LOCAL conservationist, Johnny Rodrigues, has called for a ban on lion trophy hunting following reports that 131 collared lions were shot dead after they had strayed out of Hwange National Park between 2006 and 2015.
By Nokuthaba Dlamini
Rodrigues of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force said three lions, including Cecil’s son, Xanda had been shot outside the giant reserve recently.
Cecil was shot outside the Hwange National Park by American dentist, Walter Palmer in 2015.
The lion was a major tourist attraction at the national park and was being tracked by the University of Oxford as part of a major study.
Its death sparked international outrage, with some activists calling for a ban on lion trophy hunting.
Rodrigues called for a review of the licences given to the researchers.
“Cecil the lion’s son was shot in Hwange near the same area Cecil was shot and he leaves behind a few cubs,” he said.
“Apparently, there was communication between the researchers and the hunters on the location of Cecil’s son.
“The lion is a collared lion, so it seems strange that yet again another collared lion has been shot even though Wildlife Conservation Unit (WILDCRU) and the professional hunters communicated about his whereabouts.”
Rodrigues said between 2006 and 2015, 131 collared lions at the reserve were killed.
“Ten of the lions were poached and their collars recovered, but as for the others, their deaths are a mystery,” he said.
“We believe that the permits and licences should be withdrawn from the guardians, as they are only appeasing their masters, SCI and Oxford University.”
However, Environment minister Oppah Muchinguri (pictured) dismissed Rodrigues’ claims, saying researchers from Oxford University were doing a good job at the Hwange National Park.
“Rodrigues was paid a lot of money after the death of Cecil, but he never contributed a cent to research on lions, unlike some of us who were appointed with the good care, which Cecil got from the team from Oxford University,” she said.
“Cecil was kept for 14 years and he was in the company of other lions that were not part of the research, so for some crazy man to call for a ban because of Cecil’s death doesn’t make sense.
“There are other lions that are being monitored, so you cannot use one lion. Any educated researcher will dismiss that.
“He has to prove his claims to us because he is lying, he is a liar. I don’t know whether he is educated or not because he doesn’t have evidence of any kind.”
Muchinguri said the lion population in Zimbabwe had grown to 1 500 from 500 in 10 years, as a result of the country’s effective conservation methods.
She said trophy hunting remained a sustainable way of maintaining the lion population to acceptable levels.
Conservationists have remained critical of the government’s wildlife management policy, particularly after the chaotic land reform programme that started in the year 2000.