Zambia revises hunting ban for big cats

Zambia announced a hunting ban for 2016, yet more effort is needed to protect big cats. Tourism offers a potential resource: animals should be shot with cameras, not guns.

The Zambian government has put in place new plans with regards to a hunting ban concerning big cats in order to regulate wildlife populations. Big cats are found in all of the country’s national parks, but their numbers are depleting significantly. According to estimates, the country has between 2,502 and 4,668 lions. 

big cats zambia
A leopard (Panthera pardus) in South Luangwa National Park in eastern Zambia © Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

Too few big cats

“The country did not have enough stock of the cats for hunting purposes,” Jean Kapata, the country’s tourism minister said in an interview. “We decided to ban the hunting of lions and other cats on understanding that their populations were depleting to such low levels; we find it unsustainable to continue killing them”.

She however said hunting of other animals will be conducted under laid down conditions and strict supervision on the part of the Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA).


Rangers lack adequate tools to fight poaching

Critics say the ban comes too late, as conservationists warn that wildlife populations in the country’s major national park now face a greater threat from poaching than at any time since the 1980s.

Outnumbered, poorly-paid and ill-equipped, Zambian game rangers fight a one-sided war against vicious illegal poachers. Hundreds have been killed in the defence of depleting wildlife. For example, with no sniffer dogs or helicopters only 115 rangers guard the entire 22,400 square kilometres of Kafue National Park, the country’s biggest. They face poachers who work in gangs and who killed over five lions in July this year.

hunting ban zambia
Tourists photographing a leopard in South Luangwa National Park in eastern Zambia © Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images

Tourism potential

However, since Zambia needs more money for its wildlife conservation projects, it is imperative for the government and its people to focus on wildlife tourism and the shooting of animals with cameras and not guns.

Zambia could realise its potential as a tourist destination, especially including efforts to preserve the wildlife that forms the core of the country’s tourism appeal and which is under threat from poaching and trafficking,” in the words of Eric Shultz, US Ambassador to Zambia. He said Zambia prides itself of having arguably the richest biodiversity on the continent, which requires its people to guard it against extinction.

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