Hunting lions: unpalatable but necessary for conservation?

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The mere concept of shooting a big cat in the name of ‘sport’ nauseates me. I have spent my career working to conserve the world’s great cats, and have logged thousands of hours in their magnificent presence. When I watch a male lion grooming his cubs or see a female leopard haul a carcass her own weight up a thorn tree, I am bewildered that some people take pleasure in killing their kind with a high-powered rifle. I’m not especially averse to culling – like all wildlife biologists, my work occasionally necessitates killing animals, such as euthanizing injured wildlife- but it certainly isn’t fun. I simply do not understand what drives a hunter to shoot a creature as magnificent as a lion for a trophy and bragging rights.

Consequently, I should be delighted at the recent petition to list the African lion as Endangered under the Endangered Species Act. Submitted by a consortium of Washington-based wildlife and animal welfare organisations,

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