Heard of Zambia’s Hollywood Boys?

Conservationists in southern Africa and well beyond the region fear the lives of these two well-known and quasi-tame lions are about to end with a hunter’s bullet – just as Cecil’s did in Zimbabwe last year.

The “Hollywood Boys”, two big male lions with stunning manes, control a 10 kilometre-long area bordering on a river in the South Luangwa National Park. Beloved by filmmakers, the Hollywood Boys and their prides are not the only lions visitors to the area come to see. Ginger and Garlic are also prized by lodge owners, conservationists and tourists.

Ginger in particular is well-known because he is a “strawberry blonde” lion: his toe-pads are pink, his tail has an orange (not black tip) and his mane is blond not black.

Like the Hollywood Boys, Ginger and Garlic could be under threat from hunters.

Big cat trophy hunting was only legalised again in Zambia last year. The authorities recently issued a hunting quota for lions in the Upper Lupande area, which borders on the the park where the lions live.

A post from June on the accuratereloading.com forum – which is popular with hunters both in the region and well beyond – says that the owner of the concession “only got his [hunting] permit late” and is offering “incredibly cheap” hunting deals, including on lion and leopard hunts. There is a claim – as yet unconfirmed – that the leopard hunts are baited, a controversial practice.

This has got fans of the Hollywood Boys plus Ginger and Garlic worried. There’s nothing to suggest hunting these lions would be illegal. But fans of the lions say they should be out of the hunters’ sights. According to a post from a tour operator on safaritalk.net, the four are “pride males”. “They have several litters of dependent cubs. They are also prime age males who can breed for several years,” the post says.

Many will remember that Zimbabwe’s Cecil the lion – whose death in early July 2015 sparked a global frenzy – was lured out of Hwange National Park and killed by an American dentist on a hunt with Zimbabwean hunter Theo Bronkhorst. Media attention pushed the Zimbabwe authorities into arresting and charging Bronkhorst.

Cecil’s case (and he too was a pride male) threw some light on the questionable practices used by a few in the hunting industry in the region.

In May last year Zambia lifted a ban imposed in 2013 on the hunting of big cats. The move was widely seen as an attempt to bring in desperately-needed foreign currency that hunting clients pay: the lion, buffalo and plains game hunt advertised on the accuratereloading.com forum sells for $65 000, (about K639,000)  (though obviously only a portion of that will end up in the authorities’ coffers).

Already this month, one of the Hollywood Boys is missing, a conservationist who did not want to be named told News24.

“Everyone thinks the hunters killed him as their quota male,” he said. “We are all sick over this and the hunting situation in general is horrible.”

“The only renewable resource [in Zambia] is the wildlife,” he added.

According to estimates from the IUCN, IFAW and Duke University, Zambia last year had just over 2 000 lions. Other groups dispute that figure, saying the total may be much less.

A post on the forum.accuratereloading.com from 14 October says: “Fico just took a brute in Upper Lupande.” There’s no other confirmation of this, and no proof this “brute” is one of the Hollywood Boys or Ginger or Garlic. Again, there’s also no suggestion that this hunt was illegal.

But fans of the four believe time may be running out.

There are also concerns about the wisdom of allowing armed hunters so close to safari lodges, where families may be staying.

An online petition has already been launched to save the Hollywood Boys and Ginger and Garlic. So far it’s gathered 980 signatures.

“Please,” the blurb goes. “No More Cecils.” – (Traveller24)







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