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British politics

If you want to save lions, let people hunt them

Peter Schatz/Getty

“Are African animals the responsibility of UK politicians?” asks Amy Dickman in The Critic. MPs certainly seem to think so. Large numbers of them are this week touting a new parliamentary bill aimed at banning the import of hunting trophies made from the skins or heads of leopards, elephants, lions, cheetahs and zebras. Rich white hunters, the argument goes, are “killing the last few of these magnificent animals”, driving them ever closer to extinction. Perhaps it looks that way from Westminster. But in the local communities that actually conserve these creatures, the feeling is just the opposite.

The reality is that photo-tourism alone simply doesn’t generate enough money to cover the costs of protecting these “vast wild areas”. But trophy hunting – which can cost upwards of $100,000 per expedition – very much can. That’s why it is so popular among conservationists: more lion range is conserved in Africa’s hunting areas than in its national parks. As for the argument that the sport is driving species to extinction, that’s total bunk. The real threat isn’t a few bloodthirsty Surrey dentists but large-scale habitat loss and poaching. Leading scientists and “representatives of millions of rural Africans” have warned repeatedly that the UK’s bill would “undermine global conservation efforts”. But it has become wrapped up in emotion and misinformation – analysis by Oxford scientists found that “three-quarters of verifiable statements made by supportive MPs were false”. If we truly value wildlife, “it deserves far better than lies becoming legislation”.