Bans on the import or export of lion hunting trophies are counter-productive and will only make conservation more difficult, hunters say.
BY JENAN TAYLOR
The Federal Government’s new ban against importing and exporting lion trophies will deter conservation and encourage unsustainable practices, say hunting enthusiasts.
Shooters and Fishers Party MP Robert Borsak called the crackdown against the import or export of lion trophies obtained through "canned" hunting short-sighted, saying the Government had ignored data about "ethical" hunting.
Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt announced the ban at the Global March for Lions at Federation Square on Friday.
Mr Hunt said canned hunting involved breeding lions in enclosures specifically for hunting. “The lions are subjected to deeply inhumane practices, which on all of our watches we have to regard as unacceptable,” he said.
But Mr Borsak said the minister had failed to revisit information and classifications from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which recognised that “well-managed, sustainable” trophy hunting contributed to conservation efforts.
“Australia’s 900,000 hunters have every reason to be very angry with Minister Hunt, and should contact their Federal MP to let their feelings be known,” he said.
Victorian federal Liberal backbencher Jason Wood told mojonews.com.au he had heard from hunters who said they would now have to cancel booked trips because of the crackdown.
“Their beef is that they don’t believe [canned hunting] exists and others say it is sustainable and that people – locals and communities – are making money from it,” he said.
Mr Wood said some South African hunting websites offered a “smorgasbord” of options for hunters and that between 2010 and 2013, 29 lions or 91 lion parts had been brought in to Australia. The majority resulted from canned hunting, he said.
He said anyone who ignored the new restrictions would be heavily penalised, with fines “up to 10 years jail plus up to $170,00 for an individual and $850,000 for a corporation".
"You can’t bring any lion parts or export them. Only museums or zoos can, or specifically through the minister,” he said.
Several local and international animal rights groups – including the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Animals Australia – have welcomed the announcement.
IFAW regional director Isabel McCrea said fewer than 40,000 lions remained in the wild because of habitat loss and conflict with humans.
She said trophy hunting compounded the problem.
“There is now clear evidence showing that poorly regulated hunting is contributing to population declines not only through too many direct kills but by skewing the population’s genetic balance, as large males are selected by hunters and thus taken out of the gene pool,” Ms McCrea said.
At the march, Mr Wood also cautioned young Australian tourists to Africa against unwittingly becoming involved with canned hunting.
“There’s a been a huge deception that they will have an amazing experience and will be nursing orphaned lion cubs back to health, then leave, but don’t realise the conservation park is owned by the hunting industry,” Mr Woods said.
A number of onlookers at the march said they had been unaware of canned hunting and the issues behind it.
Local couple Aditi and Shrihari were passing by when they heard the march and stayed to watch. “It’s a very good idea, because animals also have the right to live,” Shrihari said.
Friends Tessa, Zoe, Amelia and Ruby said they hadn’t been aware of the issues or the march but had been outraged by the photos of cricketer Glenn McGrath posing with dead animals.
Animal advocate Jessica said she had been aware of trophy hunting and had come to support the march. She said that McGrath’s actions were “beyond belief” and she welcomed the Government's ban.
“It’s interesting that he is actually doing something as the environmental minister. I think people think it’s so far away in Africa that they don’t have to do anything, but elephants are going to be extinct because of the ivory issue, same with rhinos, orangutans. There are so many that deserve our consideration,” she said.