Australia Bans 'Inhumane' Hunting Trophies From Lion Body Parts; Animal Welfare Groups Welcome Decision

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A lion yawns on the plains of the Masai Mara game reserve.
IN PHOTO: A lion yawns on the plains of the Masai Mara game reserve, November 13, 2008. REUTERS/LASZLO BALOGH

Australia has banned the import and export of hunting trophies made from lion body parts. The ban is an attempt to reduce organised hunting in South Africa.

Australian Environment Minister Greg Hunt has signed an order to prevent the entry of the hunting trophies, that has immediately taken effect. The Guardian reports that trophies often come from “canned hunting” or an artificial type of slaughter. Lions bred in captivity are placed in enclosed spaces, where tourists can shoot them using guns or crossbows. The chance to shoot a lion comes at a cost of thousands of dollars.

Hunt described canned hunting as “cruel” and “barbaric.” He had previously announced that the crackdown on hunting trophies made from lion body parts was part of a global campaign. The environment minister said canned hunting is done in “inhumane conditions” as some lions were drugged. “It is simply not acceptable in our day, in our time, on our watch,” added Hunt.

Liberal MP Jason Wood had first brought the issue with Hunt. The environment minister said he was hoping that other nations would follow Australia’s lead to prevent the decline of the world’s lion population.

Under the Australian law, those who are found guilty of wildlife trade offences will be subjected to a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment. Individuals will also pay a fine of up to $170,000. Corporations convicted of the same offence will be required to pay up to $850,000.

Less than 40,000 African lions are in the wild as the population declines by nearly half in the last 25 years, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare. The drop in numbers is attributed to loss of habitat and human activity. The IFAW said canned hunting contributed to the dwindling number of lions through “direct kills” and disruption of the genetic balance of the lion population. Large male lions were usually taken out of the herd to be shot by paying tourists.

IFAW regional director Isabel McCrea said she welcomed Australia’s ban on hunting trophies as the decision reflects the country’s intolerance of the “inhumane practice” of canned hunting. She congratulated Hunt for taking a stand for lion conservation. McCrea added that she remains hopeful that New Zealand, the United States and the EU would make the same effort.

Animal conservation groups praised the ban with Humane Society International calling Australia’s decision as “unprecedented,” reports SMH. Campaign director Michael Kennedy said African lion has become a vulnerable species and the ban on the import of trophies signals Australia’s commitment to minimise the risk of the animal’s extinction.  

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