In a bitterly ironic move, the country that banned lion hunting after ‚ÄúCecil‚Äù the lion‚Äôs death may have to cull 200 surplus lions. According to an article on the Sporting Classics Daily website, officials at Zimbabwe‚Äôs Bubye Valley Conservancy are trying to move the extra animals to other wildlife areas, but if that fails the lions will be put down – a disservice to the country‚Äôs economy, hunters, and the animals themselves.
Bubye is Zimbabwe‚Äôs largest wildlife area and home to the country‚Äôs highest number of lions -¬†an estimated 500. At one time Bubye welcomed hunters and was able to maintain a healthy lion population. After¬†American dentist Walter Palmer shot a lion outside Hwange National Park in 2015, the area has suffered from what has become known as the ‚ÄúCecil effect.‚Äù
Zimbabwe‚Äôs economy and wildlife populations began to suffer immediately after the international uproar over Cecil‚Äôs death did. Foreign hunters declined to hunt in the country to avoid the negativity. As the U.S. moved to ban trophy importations and the price of oil continued to drop, American hunters refused to make the trip across the Atlantic.
Bubye‚Äôs lion population has subsequently gone unmanaged. The predators are decimating antelope herds and throwing the entire area‚Äôs ecosystem out of whack.
‚ÄúI wish we could give about 200 of our lions away to ease the overpopulation,‚Äù Blondie Leathem, Bubye‚Äôs general manager,¬†said. ‚ÄúIf 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.‚Äù
Bubye was created in 1994 by fencing around 2,000 square miles of former¬†cattle ranch. Since then, the lions and other animal populations within its borders have been carefully and extensively managed. Oxford University‚Äôs lion research project¬†- the same team that tracked Cecil ‚Äî called Bubye ‚Äúa success story.‚Äù
Hunting and the funds it generates were key components of that success.