National Geographic News
A safari vehicle comes close to a roaring young male lion in Botswana.

A safari vehicle comes close to a roaring young male lion at the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana.

Photograph by Ralph Lee Hopkins, National Geographic Stock

Jeff Flocken

for National Geographic

Published July 31, 2013

Editor's note: Jeff Flocken is North American director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

The United States government is considering whether to add lions to the list of species protected by the Endangered Species Act. Such protection would ban the importation of dead trophy lions into the U.S.

The proposed move, supported by a coalition of wildlife groups that includes my own, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, raises an obvious question: Why on Earth are we still allowing this animal to be killed for "fun" when it's in danger of disappearing from the wild in our lifetimes?

The most recent study, led by a scientist from Duke University, shows that as few as 32,000 lions are left in the wild. Many experts say there could be far fewer. (See an interactive experience on the Serengeti lion.)

While habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict (often in the form of retaliatory killings after lions kill livestock and sometimes even humans) are the primary causes of the lions' disappearance from Africa's forests and savannahs, trophy hunting adds to the problem. Approximately 600 lions are killed every year on trophy hunts, including lions in populations that are already declining from other threats. These hunts are unsustainable and put more pressure on the species.

Unfortunately, Americans are primarily to blame. Approximately 60 percent of all lions killed for sport in Africa are shipped to the U.S. as trophies.

There are several reasons why trophy hunting is so bad for lions, beyond the obvious one that it kills healthy members of an imperiled species. The adult male lion is the most sought-after trophy by wealthy foreign hunters. And when an adult male lion is killed, the destabilization of that lion's pride can lead to more lion deaths as outside males compete to take over the pride.

Once a new male is in the dominant position, he will often kill the cubs sired by the pride's previous leader, resulting in the loss of an entire lion generation within the pride.

Trophy hunting is also counter-evolutionary, as it's based on selectively taking the large, robust, and healthy males from a population for a hunter's trophy room. These are the same crucial individuals that in a natural system would live long, full lives, protecting their mates and cubs and contributing their genes to future generations.

Despite the wild claims that trophy hunting brings millions of dollars in revenue to local people in otherwise poor communities, there is no proof of this. Even pro-hunting organizations like the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation have reported that only 3 percent of revenue from trophy hunting ever makes it to the communities affected by hunting. The rest goes to national governments or foreign-based outfitters.

The money that does come into Africa from hunting pales in comparison to the billions and billions generated from tourists who come just to watch wildlife. If lions and other animals continue to disappear from Africa, this vital source of income—nonconsumptive tourism—will end, adversely impacting people all over Africa.

Attempts to introduce sustainable methods for sport hunting of lions have been discussed for decades. But the lion population continues to decline, and reform of the hunting industry appears to be far off. Even a new, much-hyped method of targeting aging lions, so that the animals are killed after contributing to the genetic pool, are difficult to pull off and rely on age verification after the lion has already been killed.

African lions are the only big cat not currently protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Listing African lions as an endangered species and banning trophy imports to the U.S. would send an important message: The African lion is disappearing, and the global community needs to act to stop the trend before it is too late or too costly to reverse.

It's a message that won't be heard as long as it is common and legal to kill lions for sport. Why should anyone spend money to protect an animal that a wealthy American can then pay to go kill?

124 comments
Matthew Amukelani
Matthew Amukelani

I CHALLENGE you to oppose my words , anyone out there who thinks they are alpha, I AM THE WISE AND HUMBLE ONE, approach me now

Matthew Amukelani
Matthew Amukelani

I command you

NEVER treat a plant like it is an inanimate object! It is just as alive as you are, just in a different way. It’s consciousness is basic but it does exhibit feelings of fear, empathy, happiness, etc. Is it not best to respect everything and everyone the same way you respect yourself? Why does the concept ofRESPECT only involve human beings for YoU??Why are you so UN-awakened? Why not broaden the criteria to everything with a consciousness? It is the right thing to do that you can see in the deep of your soul. If we treat all manifested Reality as if it was us, but in a different manifestation, then imagine how different life would be.



http://www.shift.is/plant-consciousness/

Matthew Amukelani
Matthew Amukelani

THE WAY you are unable to understand or feel what I have written here below VVV, goes to show how conditioned and made useless you have been by all the wrong influences and people!, IT SHOW that you are not even aware of this and that your SPIRIT has almost left your body for good. IT IS TIME to wake up or die I COMMAND YOU

Matthew Amukelani
Matthew Amukelani

if THIS continues, this globalization and gentrification, this removal of sacred cultures, of sacred species of people and animals and plants, the removal of distinction, IF this continues-AND SADLY IT MUST UNTIL IT SHATTERS APART AND TOPPLES DOWN, BROKEN- soon the earth will ALL be controlled by outer space!..and by people who may as well be from outer space they are so removed and isolated from the rest of humanity..

ALREADY there is enough satellite coverage/control to dominate every inch of the earth AND EVERY CREATURE on it. Will we let this continue? WE MUST because we were raised by it, raised by it in the same way a frog is raised in a stove-top pot of room temperature water that slowly begins to boil until the frog dies, to not even see what is occurring in front of us, EVEN WITH OUR CONSENT, even part of us, our families and our futures. WE ALLOW IT. WHY?

because we are told to eat more!HAVE SEX MORE! MOREmoreMOREmore! Everything you want is yours-type-of-attitude! Respect-none-type of attitude! More more more! sex rock n roll basketball games and parties and alcohol! Fluoride water! GMO FOOD! MORE MORE MORE!

Diana Macoveanu
Diana Macoveanu

I think the lion is the most beautiful animal we have on this planet..but people's greed is by far the biggest sin of the human kind...please stop killing those gorgeous animals just for fun!!!

carol keith
carol keith

I cannot express how much this hurts my soul.I feel like there isn't anything I can do.The unnecessary killing of the big cats,elephants,chimps,etc. rips me apart.People are so self-centered and locked in their own minds that for some reason they either don't see or don't care how much this affects the family units of those they have killed...only to hang on a wall or stand for exhibit with marble eyes where once shone a fierce and proud individual,Man shall be his own demise!

Victoria Medina-Domroese
Victoria Medina-Domroese

It does upset an awful lot arrrggg

stupidity and arrogance is the lowest cowardice it exist arrrggggg  Ignorance frustrates me

Kathryn Baker
Kathryn Baker

I hate hunters of any kind....unless you need to hunt for food and live out in the wilderness, you do not need to hunt and kill wildlife.

David Shantz
David Shantz

The people commenting here in favor of pay-to-kill practices are not doing the numbers in honesty. The numbers don't add up. A poll of websites shows fees for guides ranging between $20-60,000 for a lion or elephant hunt. 

The kill fees in countires that allow it, are about $3-5k, of which, most is taken by local officials of varying integrity.  The only people making any money are a small number of professional hunters.


I beleive it is a particularly strange and twisted individual who would want to go take shots at one of these sentient beings. Certainly, not normal. Professionals will concurr that it usually takes upwards of five rifle shots to down a bull elephant. I don't even want to talk about bow hunters... This is not conservation, neither financial or of habitat - it is a very small number of people who take some sort of sick pride in killing, and the people who profit from their mental disorders.  If animals must be culled, it should be done with a scientific basis and a tranquilizer dart, not by some amature taking pot-shots at baited animals looking for food.  

Despite any other motivation, we must also evolve to a higher level of conciousness and to find a path to survival amongst all the beings we share what's left of the earth with. Playing with death is patently immoral. Hunters who are in it for their amusement are in many ways worse than bullfighters. 


The USA HAS banned imports of tropies. This is a big start. Its driven by public opinion.  In the same way that Japanese whaling has been stopped. Your voice matters. There are jsut a small number of people profiting from these practices. We should be able to replace them with true conservation.   Here are some links where you can influence things a little:   http://bit.ly/1gMx9Ea

Jason Smith
Jason Smith

Liberals blow my mind. They are so concerned with stopping the legal hunting of animals. But they don't have a problem with legalized murder of unborn children!  Hey if you really want to do a good deed and make a difference in the world, why don't you write the liberal president and congress you elected and tell them to stop abortion or at least stop making us pay for it with our tax dollars. Focus on what is important!

Ray McMullen
Ray McMullen

You are misguided in that you blame legal hunting for the effects of poaching. Legal controlled hunting is not only sustainable but funds efforts to combat poaching. If there was no legal hunting those efforts would surely be rendered utterly ineffective if they existed at all. The species would definitely disappear. I don't trust your claims about how any species is in trouble. Activists are known to lobby for species to put on an endangered list out of ideological fervor not scientific evidence. This is not to say there are no endangered species, simply that I don't trust your claims.

Cynthia O'Connor
Cynthia O'Connor

Interesting and very timely for this Saturday, March 15th March against canned lion hunting in Chicago, and virtual march allover the world!

Bofeshia Snipes
Bofeshia Snipes

@Lourens Botha

Hunting protects the species? Then why have so many species been hunted to EXTINCTION? The lies you are all too willing to believe are bought and paid for by the people who profit from this industry. Killing an animal for anything other than that of self-defense or sustenance is NEVER okay. The number of lions in Africa is declining, not growing, and each animal blasted away is another animal gone. Also, lions form family-like structures called prides, do you really believe they feel nothing when a member of their family is shot and killed? Have you ever volunteered and worked closely with these animals? I have. And let me tell you, they do not deserve to be snuffed for pleasure, just so some imbecile can mount their head on the wall and brag about their "grand adventure" (which is usually guided and done at a long, cowardly distance with a high-powered rifle) What we need is people to learn about these magnificent beasts and protect them from a place of respect and admiration. "Protecting" a species by hunting it is like bombing for peace.

Christa De Beer
Christa De Beer

A report released last year by the University of Pretoria and Cape Town, Panthera, the big cat organisation, and Sweet Briar College in the US found that the captive-bred lion hunting industry has grown significantly, "to the point where almost twice the number of lion trophies are exported from South Africa as from all other African countries combined"  It notes how in 2009 and 2010, 833 and 682 lion trophies were exported from South Africa, respectively more than double the combined export from other African countries.

ALARMINGLY, IT FOUND AN ASSOCIATED INCREASE IN THE PREVALENCE OF THE EXPORT OF LION BONES FROM SOUTH AFRICA:  AT LEAST 645 BONES/SETS OF BONES WERE EXPORTED IN 2010, 75 PERCENT TO FEED 

VIETNAM AND CHINA'S INSATIABLE APPETITE FOR LION BONES FOR TIGER WINE AND TIGER CAKE......

This fact is even more scary......

Lourens Botha
Lourens Botha

This is a noble cause but unfortunately a one sided one and is based on emotionality and personal prejudice. The opinion I am raising here will probably be scoffed at and ignored as it supplies some insight into the other side of the matter. Just to stop hunting of lions per se is not the answer. An excellent example can be found in elephants where 15-20 years ago a similar international offensive led to the total protection of elephants across Africa. Now the very real outcome of that campaign is visible in Africa where the sheer numbers of elephants are destroying local habitats to the detriment of every single species in that area including the elephants themselves. That campaign was done through very similar means as this one and all the other ones around Melissa Bachman:  It is simple - use a few emotionally laden facts  and make it sound like it has been researched and voila you have millions of signatures. A few years later every one of those people decides to ignore the outcome of what they caused. Currently the revenue out of the US has led to a booming wildlife farming industry in Africa whereby hundreds of square kilometres are now being economically and sustainably used  for game rather than cattle and agriculture. Several species has been brought back from extinction through the " horrible" act of hunting e.g. the Sable Antelope, the Black Wildebeest to name but two. Lion play a key role in the generated income and while I know it is an unpopular idea, its role as a huge money spinner in conservation cannot be ignored. To do so could lead to the demise of many many species including lions. Private individuals make a living out of caring for these animals specifically due to its economic value. Taking away the largest income stream for them will put severe pressure on the industry in SA and will probably eventually cause it to collapse. So before you lobby too much to stop the " hated"  trophy industry - really try to understand how the whole  industry operates. Properly researched statistics from Africa have shown that wherever controlled hunting of lion has been allowed their numbers are increasing - simply because people can make money from them. Denying this connection could very well lead to their extinction. I am not a hunter, and I dearly love Africa and its wonderful variety of species but I am not blinded to the fact of how delicate the balance is between protection and hunting, So please I beg of you guys to really think clearly and look at the broad picture here per area in Africa before you could very easily cause the demise of specifically that which you are trying to protect. Please???  Please read http://www.science20.com/anthrophysis/can_you_save_threatened_species_hunting_it-86729   and  also  http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/opinionista/2013-11-19-in-defence-of-a-lion-killer/#.UoyezhpkN8G   (in the second article click through on all the links to see where the info is coming from)  and some of the actual scientific research specifically on lion hunting in Africa:   http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0029332


Marleny Rafferty
Marleny Rafferty

The U.S. should ban the import of trophy animals.  This might be the only way to drastically reduce the slaughter of these majestic creatures.  As it turns out Americans are the majority of hunters that travel to Africa to hunt.

Lorraine Phillips
Lorraine Phillips

Ban! 

Murder of any living being, animal or man, should not be encouraged and be allowed to freely gloat over!!

Giang Tien Kinh
Giang Tien Kinh

@Kathryn Baker Well, hunting for food at all is acceptable, as long as you do it morally and ethically, and not waste any body part. But yeah, I agree.

Joe Davies
Joe Davies

@David Shantz Thank you David. Please spread your message on facebook and twitter.  Esp to Chuck Schreiner and these other idiots that keep bringing up abortion.  

Edward Camp
Edward Camp

@David Shantz Finally a voice of reason and intelligence.  Reading the posts of those in favor of killing these beautiful creatures gives me the feeling that we are now living the movie idiocracy. 

Denine Scott
Denine Scott

@Jason Smith im a good republican who thinks this is repulsive!!!!!!!!! the planet, its species that inhabit are important.  Go educate yourself next time before you speak.  

Kathryn Baker
Kathryn Baker

@Jason Smith  Jason, why don't you go to a discussion of abortion or politics instead of getting off subject by interjecting your views here.

LM Wood
LM Wood

@Jason Smith


  Jason, you need to JUST SIT DOWN & SHUT UP !!! If you want to save the unborn, get off your butt & campaign for WOMENS' RIGHT TO BIRTH CONTROL !!   These so called Christians constantly b***** about abortion & parade around with pics of dead babies  then deny women the birth control that can stop abortions,meanwhile giving men access to all kinds of ED medication. How stupid is that ??? Dumber than dirt !!!  Always talking about the Bible,God & scripture.  If you really respect God THEN USE THE BRAINS GOD GAVE TO THE HUMAN RACE.  If you do that then you can save both babies & lions !! Sometimes I think they just want to exert control over women & have something to fuss about to give their miserable lives a purpose

Joe Davies
Joe Davies

@Jason Smith Jason, oh Jason, what is going on with you.  Thanks for the nonsense straw man.  One has nothing to do with the other.  Stop abortion?  Really?  Have you seen Mexico? San Salvador?  When women are forced to have a child whenever pregnant, and not allowed to plan families and make rational decisions - the economy turns to shit.  3rd world, buddy.  Half of the GDP is made up from women.  Women with 8 kids in (oppressively religious) countries, can't work.  They can't even feed their kids.  Poverty ensues and continues forever.  That's only one reason why women should have control over their reproductive rights.  There are so many more. 

Jason, get outside, read a book, visit another country, b/c you need to learn something.  Otherwise, your sad comments are only contributing to the ignorant.  

M. Fish
M. Fish

@Jason Smith Until this country can work together to fix its issues it will continue to fall apart. It is people like you that point, name call, and put all the blame on a group of people that you decided to lump together. The problem with America is not liberals or conservatives, its our brokenness and the fact that certain people will bypass LOGICAL and GREAT ideas just because they came out of the mouth of the opposing party. 


PS comparing the hunting of threatened/ endangered animals to abortion issues is completely illogical. Yes, lets compare the decline of a species to the overpopulation of another one?


Samantha Hope
Samantha Hope

@Jason Smith Wow, Jason, totally different topic all together, but if you really want to touch on it in that fashion.....

Maybe if mothers weren't forced to have children they can't afford to take of (because they'd rather do drugs like methamphetamine instead) our tax dollars wouldn't go to paying for things like food stamps and welfare. Overpopulation is already a major issue (except for lions, the issue is underpopulation) especially now that major corporations (Hobby Lobby) are allowed to deny insurance coverage for contraceptives based on "personal beliefs." Maybe "God" did not intend for us to "kill" unborn children, did "God" intend for us to kill his magnificent creatures so that we can hang their heads in our dens?

Denine Scott
Denine Scott

@Ray McMullen Diid you not read the article, which indeed how fitness works(passing of genetic material), its the biggest and strongest who pass their genes and the domino effect of trophy hunting in a population very well happens.  Like I mentioned to another person, educate yourself before you speak.  You have no idea how the biosphere functions apparently!  

Denine Scott
Denine Scott

@Ray McMullen are you an ecologist.... Do you have any education to back up your skepticism?  Then shut uppppppp.. because i do!!!

BJ DH
BJ DH

@Ray McMullen no it doesn't obviously you know nothing of africa and where most of the money from the industry goes, and that's in the outfitters and corrupt officials pocket. e for effort though. Also trophy hunting in the 70's and 80's is what caused the pandemic in african wildlife, and now because of asinine chinese "medicine" poaching has skyrocketed...

Mark Burley
Mark Burley

@Lourens Botha Your excuse is very weak and even less scientific.

In no way does your excuse actually justify the killing of Lions or any animal just for fun.

David Shantz
David Shantz

@Lourens BothaThe numbers don't add up. A poll of websites shows fees for guides ranging between $20-60,000 for a lion or elephant hunt. 

The kill fees in countires that allow it, are about $3-5k, of which, most is taken by local officials of varying integrity.  The only people making any money are a small number of professional hunters.


It is a particularly strange and twisted individual who would want to go take shots at one of these sentient beings. Professionals will concurr that it usually takes upwards of five rifle shots to down a bull elephant. I don't even want to talk about bow hunters... This is not conservation, neither financial or of habitat - it is a very small number of people who take some sort of sick pride in killing, and the people who profit from their mental disorders.  If animals must be culled, it should be done with a scientific basis and a tranquilizer dart, not by some amature taking pot-shots at baited animals looking for food.  

Despite any other motivation, we must evolve to a higher level of conciousness and to find a path to survival amongst all the beings we share what's left ofthe earth with. Playing with death is patently immoral. Hunters who are in it for their amusement are in many ways worse than bullfighters.  You seem very intelligent, watch this, and try to imagine explaining to a child how we can allow people to pay to kill these incredibly intelligent beings: http://bit.ly/1knzbQ9  Thank you



Lourens Botha
Lourens Botha

@Lorraine Phillips Please read my comment elsewhere to gain some further insight in how conservation in Africa/South Africa really works.

Michael Reid
Michael Reid

@Melissa Marks @Marleny Rafferty I personally find it more despicable that people would single out this woman and torch her all over the internet. Regardless of your thoughts on lion hunting, it is legal in South Africa. The social media shaming of this one woman (not the many male hunters who have killed lions) screams misogyny and misplaced anger. To respond to what may view as cruelty to animals with all the vitriol of hate and death threats cheapens one's viewpoint. One hunter is not to blame for the LEGAL hunting of lions on conservancies like this one where Bachman was hunting. People do not have to like it or agree with it, and that is perfectly acceptable. Discourse and disagreement are fine, but why attack one person? Is this not treating the symptom and not the cause? And is replying the way thousands of people (including celebrities) have with hate speech and sexist name calling the solution? People should come first. Otherwise this entire dialogue is one of chest-beating and name calling. If I wanted to be a part of that I could return to grade school. Lets have some perspective.

BJ DH
BJ DH

@Lourens Botha @Lorraine Phillips everyone knows how it works, no conservation is actually performed, the government officials involved get paid off, and so do the hunting outfits. almost no money is put back into conservation nice try though...

Lourens Botha
Lourens Botha

@Roy Glass @Michael Reid Roy, please read my comment elsewhere. However it being seen as despicable, trophy hunting is playing a huge role in protection lions. Stopping that will cause them to become extinct faster than guns from America will do it on controlled hunts. Attitudes and ignorance like yours are far more dangerous to lion than Melissa Bachman and other hunters are. Secondly to compare the situation in SA on a well managed game farm with the plight of lion in original wild areas in Africa where their biggest danger is loss of habitat to humans, is simply gross ignorance.  The two situations are simply worlds apart and make sure you understand why I can make that statement before you feel justified to support this.

Roy Glass
Roy Glass

@Michael Reid So its ok for her to kill a lion because its legal? The problem is that lions will soon be on the endangered list. It does not matter that she was a woman. The fact that she is glorifying trophy hunting when it should be stopped is wrong. People should not wish hate and harm to her i agree. But i do believe some laws should be changed.

BJ DH
BJ DH

@Lourens Botha @Roy Glass @Michael Reid no it doesn't trophy hunting is the main reason many of these animals are on the verge of extinction. You keep regurgitating SCI's nonsense, so you can keep waxing the remainder of the wildlife population to try and fill the insatiable greed that obviously knows no bounds.

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