Big lion cull in Zimbabwe 'not yet necessary'

2016-02-24 19:27


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Harare - A big cull of lions at an over-populated conservancy in southern Zimbabwe is "not yet necessary", a top researcher says.

Responding to claims that Bubye Valley Conservancy is about to cull up to 200 lions, Dr Byron du Preez told News24 that the possibility of a cull has been discussed but "[we] have agreed that for now, this is not necessary yet and we will continue to try and translocate these animals until our hand is forced."

Wildlife lovers have been loud in their condemnation of a possible cull at Bubye, fuelled no doubt by the furore that surrounded the July 2015 killing of Cecil the lion near Hwange National Park in western Zimbabwe.

In the wake of the killing, US dentist Walter Palmer who shot Cecil, became a global figure of hate. Since then the number of big game hunters travelling to Zimbabwe from the US appears to have dropped.

Du Preez, who runs the Bubye Valley Conservation Research Initiative, said the exploding population of lions in 3,000 kilometre-squared Bubye is putting huge pressure on other species living in the privately-owned conservancy.

Bubye is much smaller than Hwange's 14 000 square kilometres.

"We have a whole ecosystem of animals to conserve, not just lions," he said.

"We are starting to see declines in even the more common and robust prey such as zebra and wildebeest, not to mention the more sensitive species such as sable, kudu, nyala, warthog and even buffalo and giraffe," he added.

In fact, an over-population of lions in a restricted area can result in cubs starving to death.

He told News24: "A high density of lions can severely reduce the density of their prey, ultimately leading to the death of lions via disease and starvation, far more horrific than human operations conducted by professionals."

Du Preez estimated that Bubye has a lion population of between 503 and 552 lions. 

While the conservancy's carrying capacity of lions stands at around 500, that figure is only viable if some of the animals can be hunted to generate funds, he says.

The agreement not to cull the lions - for now - was reached in August 2015, according to the researcher.

Previous attempts to translocate lions from Bubye Valley Conservancy "have been derailed by factors entirely out of our control," Du Preez said.

A tentative plan to raffle a lion hunt at the conservancy was called off last month after a media outcry. Tickets were selling at $1 500 each. The organisers said the intention was to raise money for conservation, adding that the raffle would have raised more than $50 000.

Read more on:    zimbabwe  |  southern africa  |  animals

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