LIONS (PANTHERA LEO) IN Botswana

Principle Threats

Pressures on land use from increasing human populations leading to continued fragmentation of the remaining suitable habitat coupled with indiscriminate killing in defense of life and livestock and prey base depletion are recognized as being the principle causes for their decline.

Human-lion conflict poses a significant threat in Botswana.  Chardonnet et al. (2010) reports that in 1999–2000, an average of 25 lions per year were destroyed under problem animal control in the Okavango delta; an average of seven lions per year were destroyed in the Pan region (Vernon Booth, pers. comm.).”  Poisoning of lions has also been reported in Botswana.  Chardonnet et al. (2010) state that “despite the recent ban on lion killing, lion poisoning is recorded.  Farmers, particularly pastoralists, use poison to great effect.  But because poison is indiscriminate it may remove whole prides”

Chardonnet P, Soto B, Fritz H, Crosmary W, Drouet-Hoguet N, Mesochina P, Pellerin M, Mallon D, Bakker, L, Boulet H, Lamarque F (2010) Managing the conflicts between people and lion: Review and insights from the literature and field experience.  Wildlife Management Working Paper 13 (pdf)

The National Lion Workshop for Botswana, held in March 2006, considered the threats their lion population face:

Disease

The workshop concluded that FIV posed no threat to the lion population, although this remains disputed.

Trophy Hunting

Hunting of lions is now banned in Botswana but it was argued that previous low quotas over the past two decades had resulted in having “minimal impact” on the population as a whole.  “However, what became very clear during the workshop is that substantial tension exists between some segments of the phototourism and trophy hunting sectors. The main source of this tension is that the photo-tourism operators object to lions, which they spend time habituating to tourism vehicles, getting shot in adjoining hunting blocks when they move into those areas. Sometimes this also then leads to disruption of the pride that those males were with. This is a real problem at times, and is exacerbated by the scenic beauty and wildlife splendour of even the peripheral areas of the delta being as highly suitable to photo-tourism, as they are for hunting. Essentially the problem thus lies in the spatial and/or temporal zonation of the land-use pattern. Unless this can be addressed, both parties need to try and develop ways of minimizing this conflict, primarily through better communication and understanding.”

Human-Lion Conflict

This was considered the biggest threat to lions in Botswana, noting that it “undoubtedly leads to the highest number of dead lions”.  Particular hotspots were noted including, “along the Boteti River in the area of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Parks the conflict is so intense that the government has erected a fence to help minimize the problems. Similar fences erected for the same reason in other parts of Botswana, e.g. the southern boundary of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, have resulted in reduced levels of conflict. They, however, require the necessary maintenance in order to be effective. In areas of less severe conflict, or where fences are clearly not an ecologically wise option, other strategies must be pursued to minimize conflict. The main thrust needs to be in developing and encouraging livestock husbandry and wildlife management practices that facilitate co-existence as much as possible. Alternative creative and practical solutions need to be tested, and if found to be useful, encouraged. Furthermore, the current financial compensation system should be reviewed, as in many respects it has created a society dependent on government handouts. One set of suggestions to replace direct compensation, revolved around the development of insurance programs whereby the state, other financial sources, and the livestock owners themselves all invest (financially and through improved husbandry) and thus have a stake in the program. The value of wildlife to communities was also clearly expressed, and it was felt that facilitating the destruction of some problem animals through financially more rewarding trophy hunts, would substantially increase the tolerance towards large predators in some areas.”

Botswana First National Lion Workshop (html)

Trade in Lions

The hunting of lions is prohibited in Botswana

Number of wild source lions estimated in international trade, 1999-2008:       422
Average annual wild source trade as percent of population size*:                       1.4%
* Used average of Chardonnet (2002) and Bauer & van der Merwe (2004) studies

“Botswana banned lion trophy hunting (Packer et al., 2009) in 2001-2004 and again in 2007 through the present (Davidson, Valeix, Loveridge, Madzikanda, & Macdonald, 2011), owing to concerns over the species’ conservation status within the country, but commercial trade in lions and lion parts continues. Between 1999 and 2008, Botswana exported 5,633 lion specimens including 5,148 scientific specimens, 155 trophies, 274 skins, 31 live animals and two bodies.  This represents the export of at least 462 lions (adding trophies, skins, live animals and bodies). 

5,606 of 5,633 (99.5 percent) lion specimens exported from Botswana during the decade originated from a wild source.  This represents at least 435 wild source lions (adding bodies (2), live (4), skins (274), and trophies (155)). However, twelve of the wild source lion trophies exported originated in Mozambique and one in Zimbabwe; thus the total number of Botswana wild source lions exported during the decade was 422.The only other sources of lions exported were captive-bred (13) and captive-born (14).  Of the 435 wild source lions or their parts exported, 249 were exported for commercial purposes most of which were skins (229) to South Africa.  The trophies and skins of 149 lions were exported as hunting trophies, most of which were trophies (104) exported to the U.S. The parts of an additional 35 lions were exported for personal purposes including 30 skins to South Africa.  A large number of specimens were exported from Botswana for scientific purposes, particularly to the U.S. Botswana exported 423 wild source lions 1999-2008 out of a population of 3,063, or 13.8 percent of the population (annualized, this is 1.4 percent of the population). Although Botswana placed a moratorium on lion trophy hunting from 2001 through 2004 (Packer et al., 2009), and no trophies were exported those years, export of trophies resumed thereafter, averaging 23 per year 2005-2008, as did the export of skins to South Africa for commercial purposes, averaging 17.6 per year 2004-2008.

Packer et al. (2009) discussed the historic over-utilization of lions in Southern Africa, stating that “…offtakes peaked, then fell sharply in the 1980’s and 1990’s in Botswana, CAR, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.” This downward harvest trend “…most likely reflected declining population sizes: success rates (as measured by harvest/quota) have fallen” for lions (Packer et al., 2009, p. 2). This occurred even as demand for lion trophies has grown in the U.S. and has held stable in the European Union since the mid-90s. Packer et al. (2009) identified Botswana as one of the countries where trophy hunting is likely to have contributed to the decline in lion populations in the 1980s and 1990s.”

Place J, Flocken J, Travers W, Waterland S, Telecky T, Kennedy C, Goyenechea A (2011) Petition to list the African Lion (Panthera leo leo) as endangered pursuant to the US Endangered Species Act.  The International Fund for Animal Welfare, The Born Free Foundation, The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International, Defenders of Wildlife (pdf)

Lions in Culture

The lion is represented in traditional folklore and modern-day books and films.

A folklore from the Setswana-speaking people of Botswana tells of a young married woman who discovers her husband may actually be a lion.  However, she doesn’t find out until after they’ve had two sons, who may be cubs. (book - purchase required)

‘The Lion Children’ is a book detailing the adventures of a young family who give up their life in the Cotswolds in England, to move to Botswana to study lions.  Taken from photographs, drawing and notes taken at the time, the book provides a record of the lions they tracked across the Okavango Delta. (book - purchase required)

Governing Body

Republic of Botswana
Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism
PO Box 131
Gaborone
Botswana

Email:  dwnp@gov.bw
http://www.mewt.gov.bw/

Vision

Our success will be determined by sustained fish and wildlife populations and their habitats; a significant contribution by the fisheries and wildlife sector to the economy; the participation of Botswana in the sustainable utilization of fish and wildlife resources; the delight of those who experience the natural assets of the country; staff satisfaction; enthusiastic support of government and other stakeholders; and the demonstrated pride of the nation.

The Department of Wildlife and National Parks will effectively conserve the fish and wildlife of Botswana in consultation with local, regional and international stakeholders for the for the benefit of present and future generations. We will promote and facilitate sustainable utilization of fish and wildlife resources through active participation of citizens. We place emphasis on partnerships with the private and sector to fully develop potential of fish as wildlife resources.

Values

  • Integrity: The department strives to maintain partnerships with its stakeholder through mutual trust, honesty and reliability
  • Courtesy: DWNP service delivery will be evidenced by a courteous and responsive service to the satisfaction of our stakeholders
  • Team work: We are committed to teamwork. We shall develop and promote team spirit and active participation of team members in decision making. The team shall be self- disciplined, trustworthy and tolerant.
  • Innovation: We shall continuously seek to improve our levels of performance through innovation, creativity and application of new technology.
  • Competency: In search of excellence in fulfilling our individual and collective responsibilities, we shall seek to improve our competencies through training to achieve world class performance standards.”

Lions in the News

Miscellaneous

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