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What The Safari Hunting Industry Doesn't Want You To Know About Killing Lions

MYTH: Killing animals helps preserve them.

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This past May I attended the National Rifle Association convention in Houston, Texas. To be honest, nothing really surprised or shocked me at the convention, except one thing: There was an entire aisle dedicated to exotic animal hunting excursions.

Up until then, I had no idea you could legally hunt lions, zebras, elephants, leopards, etc.


Fast-forward six months later...

In October, I spent three days with lion experts Beverly and Dereck Joubert in Botswana. You may have seen my face before in this post. Sry.

BuzzFeed/Matt Stopera

The Jouberts told me that lions are the most important creatures to study because they are a top predator. Without lions, the whole system falls apart.


Beverly and Dereck have been making films and studying lions for over 30 years now. They are both citizens of Botswana.

BuzzFeed/Matt Stopera

Their latest film, Game Of Lions, premieres on Nat Geo Wild Dec. 1.

In its place, Botswana has adopted a low-impact, small-footprint, ecotourism model. It's one of exclusivity.

The Jouberts have started their own resorts adopting this eco-friendly model in Botswana and Kenya. They have a "copy left" instead of "copyright" mentality. Basically this means they'll give any group their entire business model — everything from how they make their tents to how they build their trucks.


Before these anti-hunting laws went into effect, Botswana had areas called "hunting concessions" where safari hunting was legal.

Since safari hunting is now banned, these former hunting concessions are being auctioned off.

Here's an old map of hunting concessions one safari company in Botswana owned:

The Jouberts said they hope other tourism agencies buy these concessions and turn them into eco-friendly resorts. That way, the area can return back to its original, wild state.

The Jouberts said this is what happens when you kill one male lion:

1. Other male lions come in.

2. They kill every cub in that territory.

3. Up to 30 cubs can die.


Which brings me back to the NRA...

Matt Stopera/ BuzzFeed

An argument many people make about the conservation of lions is that they're not even on the endangered species list or "red list." According to the Jouberts, the reason they aren't on the red list is because lobby groups like the NRA and Safari Club International have strong lobbies that keep them off of it.


Now for some myths. There are two common myths that people have about safari hunting.

MYTH: Revenues from hunting go back and benefit small villages.

Dereck says that revenue almost always stays outside of Africa. They don't benefit small villages. Most of these safari companies are American run. Of 600 permits to kill lions in all of Africa in 2012, 566 were bought by Americans.

MYTH: Safari hunting brings jobs to villages.

This is only half true. The ecotourism model brings better jobs to villages. Instead of learning how to skin an animal, a villager may be taught how to do plumbing in a camp. This job is more sustainable than a job dependent on skinning animals.

To wrap things up, it all comes down to this: