The latest IUCN report indicates that lion populations have dropped by 43% in the past 20 years.  In 2014, Groom RJ, et al reported that surveys of lion populations showed that lion numbers in the protected areas of Zimbabwe were exhibiting a “disturbing trend”.  In the decade 1999-2008, the USA accounted for the most lion body parts exported from Zimbabwe. 

Wild lion losses not sustainable.

A study by Packer indicates that “961 wild-sourced” specimens that included more than 700 trophies, one whole lion body, one skin and numerous claws were exported.  A further number of live animals were exported for circuses and research purposes which brought the wild sourced lions lost to Zimbabwe up to 1214 in that decade.

According to Packer, the numbers of lost lions represented 8.9 % of the population and was not sustainable. 

Population crashes

According to the Africa Lion and Environmental Research Trust, the South Eastern Gonarezhou area of Zimbabwe carried a population of an estimated 183 lions in 2002. The 2014 count estimated only 23 lions. The beautiful wilderness of the Matusadona Valley Floor on the border of Lake Kariba saw a crash of lions between 1998 and 2005. The estimates showed that the population had fallen to only 28 animals.

The USA endangered status

The trends have continued across nearly all of the protected areas. Hunting in Zimbabwe is considered a tool to manage wildlife populations in such a way that some financial spin-offs help to conserve wildlife and benefit the local communities.

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This has caused some rift between the USA and the Zimbabwe government, as the USA Fish and Wildlife Services extension of endangered status to African Lions will make it harder for hunters to import trophies from Zimbabwe.

Negative media

Aside from the excuse that lions should be hunted to generate income, the Zimbabwe media are quick to highlight lion/human conflict stories. Headlines reported a man had snapped photos of a lion in the suburbs of Bulawayo city. Stories of women being mauled in Bumi, others killed by lions in Kariba, innocent campers being killed and eaten willy-nilly keep the Zimbabweans in the mindset that lions are generally bad.

Human/lion conflict

Tragic consequences do happen when wildlife and animals encroach on each other’s territories, but tragic consequences arise in all human habitation. The people who live on the borders of wildlife estates in Zimbabwe do not have to contend with electric rail cables, traffic jams, high-speed chases on the wrong side of a freeway, random lunatics shooting up their schools or serial killers.

No matter where people live they face the possibility of death whether from lions or humans or plain bad luck.

Poaching issues

Lion poaching is often glossed over as the iconic rhinos and elephants tend to steal the headlines. Poached animals contribute greatly to the decline of lions in Africa. The Asian market demand is for almost all the body parts, even down to the bones which, according to a National Geographic article, they use to make a "health" wine. The demand for bits and pieces of wild animals in Asian diets and medicines appears to be insatiable.

Alternatives to hunting

Untold millions are poured into the protection of endangered species every year. Whilst dedicated organizations are trying to save lions from poachers, legal lion hunts are ongoing.  Photographic Safaris generate millions of dollars for Zimbabwe and provide an incentive for locals to respect their wildlife as there are spin-offs through employment. The fall in the lion population surely does not justify trophy hunting as an income resource.