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Lion-hunting is legal in parts of Africa despite concern
JOHANNESBURG (AP) – It is, for some well-heeled foreign visitors, the ultimate African experience: the thrill of hunting a lion, one of the “Big Five” animals whose habitats are under increasing pressure from human encroachment. Now an American dentist’s killing of a celebrity lion in Zimbabwe has triggered global revulsion, highlighting what critics say is an industry of trophy hunting that threatens vulnerable species across sub-Saharan Africa.
Hunting is banned in Kenya and Botswana, which depend heavily on income from tourists who flock to see wildlife on tours that often combine a sense of adventure with luxury lodging in the bush. Many more countries, including South Africa, Namibia and Tanzania, allow it, arguing that it benefits communities and funnels high-priced fees from hunters back into conservation. Opponents, however, warn that regulations are often poorly enforced or overlooked by unscrupulous operators.
Such suspicions are swirling in Zimbabwe, where a professional hunter, Theo Bronkhorst, was charged Wednesday with failing to “prevent an unlawful hunt” while working for Minnesota resident Walter James Palmer, who killed Cecil, a well-known lion with a distinctive black mane, in early July. Conservationists say a dead animal was tied to a car to draw the lion out of a national park, and that Palmer first wounded Cecil with a bow before fatally shooting him with a gun after 40 hours of tracking.
Palmer, who said he relied on his professional guides to ensure a legal hunt, has been vilified globally on social media and talk shows and has closed his dental practice for now.
“Cecil is not the first lion that has been lured,” said Ian Michler, a South African conservationist. “It goes on all the time. Unethical hunting is rife across the continent.”
Michler, who made a documentary film called “Blood Lions” that came out this year, said nearly 1,000 lions that are bred in captivity in South Africa are fatally shot every year by trophy seekers for an average of about $20,000, and sometimes up to $50,000, in conditions that can hardly be described as sporting. There is also an increasing phenomenon of lion owners charging tourists, many from Europe but also Australia and the United States, to pet and cuddle cubs earmarked for trophy kills when they get older, he said.
South Africa maintains that its legal hunting industry adheres to international agreements and actually contributes to the welfare of species, including lion, elephant and rhino.
Hunting “is a source of much needed foreign exchange, job creation, community development and social upliftment,” Environment Minister Edna Molewa said in a July 23 statement. She welcomed a decision by the cargo division of South African Airways, the national carrier, to lift an embargo on the transport of legally acquired hunting trophies of lion, elephant, rhino and tiger.
Molewa said the industry in South Africa is valued at about $490 million annually, but some conservationists believe the figure is inflated to bolster the argument that hunting is an economic boon. In a 2013 report, a group called Economists at Large cited estimated that trophy hunting generates $200 million in African communities, but said the figure should be used “with caution” and is a relatively insignificant part of total tourism revenue.
Lions are designated as vulnerable on an international “red list” of species facing threats. By one estimate, fewer than 20,000 lions exist in the wild, a drop of about 40 percent in the past two decades. Another estimate puts the number at closer to 30,000. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has taken note of successful lion conservation in southern Africa, but said West African lions are critically endangered and that rapid population declines were also recorded in East Africa.
Cecil, the Zimbabwean lion that was killed, was wearing a satellite collar installed by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at the University of Oxford.
“Our goal is to understand the threats that lions face, and to use cutting-edge science to develop solutions to those threats,” director David Macdonald said on the unit’s website. He said the unit has tracked the movements of over 100 lions by satellite.
Prince Mupazviriho, permanent secretary in Zimbabwe’s ministry of environment, water and climate, said the hunting of a collared lion was an isolated incident.
“Short of going on a culling exercise where you are just shooting animals willy-nilly in order to reduce numbers, there is need to have a scientific way of doing it, which also brings resources for purposes of conservation,” he said.
This year, Zambia announced the lifting of a 2-year-old ban on hunting lions and other big cats, Zambian media reported in May.
On its website, a group called Central African Wildlife Adventures offers hunts in Central African Republic, though it has suspended operations for now because of political instability and violence there. The website describes an almost mystical experience in which the hunter and the hunted lion are equals.
It says: “The last and final contact is usually done at close range, with the lion appearing from nowhere in the green foliage. Without a warning or a sound, the King of Beasts is suddenly there and the time has come for two of the most powerful predators on earth to meet.”
Associated Press writer Farai Mutsaka contributed to this report from Harare, Zimbabwe.
Major League Soccer, HEINEKEN USA and TEAM Coalition Encouraged Fans to Be Responsible at the 2015 AT&T MLS All-Star Game
Denver, CO, July 30, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – Major League Soccer (MLS), Colorado Rapids, HEINEKEN USA and TEAM Coalition encouraged supporters to be responsible while attending the 2015 AT&T MLS All-Star Game and Soccer Celebration on Wednesday, July 29 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, CO.
Responsibility Has Its Rewards is an MLS league-wide sweepstakes that rewards one randomly-selected supporter, who pledged to be a designated driver during the previous regular season, with a trip to the All-Star Game. This year’s winner is Nancy Butterfield, a responsible Colorado Rapids supporter who attended the 2015 AT&T MLS All-Star Game with her guest, Glen Butterfield. Butterfield was recognized on the field, serving as a representative of the 33,150 MLS supporters who pledged to be designated drivers last season.
“Major League Soccer is happy to support and continue to work alongside TEAM Coalition in support of the key objectives of improving the game day experience for all our guests, together with the extremely successful Responsibility Has Its Rewards and the Designated Driver programs,” said Ray Whitworth, Vice President of Operations & Security with Major League Soccer. “The work that TEAM continues to be involved in can only make our events safer and more secure for all attending and supporting soccer. We are privileged to be a partner with TEAM.”
86 supporters pledged to be responsible at the 2015 MLS Soccer Celebration held at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park before the game. All soccer fans who visited the TEAM Coalition booth at Soccer Celebration received a souvenir photo displaying the responsibility message along with All-Star images.
“HEINEKEN USA is proud to be a member of TEAM Coalition and promote responsibility throughout the MLS season,” said Tara Rush, Senior Vice President and Chief of Corporate Relations at HEINEKEN USA. “The Responsibility Has Its Rewards program is an engaging way to support designated drivers in making responsible decisions. By working with TEAM Coalition and MLS, we support a fun and safe environment for our fans to enjoy the great game of soccer.”
MLS clubs promote responsible drinking among soccer supporters by implementing designated driver programs at their stadiums throughout the season and training employees in effective alcohol management.
“The success of the Responsibility Has Its Rewards campaign with Major League Soccer, HEINEKEN USA is a direct result of the commitment from the League, the MLS clubs, sponsors, concessionaires and all the campaign partners,” said Jill Pepper, executive director of TEAM Coalition. “Teamwork is what this campaign is all about. We are demonstrating that when everyone - including the fans - takes responsibility, everyone wins.”
Headquartered in New York City, Major League Soccer features 20 clubs throughout the United States and Canada. The 2015 season features the most comprehensive U.S. media rights partnership in the history of the league, as eight-year agreements with ESPN, FOX Sports and Univision Deportes commenced. The 2015 regular season schedule can be viewed here. For more information about MLS, visit www.MLSsoccer.com.
About TEAM Coalition
TEAM Coalition is an alliance of professional and collegiate sports, entertainment facilities, concessionaries, stadium service providers, the beer industry, distillers, broadcasters, traffic safety experts and others working together to promote responsible drinking and positive fan behavior at sports and entertainment facilities. TEAM Coalition members and supporters include Major League Soccer, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, NASCAR, National Football League, National Hockey League, National Collegiate Athletic Association, Aramark, Delaware North Sportservice, Legends, Spectra, Beer Institute, National Beer Wholesalers Association, Anheuser-Busch Companies, HEINEKEN USA, MillerCoors, Brown-Forman, Live Nation, National Association of Broadcasters, Contemporary Services Corporation, Elite, International Association of Venue Managers, Stadium Managers Association and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.