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Zambia bans game hunting of lions and leopards as populations fall

Zambia government decides that the charismatic big cats are more valuable alive as tourist attractions then dead as trophies.

AmurmotherandcubEnlarge
'Kathanga', a four-month-old Amur leopards (Panthera pardus orientalis) explores its enclosure next to its mother on July 8, 2011 at the zoo in Mulhouse, northeastern France. Every year there are about 250 to 350 births at the Mulhouse zoo. Some young animals, once weaned, can be introduced in protected zones of their original region. If not, they go to other zoos to make up other families. Genetic mixing is necessary for the animals' health and the survival of the species. (SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP/Getty Images)

The Zambian government has decided to ban the big-game hunting of lions and leopards within its borders, a considerable turn around for a country popular with trophy-seekers.

"Tourists come to Zambia to see the lion and if we lose the lion we will be killing our tourism industry," said Zambian tourism minister Sylvia Masebo to Reuters, noting that her country makes a relatively insignificant $3 million a year off the big game hunting industry.

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A press-release on the move, uploaded to a hunting website, notes that hunts will be banned only for 2013 while the government moves to "establish animal species baseline which will form the basis for future policy decisions."

The release added that the hunting of the two big cat species will be permitted on private game-ranches holding valid operating permits.

Zambia pulled in $125 million from tourism in 2010 and hopes to push those numbers up in the future by emphasizing wildlife conservation and management, according to a September Times of Zambia editorial on the wildlife tourism trade.

Zambian lions are thought to number about 4,500 writes the BBC, while the leopard population (a notoriously secretive animal) is unknown.

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Hunting guides Global Hunting Resources offer 21-day-long Zambian lion and leopard hunts for $68,800, and notes that the trophy fee for lions is $7,000, with a $5,000 going rate for leopards. 

Nearby Botswana plans to phase out hunting by 2014 over concerns about wildlife depopulation, wrote the BBC in November.

Wildlife-wealthy Kenya has banned sport hunting since 1977, although there are occasional murmurs about bringing the practice back.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/science/wildlife-news/130111/zambia-bans-game-hunting-lions-and-leopards-populations-f