Quantifying lion (Panthera leo) demographic response following a three-year moratorium on trophy hunting

Thandiwe Mweetwa, David Christianson, Matt Becker, Scott Creel, Elias Rosenblatt, Johnathan Merkle, Egil Dröge, Henry Mwape, Jones Masonde, Twakundine Simpamba

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4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Factors that limit African lion populations are manifold and well-recognized, but their relative demographic effects remain poorly understood, particularly trophy hunting near protected areas. We identified and monitored 386 individual lions within and around South Luangwa National Park, Zambia, for five years (2008–2012) with trophy hunting and for three additional years (2013–2015) during a hunting moratorium. We used these data with mark-resight models to estimate the effects of hunting on lion survival, recruitment, and abundance. The best survival models, accounting for imperfect detection, revealed strong positive effects of the moratorium, with survival increasing by 17.1 and 14.0 percentage points in subadult and adult males, respectively. Smaller effects on adult female survival and positive effects on cub survival were also detected. The sex-ratio of cubs shifted from unbiased during trophy-hunting to female-biased during the moratorium. Closed mark-recapture models revealed a large increase in lion abundance during the hunting moratorium, from 116 lions in 2012 immediately preceding the moratorium to 209 lions in the last year of the moratorium. More cubs were produced each year of the moratorium than in any year with trophy hunting. Lion demographics shifted from a male-depleted population consisting mostly of adult (4 years) females to a younger population with more (>29%) adult males. These data show that the three-year moratorium was effective at growing the Luangwa lion population and increasing the number of adult males. The results suggest that moratoria may be an effective tool for improving the sustainability of lion trophy hunting, particularly where systematic monitoring, conservative quotas, and age-based harvesting are difficult to enforce.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0197030
JournalPloS one
Volume13
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General

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    Mweetwa, T., Christianson, D., Becker, M., Creel, S., Rosenblatt, E., Merkle, J., Dröge, E., Mwape, H., Masonde, J., & Simpamba, T. (2018). Quantifying lion (Panthera leo) demographic response following a three-year moratorium on trophy hunting. PloS one, 13(5), [e0197030]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0197030