I think that most serious hunters have entertained the idea of hunting the African lion. The lion is a challenging and dangerous animal to hunt and is possibly the most iconic game animal on Earth. Hunting him will test the hunter’s skills and mental fortitude. Due to recent changes in import regulations which have an effect on hunt prices, a lion hunt is more affordable than ever. hiking
Due to current US law, the vast majority of lion hunting opportunities for Americans are hunts where it is impossible to import the skin and skull back to the United States. That does not mean that hunters should not hunt lions. Hunt prices are at a place where they have become as affordable as a plains game hunt for someone wanting to hunt a non-exportable lion. And the experience of the hunt is the same.
There is an internal debate hunters inevitably go through when considering to hunt an animal they cannot legally import back into the United States. Mounted animals and skulls act as a reminder of the hunt and bring honor to the creature so worthy of pursuit. However, laws are laws and some animals cannot be imported despite the fact that there are sustainable enough populations that necessitate hunting.
Ultimately, the hunt is about the experience. On a non-exportable lion hunt, the hunter can still memorialize the hunt through pictures. Nothing is different about the actual hunt. My encouragement to hunters is simple: go and hunt lion. Live the dream you’ve been dreaming. The experience of a lion hunt is like no other, and the opportunity to even hunt African lions is never guaranteed in the future. Although it seems paradoxical, hunting lions is something that will help sustain the populations for generations to come.
When hunters travel to pursue lions, they are actively contributing to their conservation. When hunters spend money on a lion hunt, whether it is a free range hunt or not, it gives lions value. Without value, lion populations reduce or disappear. Africa’s human population is exploding and there is a finite amount of space on the continent. Lions have huge home ranges and require a lot of space. There is a fragile coexistence at best in places where lions live near humans. Lions are dangerous to humans and destructive to wildlife and domestic stock. It is difficult for Westerners to understand the constant danger one lives in when living in the presence of lions. Having travelled to over 20 African countries and spent a lot of time with locals, it is not uncommon to meet people who have been maimed by lions or have had family members or friends maimed or killed by lions.
However, in Africa, if it pays it stays. Hunting dollars from lion hunts make lions worth something to those who live in close proximity to them. In places where hunting is not allowed and there is no market for photographic safaris either, lion populations are low or nonexistent.
It is unfortunate that our own USFWS has become so political in its decision making rather than using scientific data to drive their decisions. Recently, however, USFWS has finally recognized what African countries and hunters have always known. In an October 20, 2016 announcement, Director of US Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe stated that, “sport hunting of wild and wild-managed lions does contribute to the long-term conservation of the species in South Africa.” He also stated that, “lions are not in trouble because of responsible sport hunting.” However, USFWS has still made laws that make importation of lions very difficult, and in many cases, impossible.