A professional hunter in Zimbabwe has cancelled a plan to raffle a lion hunt at a hunters' convention in the United States, following protests from activists.
LionAid, a UK-based charity dedicated to saving lions, trumpeted it as a "victory for conservation."
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Martin Nel said he is scrapping the raffle in which he hoped to sell 100 raffle tickets for $1,500 each in Las Vegas next month. LionAid had expressed shock at the proposal, which focused attention on the heated debate about whether hunting hurts already vulnerable species, or can help them by raising funds for conservation.
In a statement this month, Nel said the raffle winner could also have chosen to have a lion collared for research, and that the project was designed to raise funds for conservation studies at Zimbabwe's Bubye Valley Conservancy.
The conservancy defended its record, saying cattle ranchers had wiped out lions, rhinos, elephants and other wildlife in the area decades ago. Established in 1994, the conservancy reintroduced lions in 1999 and today has a population of nearly 500 as well as a significant number of endangered black rhinos, it said.
WildCRU, a wildlife research group based at Oxford University in Britain, operates at Bubye. It said it did not endorse any proposal to auction a lion hunt and would not accept any donation from such an event.
Last year, an American killed a well-known lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe in an allegedly illegal hunt, causing an international outcry. The number of wild lions in Africa has been dwindling for many years.
In his statement, Nel said there were more lions in Zimbabwe's hunting areas than in the country's national parks.
Without well-managed hunting operations, he said, "many hunting areas would go back to goats and cattle at the expense of the wildlife and their habitat — how can that be considered a win for conservation?"