a new study.


Trophy hunting occurs in 9 of the 28 African countries that have wild populations of lions. Hunting is legal in these countries but quotas are set to restrict the numbers of lions that can be killed.

Whilst such hunting is controversial, evidence suggests that it can help conservation efforts because it generates substantial revenue. Hunters can pay up to US$125,000 to shoot a male lion. This enables governments to leave wilderness areas as habitats for wildlife, rather than turning the land over for other uses such as farming.

However, there is much uncertainty over the sustainability of quotas, as conservation authorities lack reliable information on the total number of lions inhabiting their countries. This has contributed to a decline in the number of lions across Africa, from an estimated 100,000 fifty years ago to roughly 30,000 today.

In a new study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, conservation scientists from Imperial College London and the Universities of Stirling and Cape Town devised a method that should ensure more sustainable hunting quotas. They created an algorithm that uses data about how long it takes to find and shoot a lion in a given area to estimate how many adult males can be hunted, whilst allowing the lion population to grow.

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