“The Cecil Effect”

Petition – To suspend the Bubye Valley Conservancy (B.V.C) culling of a reported 200 ‘surplus’ lions from its purpose bred stock

Petition – Stop the Cull of 200 Lions in Cecil’s Home Country

It has been reported already on Cecil’s Pride  that the Bubye Valley Conservancy (B.V.C) in Zimbabwe is planning to ‘sell-off’ (or a threatened cull to gain publicity?) of 200 of its claimed 500 lions held within its 2.1 meter high fenced borders (but granted, it is a big reserve).  There is some additional background material for your information to this story:

Blondie Leathem, general manager of Bubye Valley Conservancy, said: “I wish we could give about 200 of our lions away to ease the overpopulation. If anyone knows of a suitable habitat for them where they will not land up in human conflict, or in wildlife areas where they will not be beaten up because of existing prides, please let us know and help us raise the money to move them” – Daily Telegraph, 20 February 2016

Update – B.V.C has stated that is never ‘wanted’ to cull its ‘surplus’ lions – A Zimbabwean Park Denies Reports That it Wants to Shoot its Lions,” Quartz, 23 February 2016  Presumably B.V.C still wants paying hunter to shoot some lions though to sustain B.V.C’s business model? So who did make the threat of culling 200 of B.V.C’s ‘surplus’ lions then – B.V.C’s supporters, Dallas Safari Club perhaps?

The B.V.C opened in 1999 and is a privately owned reserve of some 850,000 acres (3,440 km. sq.). The B.V.C lions are free to roam within the Bubye reserve, live in prides and are free to hunt. From IUCN sub-population numbers, the estimated lion sub-population in Bubye, Zimbabwe was 9 lions in 1993, but by 2014 it was 330 lions. Was this recovery due to B.V.C.? The B.V.C now claims to have some 500 lions in its “conservancy.”

The B.V.C. lion population is also monitored for “research purposes” by Wild Conservation Research Unit (Wild CRU studied Cecil before his premature demise), Oxford University, but perhaps with the express aim of proving lion dynamics and modelling sustainable Trophy Hunting ‘science’ (the final verdict is still awaited on that).

It should be noted, that this is the same ‘conservancy’ that controversially wanted to raffle a lion hunt at the end of last year to raise some $150k USD. It has always been clear, that the B.V.C has traditionally derived its main income from commercial Trophy Hunting and bred (excessively) lions for hunting purposes:

Pieter Kat, director of LionAid, a UK-based charity, said “contraception should have been introduced at the conservancy years ago” [Pieter means for the lions, not B.V.C’s owners/shareholders I think] – “it’s too late now,” he said. “There is [perhaps] nowhere in Africa which could take so many lions.” NZHerald, 22 February 2016.

Paul Bartels, a wildlife scientist from South Africa’s Tshwane University of Technology, said female contraceptive implants used in smaller reserves would be impractical for Matilda’s (B.V.C) clan.

There are a lot of lions on that [Bubye] conservancy. It would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars for contraception to make any real difference,” he said (Daily Telegraph, 20 February 2016).

There is no altruistic purpose at B.V.C to explicitly act as a lion conservation model. The B.V.C lions are predominantly a commodity to be sold as hunting trophies to support the B.V.C model (B.V.C thanks the Dallas Safari Club (DSC) “for supporting our lion research since the beginning“).

At B.V.C’s lion hunts, there has been a reported 100% kill rate on B.V.C’s own lion hunting quota (“2 – 3%” of the B.V.C lion population) every year – which says the targeted lions have no real chance of evading the paying hunters. So, B.V.C could legitimately be described as a glorified version of the ‘canned’ hunting model it would seem, with B.V.C deriving a claimed “30%” of its income from the lion hunts it sells.

B.V.C’s lions could (perhaps) now be sold to the highest bidder, possibly to China, as recently reported by LionAid, 26 January 2016 and we all know that’s not going to end well for any wildlife the Chinese ‘enjoy’ in their hypothetical/nonsensical medicines.

Can B.V.C’s ‘surplus’ lion prides be transferred to another reserve where their  lives might help bolster numbers? Well, of course that’s possible, but Brent Stapelkamp has summed up the predicament:

I will say though that this story highlights a very serious issue in lion conservation and that is the lack of space for lions in today’s Africa. Lions need vast areas of territory with abundant prey, where they won’t come into conflict with man and his livestock and these are few and far between.”

We should all now be putting our innovative minds together and generating a ground-swell of support for lions. We need to secure their habitats and landscapes, not just for them but for the people who live with them, so that lions from a place like Bubye could be relocated as whole prides to repopulate suitable habitat or corridors between suitable areas are managed to allow dispersal to repopulate areas. It is going to be costly but can we afford to turn our backs when lions need us most?” – Brent Stapelkamp,  a researcher with Oxford University’s lion project in the Hwange National Park for nine years.

So with external agencies imposing new, enduring trophy hunting restrictions from 2015/16 (United States Fish and Wildlfie Service and European Union), that specify any hunting must prove that it is scientifically sustainable before any trophy import can be permitted, is B.V.C’s planned “sell-off” due to a downturn in the ‘appetite’ for Trophy Hunting (this is being termed “The Cecil Effect” it would seem)?

It should be noted, that Cecil the lion was killed in July 2015, only some 7 months ago – there is no way that the B.V.C lion population could have expanded by an additional, untenable 200 lions in that time.

If lions breed at a rate of 5% a year the host population would have needed to be 4,000, which is more than the entire population of lions in Botswana” – A reliable source, deeply involved in lion dynamics has suggested.

So, the ‘excess of lions’ now being expressed by B.V.C is down to a misguided ‘model’ and unsustainable over-breeding. There is no correlation with Cecil the lion’s demise (may he RIP) and therefore, B.V.C’s “sell-off” cannot be attributed to any expression of public opinion in the intervening period, or the so-called “Cecil Effect.”

However, if there is indeed a downturn in Trophy Hunting, then this tells us a number of things:

  • That hunters are obsessed with gaining the trophy/trophies from their kill(s). If the hunter can’t easily gain ‘their’ trophies, then they are not interested in spending money to kill for fun anymore;
  • To be clear, there is nothing stopping hunters from doing what they have always done, paying to kill B.V.C lions, there are just potential restriction on gaining access to the resulting trophies;
  • But at the same time, the finance to support the breeding of trophy animals is suffering if there is a decline in uptake of the offer to pay to kill B.V.C’s lions. So if these hunters are truly motivated by some notion of conservation, then why don’t they either just finance the protection of species directly (without the killing), or if they truly believe what they have been doing is ‘conservation,’ then why the downturn, why is there any “Cecil Effect?
  • The truth is, there has always been the option to finance ‘conservation’ without killing, but the Trophy Hunters’ model had somehow become ‘acceptable’ in some circles and grown into a massive (and historically lucrative, easy money) industry. But less so now the ‘issues’ surrounding its questionable morality and ‘conservation’ values have been uncloaked in light of Cecil’s sad demise (may he RIP);
  • The Trophy Hunters and hunting industry (hunting associations, predator breeders, complicit authorities and government agencies tec.) has dressed all of their activities up as ‘conservation.’ But the truth is that hunting concessions (habitat) and wild species are being used to facilitate excessive hunting quotas and/or the breeding of animals just to be killed by hunters:

For example, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe – “69 out of 100 males were estimated to have died from age-independent causes in Hwange, and will continue to do so if estimated death rates remain unchanged. This means these males do not die of old age. The most likely cause of death is to be killed by trophy hunters or local farmers protecting their herds” – Wild CRU, “David Macdonald explains that Cecil’s death was part of a much wider story, Dr Andrew Loveridge, Professor David Macdonald and Dr Julia Barthold, 23 February 2016.

So, does the above statement sound like trophy hunters are helping lion conservation in Hwange, Zimbabwe?

  • The ‘protection’ such hunting habitats offer to curtail poaching and wildlife conflict is evident to some extent (but is by no means a consistent element), but that is not much use when the hunters pose the biggest threat to the same threatened wildlife and kill the ‘protected’ animals themselves anyway  (reference – How Do ‘We’ Save Panthera Leo?,” 5 January 2016).
  • Why can’t these ‘canned’ animals just be released back into the wild? There has definitely been more of a scientific approach to the lion breeding at B.V.C one would hope (the B.V.C lions are free to roam in prides and hunt too), but many ‘canned’ animals are hand reared and fed, often poorly bred from a limited gene pool (ie. genetically mutated) and not in strong enough health to survive in the wild. Lions exist in strong pride structures. Any disruption to a given pride, or territory disputes between an established pride and a ‘new’ pride can be devastating. So, the chances of any successful, or risk free reintroduction of any ‘canned’ stock into the wild is pure fantasy.

In conclusion, the only true conservation models are the sanctuaries and reserves where animals are given safe haven and breeding of the animals carefully managed and controlled (there are few, if any truly wild African lion ranges left). These models are self -financed (ie. from donations and/or Governments) where sustainability is key. As soon as an animal is turned into a commodity and/or excessively bred for theoretical hunting income (which may, or may not materialise), the ethics and true ‘conservation’ are exposed as a remote secondary consideration.

Related Articles:

  1. 200 Lions Will be Killed in Cecil’s Country,” Cecil’s Pride, 23 February 2016
  2. Lion Researcher Brent Staplekamp Addresses Bubye Lion Cull,” Cecil’s Pride, 24 February 2016
  3. The Cecil Effect: Zimbabwe Park warns it may shoot 200 ‘surplus’ lions,” NZHerlad, Peta Thornycroft, 22 February 2016
  4. The ‘Canned’ Industry Deceit, Intimidation and Threats,” IWB, 20 February 2016
  5. The Bubye Conservancy lion trophy hunting raffle – the background,” LionAid, 5 January 2016
  6. “African Park Complains ‘Cecil Effect’ is Leaving too Many Lions Alive,” Take Part Daily, 24 February 2016
  7. ‘Cecil Effect’ Leave Park’s Lions at Risk of Cull,” Daily Telegraph, 20 February 2016
  8. Cecil the Lion’s Killing Could See Up to 200 Lions Being Culled in Zimbabwe Due to Overpopulation,” Huffington Post, 23 February 2016
  9. Reports of Threats to Cull Lions in Zimbabwe,” Born Free Foundation, 24 February 2016
  10. “The “Cecil Factor” and 200 Lions to Be Culled at Bubye?” LionAid, 1 March 2016
  11. Culling to Conserve: The Hard Truth for Lion Conservation,” National Geographic, 25 February 2016

11 thoughts on ““The Cecil Effect”

  1. Signed!
    Reading here and there about this issue, I happen to read this comment, with Russ’ opinion, which make me think since for sure out there are many other thinking the same… but still eating flesh each day.


    I don’t want to be arrogant nor prig… but still there is a sneaky way of considering only one of the possibilities.
    I know isn’t up to us, living with the fridge full and maybe a small reserve of money in a bank account, to give options. But I more considerate to strive for the idea that the consciousness of all of us is to weak… in the underdeveloped nations people dies of hunger… in the the rest of the world we cultivate an incredible amount of various grains to feed animals for their meat… In this poor world there would be enough food for every one, but the dynamics of Power and the “Dominants” at the top of it, are striving to hegemonize us all…
    Beside that, I still vehemently don’t approve any tipe of killing animals… tell me one thing: before the issue of men with shotguns and similars, didn’t Nature balance her-self in the normal way that predators hunted their victims?
    One small, maybe for you irrelevant thing… I’m vegetarian and I don’t eat eggs. This is because I’m buddhist, yes, but as well because I’m compassionate towards every living being.
    Have a lovely week end :-)claudine


  2. I’ve forwarded this to Born Free Foundation, Animal Defenders International (ADI), Wildlife SOS, International Animal Rescue and World Animal Protection (formerly WSPA) asking if they could help.


    Liked by 2 people

    • I hope they can and will help. The killing off of ANY wildlife is tatamount to genocide, and I am FIERCELY opposed to any wildlife being killed. Because of Cecil’s death, God rest his beautiful soul, I offered to drive to Mn., find Walter Palmer, and beat him within an inch of his life. I have a picture of Cecil as the main screen on my Samsung Galaxy S6 Plus smartphone. I look at it numerous times a day and think what a horrible thing to do to such a beautiful animal, and by a disgusting, filthy, no conscience waste of a human. Anyone caught poaching should be put to death, and those supporting it as well. I have been an animal lover ALL of my life, and have never held my tongue when it comes to animal abuse. If anyone wishes to contact me with the same views, I am at Woodcutter_52@yahoo.com.


    • Sharon,

      That’s good, thank you.

      I hope that at least some of B.V.C’s “surplus” lion prides can find space in suitable reserves (but it will not be easy). But as explained above, it’s a risk for any reserve to introduce new prides, financially, but also the risk of confrontation with pre-existing reserve prides, which can be devastating.

      The point being, if B.V.C is the hunters’ best example of “the hunters’ lion conservation in action,” but due to over-breeding (which B.V.C could/should have avoided a long time ago), it’s now the rest of the conservation community that is (again) being asked to pick up the pieces and take risks; including financing the long-term costs to care for the hunters’ failed ‘conservation’ model.


  3. “… a very serious issue in lion conservation … is the lack of space for lions in today’s Africa. Lions need vast areas of territory with abundant prey, where they won’t come into conflict with man and his livestock and these are few and far between.”

    The complexity of dealing with trophy hunting and poaching is made only more complex by the habitat issues … loss of habitat, fragmented habitat. While we want to be hopeful, with Africa’s human population expected to double to 2.4 billion within 40 years, it seems like a grim scenario for not just lions, but all wildlife in Africa. The disaster that is massive overpopulation of Homo sapiens has to be addressed as well if we want to save our wildlife.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maria,

      Sadly, I agreed (unabated human population growth is an issue for the whole globe, but for African wildlife, the projected human population growth will be key):

      “To put that increasing human demand into perspective, between 2015 and 2050, half of the world’s population growth is expected to occur in 9 countries, 6 of which are within the lion’s range (India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Uganda (UN 2015, p. 4). Africa has the fastest population growth rate in the world (UN 2015, pp. 3, 9; UNEP 2012a, p. 2), and future population growth in sub-Saharan Africa is projected to be large and rapid (UN 2013, p. 9). By 2100, Angola, Burundi, DRC, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Somalia, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia are projected to increase by at least five-fold (UN 2015, p. 9).”




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