The trophy hunting of lions is contentious due to increasing evidence of impacts on wild
populations, and ethical concerns surrounding the hunting of captive-bred lions in South
Africa. The captive-bred lion hunting industry in South Africa has grown rapidly while the
number of wild lions hunted in other African countries has declined. In 2009 and 2010,
833 and 682 lion trophies were exported from South Africa, respectively, more than double
the combined export (2009, 471; 2010, 318) from other African countries. There has been an
associated increase in the prevalence of the export of lion bones from South Africa: at least
645 bones/sets of bones were exported in 2010, 75.0% of which went to Asia. Such trade
could be problematic if it stimulated demand for bones from wild lions or other wild felids.
Captive-bred lion hunting differs from wild lion hunting in that lions are hunted in smaller
areas (49.9 ± 8.4 km2compared to 843 to 5933 km2, depending on the country), hunts are
cheaper (US$20 000–40 000 compared to US$37 000–76 000 [excluding the costs of shooting
other species and government charges]), shorter (3.3 compared to 14–21 days), success
rates are higher (99.2% compared to 51.0–96.0%), and trophy quality is higher (skull length +
breadth = 638.8 compared to 614–638 cm). Most clients perceive captive-bred and wild lion
hunting to be different products but there is some overlap in markets: 48.7% of clients that
had hunted captive-bred lions showed no preference regarding the type of future hunts.
Owing to the size of the captive-bred hunting industry, even marginal overlap in demand
could affect wild lion hunting significantly. If captive-bred lion hunting were ever prohibited,
a transfer of demand to wild lion hunts could lead to elevated off-takes with negative impacts
on wild populations. However, if off-takes of wild lions were held constant or reduced
through effective regulation of quotas, increased demand could increase the price of wild
lion hunts and strengthen financial incentives for lion conservation. These possibilities
should be considered if future efforts are made to regulate captive-bred lion hunting.