Photo: Sukuma lion killer dancing

In order to collect reward payments for killing a lion a Sukuma lion killer performs a highly stylized tradition song and dance in which the story of the kill is retold.

Photograph by Aditya Swami

Halting Lion Hunting

Grantee: Emily Fitzherbert

About the Project

The greatest threat to lion populations across sub-Saharan Africa is thought to be direct killing of lions by local communities in retaliation to livestock killings. The Sukuma, who measure their wealth in heads of cattle, traditionally, killed lions in response to livestock losses and then were subsequently rewarded by their clansmen with gifts. Research now shows that the driving motivation behind Sukuma lion killing has shifted from retaliation for livestock loss, to the money given for killing a lion. Now men actively hunt lions for money in the National Park.

This project, run by Big Cats grantee Emily Fitzherbert, is the first to attempt to halt lion killings by local communities where economic gain is the primary motive. Fitzherbert hopes that the following approaches will halt this new trend of Sukuma lion hunting.

  • Removal of Economic Incentive: Working with Sukuma households to ensure universal refusal to reward lion hunters.
  • Regulation: Sukuma lion hunting is illegal and a blatant manipulation of Sukuma tradition. We will work to the adoption of an anti lion hunting policy by the Sungusungu a traditional policing institution.
  • Ecological literacy: A cross-societal education program during key community members' visits to the National Park, environmental film shows and the integration of environmental workbooks into schools.


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