When an American dentist killed a beloved African lion named Cecil last summer, the world responded with outrage. But for biologists, the issue is more complicated. African lions are in a downward spiral. And biologists have long seen trophy hunting as a vital tool to support conservation and help local people tolerate animals that kill their loved ones and livestock. Even so, with Africa’s population growing rapidly, some are calling for a radically different approach.
To get a better sense of how biologists view the issue of trophy hunting and the risks facing lions, both in Africa and the U.S., I explored the issue with two leading lion experts. One, Chris Wilmers, studies the American lion, commonly known as the mountain lion or puma. The other, Craig Packer, has studied African lions for several decades.
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Liza Gross is a senior editor at PLOS Biology and writes frequently about conservation, ecology and environmental health for other media outlets. This blog post and podcast were published originally on the PLOS Biologue Community Blog.