Library:The impact of sport-hunting on the population dynamics of an African lion population in a protected area (research)

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The impact of sport-hunting on the population dynamics of an African lion population in a protected area (research)

The impact of sport-hunting on the population dynamics of an African lion population in a protected area is a scientific article published in 2007 by Andrew J. Loveridge, Adam W. Searle and Fidelis Murindagomo in the journal Biological Conservation. The article reports the results of a six-year ecological study of African lions (Panthera leo) in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, and the effects of sport-hunting on the lion population within and outside the park.


Hwange National Park is a large protected area in northwestern Zimbabwe that covers 14,900 km2 and hosts a diverse wildlife community, including lions, elephants, buffaloes, leopards and cheetahs. The park is surrounded by safari areas and hunting concessions where sport-hunting of wildlife is permitted and regulated by the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (PWMA). Lions are often the most valuable species sold in safari hunting concessions, as they fetch the highest price and are in high demand by trophy hunters. However, there has been considerable debate as to whether hunting of this species is carried out on a sustainable basis in some areas.


The authors conducted an ecological study of lions in Hwange National Park and parts of the surrounding land from 1999 to 2004, using radio-telemetry and direct observation. They captured and marked a total of 62 lions (18 adult males, 10 sub-adult males, 34 females) from 26 distinct prides and 14 male groups. They monitored their movements, survival, reproduction and social behaviour. They also obtained data on hunting quotas and off-takes from PWMA records and field reports.


The study found that sport-hunting was the major cause of mortality for tagged lions, accounting for 72% of adult male deaths and 21% of female deaths. Sport hunters in the safari areas surrounding the park killed 72% of tagged adult males from the study area. Over 30% of all males shot were sub-adult (<4 years). Hunting off-take of male lions doubled during 2001–2003 compared to levels in the three preceding years, which caused a decline in numbers of adult males in the population (from an adult sex ratio of 1:3 to 1:6 in favour of adult females). Home ranges made vacant by removal of adult males were filled by immigration of males from the park core. Infanticide was observed when new males entered prides. The proportion of male cubs increased between 1999 and 2004, which may have occurred to compensate for high adult male mortality.


The study highlights the impact of sport-hunting on the lion population within a protected area and raises concerns about the sustainability of current hunting practices. The authors suggest that hunting quotas should be reduced and age limits should be enforced to ensure that only mature males are harvested. They also recommend that hunting areas should be buffered from protected areas by non-hunting zones to reduce the vacuum effect and prevent immigration of lions from core areas. They argue that sport-hunting should be integrated with conservation objectives and based on sound ecological data.

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