Importing Sport Hunted Lions - A Conservation Conversation

by Sean Scott

While its hard to get very excited about anything in these days of self-isolation and quarantines hunters do have some cause to be happy about some of last year’s changes to imports of sport hunted trophies. 


USFWS has begun to allow the import of lions again but under very strict guidelines in comparison to the pre-ban era. No canned or high fenced animals are being considered (most if not all of that place and take style of hunting was done in South Africa which has an export ban themselves) but if you are interested in hunting a lion the time is now. There are some basic guidelines that you will want to follow to ensure successful importation of your trophy which I will cover here and a little information on why these hunts are not going to be inexpensive.


Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Zambia have CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, also known as the Washington Convention) allowing for the sport hunting and harvest of lions.  That being said we all know how much credence USFWS has put on following the convention despite the sound science behind the entire program. USFWS originally banned the importation of lion along with Elephants based on what they said was “lack of study, management and abundant corruption in African game departments” so now in order to remain as politically correct as possible and to lessen the objections of the anti-groups USFWS has made permits available only if there is “proof of benefit to both wildlife and the surrounding community”. They have ceased to require each permit be placed on the USFWS web site for public discussion and overview with the applicants personal information exposed so that is a move in the right direction, but hunters interested in doing a big cat hunt must make certain the hunt meets the higher level of criteria as now required. 

In Tanzania the Tanzania Wildlife Authority, which implements the country’s Wildlife Conservation Act, the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute, an organization under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism conducts wildlife research and has and can provided information to USFWS verifying sustainability of lion hunting in specific areas. If you are planning on a hunt in Tanzania your professional hunter should be able to provide the specific study results for the area where your hunt will occur in advance which you can then submit with your import application PRIOR to the hunt. Once the permit is in hand then no problem with importing your very expensive trophy from Tanzania. Overall Tanzania has done a good job of covering most hunting areas with the survey program but if your see some kind of less expensive “deal” being offered be very suspect and demand proof of sustainability before sending a deposit! A sportsperson should expect to have about $100,000.00 US$ in the hunt by the time you are done with the hunt, license, import fees, shipping and travel.


Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority has also made great efforts to get lion hunts rolling again and is by far the most reasonable hunting available for lion and most other dangerous game species in Africa. Our Metetsi Unit 5 was one of the first areas in Zimbabwe to have a NON-Detrimental Findings Report probably due to the fact that the infamous CECIL was a fairly common resident at Metetsi V before his demise and the entire Walter Palmer hunt that was so widely seen and misrepresented around the world. Matetsi V is just north of the main Hwange camp known as Robins Camp and it adjoins the Hwange border for nearly 50 kilometers starting just north of Robins Camp and extending to almost the eastern border of Hwange and has a great lion population so it was a logical point for Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority to start with their survey. However, there are ZPWMA issued permits out there that WILL NOT pass USFWS approval so again if it seems like a deal too good to be true it probably is! In December we were offered 2 cats with proper ZPWMA export documents near Gonarezhou National Park but when I did some looking into the area and owner I discovered that it was private ground (NOT  SIEZED so that was ok) and that NO NDF was available nor was one planned. Yes, there were abundant lion in the area, but exports would not be likely to be approved by USFWS, so I passed on the quota despite the very attractive price that was offered. Lion hunts in Zimbabwe should be in the $55,000.00 to $65,000.00 range and there is a reason they should be predictably in this range. ZPWMA charges about $25,000.00 per permit for trophy lion permits so any company offering the hunt MUST have $50,000.00 to ensure they at least break even on the permit price if the hunt is unsuccessful (at $50K they will be losing all expenses incurred, PH, fuel , food etc.. which is why most are around $60K). While hunts have a very high success rate these are ALL fair chase and if you are being given a “guarantee” be cautious and get it in writing! Bottom line in Zimbabwe your hunting company should be able to produce the NDF and you should be able to obtain your USFWS import permit prior to the hunt. As an additional safeguard always make sure your pro has given you a copy of your TR2, essentially your hunting license, prior to leaving your home and without fail make certain you see it before you begin hunting! 

I had requested additional information about the extremely limited lion hunts in Namibia’s Caprivi Strip and Zambia’s Kafue Region hunts but received no clarification or response from either Namibia’s MET or Zambian Parks officials so any info would just be guessing but I have sold PAC hunts for lion in Namibia that had legitimate CITES export documents prior to the 2016 ban and I would advise hunters to pass on these as I am certain sustainability is not provable. 


While the future of these hunts is certainly unpredictable by obtaining an import permit now for your lion trophy you can be assured of a chance to take this magnificent animal and fill one of the most difficult of all the BIG FIVE with a fair chase lion trophy something few can boast of!!

As I wrap this up if there is any KCSCI member that has any questions about any hunt in Africa or travel issues please call us anytime we are always glad to help our fellow hunters no matter who you may be hunting with. All dead cats seen in my photos are from Zimbabwe and are 100% fair chase, the other pics I took on my many travels between Windhoek and Victoria Falls in Namibia, Botswana and Zim via the Caprivi highway! 

Be Safe, Be Healthy and Be Strong KC!!


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