Lion hunting in Zambia is reopening after a few years of closure. Roland Norton, Chairman of the Professional Hunters Association of Zambia, explained what he sees as prospects for lion hunting there this coming year.
“Zambia is an amazing destination for lion,” noted Norton as he described the exclusively open range hunting opportunities. “You can be very confident that if you are going with a reputable outfitter, that you are going to get a really, really good lion,” he emphasized.
Norton’s positive outlook reflects an increased number of older lions in Zambia. Those lions that were two years old when the ban took effect are now five years old, three-year-olds are now six and four-year-olds are now seven.
Norton explained that originally the government tried to set the minimum age for a huntable lion at seven years, but there is no irrefutable way to determine the age of a live wild lion. “We agreed with government to a compromise,” said Norton, “and we agreed that a lion that was five years old or older would be permitted.”
Norton explained how male lions have a productive age, and a post-productive age at which time they become a target for the hunting industry.
“When a lion has gone beyond his productive age,” explained Norton, “he becomes a liability to the under lions who are trying to come in and take over his pride and breed his females.”
While nature often moves post-productive male lions aside, Norton pointed out that was a waste when instead hunting such a lion can draw so much revenue into a country and do so much good to a community.
According to Norton, Zambia has always had very good populations of lion and they always considered that they managed the lion populations very well. “The setting of a quota and the harvesting of the lion in a sustainable way is what’s absolutely of paramount importance,” he explained.
The quota for the upcoming hunting season is 24, “…and the lion we have coming up are really, really good quality trophy lion,” said Norton, adding that in his experience, it’s the PH’s professional duty to try and shoot the oldest and most viable trophy he or she can find.
Norton advised those SCI Members interested in hunting lion in Zambia to make sure while at Convention that their outfitter has a lion quota. “[W]e probably are going to have somewhere close to 100 percent success rate on lion this year, which is phenomenal,” he concluded.
SCI members should keep in mind that, in December 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”) adopted a regulation requiring an importation permit for every African lion hunted on or after January 22, 2016. To obtain a permit, the hunter/importer must demonstrate that the importation enhances the survival of the species. At the time of posting, the FWS (1) has not issued any permits for the importation of African lions, (2) has not made either a positive or negative enhancement finding for the importation of lions from Zambia or any other African country, and (3) has not identified the criteria necessary to demonstrate enhancement. Until the FWS makes a positive enhancement finding, either on a permit-by-permit or country-wide basis, it will not be possible for U.S. hunters to import their legally hunted lions into the United States.