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After Cecil the Lion’s Death, Hunt-a-Lion Raffles Are Probably Not a Good Idea

A raffle that would have allowed the winner to hunt a lion has been canceled after outrage online.

September 20, 2015 In reaction to the recent killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe, a stencil art protest sign appears on the sidewalk in Santa Barbara, California USA asking to end trophy hunting.
September 20, 2015 In reaction to the recent killing of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe, a stencil art protest sign appears on the sidewalk in Santa Barbara, California USA asking to end trophy hunting.

When professional hunter Martin Nel announced plans to sponsor a lion-hunting raffle next month, he must have thought wildlife advocates were done raging over the controversial killing of Cecil the lion by an American dentist in Zimbabwe last year.

But if so, he was very wrong.

So wrong, in fact, that after coming under intense criticism from wildlife groups, Nel has scrapped his plan to sell the raffle tickets — which were slated to go for $1,500 each at an event in Las Vegas in February.

LionAid, a U.K.-based advocacy group for lions, was one of the most vocal critics of the raffle, which Nel said would have given winners the option to either tag a lion for research or shoot one dead — all in the name of conservation. The group launched a campaign on Facebook and Twitter to publicize their opposition to raffling off the opportunity to kill a vulnerable lion despite the money raised being ostensibly used for a good cause.

According to Nel, the proceeds would have been donated to Zimbabwe’s Bubye Valley Conservancy — the same place the hunt would have taken place. The conservancy reportedly has roughly 500 lions on their property.

But WildCRU, an Oxford University-affiliated wildlife research group that operates at Bubye, said they did not approve any such raffle and would not have accepted funds from a program that encouraged the killing of lions.

In a Facebook post last week, LionAid called the cancellation a “VICTORY FOR CONSERVATION!!”

But Nel stood by his proposal. According to him, there are more lions in hunting areas that in national parks. And if hunting isn’t organized, he said in a statement about the cancelation that “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?”

Photo Credit: Lisa Werner/Getty Images

Siobhán O’Grady is a freelance journalist working across sub-Saharan Africa. She previously worked as a staff writer at Foreign Policy. @siobhan_ogrady

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