Lion Hunting

African lion hunting has come under a lot of scrutiny over recent years and there is no doubt that the recent global media frenzy surrounding the hunting of the named lion in Zimbabwe has acted as a catalyst for some countries to get on the bandwagon and ban lion trophy imports and airlines to ban the carriage of hunting trophies. With the announcement from USF&W that it will list two lion subspecies under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the future for wild lions in particularly west and central Africa looks grim.

"Of all the multifarious forms of life with which the great African Continent has been so bountifully stocked, none, not even the "half-reasoning elephant" or the "armed rhinoceros" has been responsible for such a wealth of anecdote and story, or has stirred the heart and imagination of mankind to such a degree, as the lion - the great and terrible meat-eating cat, the monarch of the African wilderness, by night at least, whose life means constant death to all his fellow-brutes, from the ponderous buffalo to the light-footed gazelle, and fear, and often destruction too, to the human inhabitants of the countries through which he roams." Frederick C Selous in 'African Nature Notes And Reminiscences'

"Unless you are a whiz with a rifle, you need a minimum of five bullets in your gun if you're going to shoot at a lion. Only a few old professionals consistently drop a lion with a first shot." Alexander Lake.

USF&W Uplisting Of African Lions

The USF&W African lion ruling in full

Lion Taxonomy Change

The first thing to know is USF&W is not uplisting 2 already extinct lions as the outraged anti-hunters appear to believe in their rantings on the USF&W Facebook page.

Originally there were 7 accepted lion subspecies in Africa and 1 in Asia, Panthera leo persica, which now only survives in India where it cannot be hunted.

Most hunters are not too bothered about the scientific name of an animal they hunt, but now American hunters should be paying particular attention when it come to hunting lions and importing lion trophies into the USA after 2 lion subspecies are formally added to the ESA by USF&W, coming into effect on January 22, 2016.

USF&W have adopted the 2014 IUCN lion taxonomy whereby all lions fall into only 2 subspecies...

  • The Asian lion, previously Panthera leo persica, was found to be genetically similar to the west, central and north African lion. So will now be known as Panthera leo leo which was the scientific name for the Barbary lion which is extinct in the wild. So from 2016, Panthera leo leo, which includes all wild lions from from the hunting countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon and CAR will be classified as ENDANGERED by USF&W and trophies will require an endangered species import permit for entry into the USA.
  • All other lions in southern and eastern Africa become Panthera leo melanochaita which was the scientific name for the Cape lion which is extinct in the wild. From 2016, Panthera leo melanochaita, which includes all wild lions from the hunting countries of Tanzania, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa (including captive-bred lions) will be classified as THREATENED by the USF&W and trophies will require a 'threatened species import permit' for entry into the USA.

The rest of the world is still using the current CITES lion taxonomy - all African lions being Panthera leo & CITES II and the Asian lion being Panthera leo persica & CITES I.

So if you are an American hunter who has applied for and been granted a 'threatened species import permit' (USF&W's equivalent of a CITES I import permit) for a lion, you better make doubly sure the African exporting country precisely complies with the latest USF&W taxonomy on the CITES export permit. Instead of just plain Panthera leo, the lion trophy will need to be entered as Panthera leo melanochaita to match the import permit. If not, as with any minor hunting trophy export/import document discrepancy, there is a high risk that the lion trophy will be rejected and not be allowed entry into the US.

Lion Permit Application

Application Form 3-200-20 for IMPORT OF SPORT-HUNTED TROPHIES (Appendix I of CITES and/or ESA)

Import Permit Criteria For A Sport-Hunted African Lion Trophy

It is unlikely any US hunters will be issued any form of lion trophy import permit for the foreseeable future because USF&W will likely not approve of the lion conservation plans of any hunting country. USF&W has not even consulted with any individual African wildlife authorities before instituting, what amounts to a blanket ban on all lion trophy imports.

  • Permits may be issued for lion trophies only from range countries that have lion management plans based on scientifically sound data and are being implemented to address the threats that are facing lions within that country. These plans include evaluating lion population levels and trends, the biological needs of the species, hunting quotas, management practices, legal protection, local community involvement and use of hunting fees for conservation.
  • Concurrent with this lion uplisting rule, a 'Director's Order' has been issued to 'strengthen enforcement of wildlife permitting requirements'. This order will ensure that violators of wildlife laws are not granted permits for future wildlife-related activities, including the import of sport-hunted trophies.

Lion Trophy Permits (2016) At A Glance

As part of their stricter domestic measures, the EU is requiring all CITES II/Annex B lion trophy imports to have a CITES I import permit across all the member states.

As of 19 November 2015, France has unilaterally decided to ban all lion hunting trophy imports.

As of 22 January 2016, USF&W have uplisted African lions on ESA and will require trophy import permits.

Lion Trophy Permits
 
CITES
USF&W
EU
AUS
BotswanaCITES IINO Lion Hunting
BeninCITES IIEndangered Species Import Permit/Issue Highly UnlikelyNo ImportNo Import
Burkina FasoCITES IIEndangered Species Import Permit/Issue Highly UnlikelyNo ImportNo Import
CameroonCITES IIEndangered Species Import Permit/Issue Highly UnlikelyNo ImportNo Import
CARCITES IIEndangered Species Import Permit/Issue Highly UnlikelyCITES Import & Export Permit/France No ImportNo Import
EthiopiaCITES IIThreatened Species Import PermitNo ImportNo Import
MozambiqueCITES IIThreatened Species Import PermitCITES Import & Export Permit/France No ImportNo Import
NamibiaCITES IIThreatened Species Import PermitCITES Import & Export Permit/France No ImportNo Import
South AfricaCITES IIThreatened Species Import PermitCITES Import & Export Permit/France No ImportNo Import
TanzaniaCITES IIThreatened Species Import PermitCITES Import & Export Permit/France No ImportNo Import
ZambiaCITES IIThreatened Species Import PermitCITES Import & Export Permit/France No ImportNo Import
ZimbabweCITES IIThreatened Species Import PermitCITES Import & Export Permit/France No ImportNo Import

Lion Trophy Minimums

Both Rowland Ward and SCI recognise all wild African lions in a single record category. SCI has a separate record category for lions shot in South Africa and parts of Namibia.

Panthera Leo (African Lion)
RW Minimum RW Record RW Measurement Method SCI Minimum SCI Record SCI Measurement Method
24" 283/4" 17 23" 286/16" 15
Lions From South Africa & Namibia
RW Minimum RW Record RW Measurement Method SCI Minimum SCI Record SCI Measurement Method
N/A N/A N/A 23" 2812/16" 15

Where To Hunt A Lion

If you want to hunt a lion choose your African hunting country carefully, make sure you know the lion hunting regulations of the country, rather than completely relying on the outfitter or PH, ask to read the permits before hunting and always select a first class hunting company.

If you are looking to ethically hunt a wild lion, choose a reputable company and heed your PH's instructions on which animal to take. Your PH should know the lions in his area - which males are holding prides with young cubs, the others which are nomadic and how to judge their age.

No lion hunting is currently allowed in Uganda or Botswana.

  • A very small CITES hunting trophy export quota of 5 male lions has is available to hunt in Benin but only by tracking during the hours of daylight. No baiting, no hunting at night or with artificial light is allowed. However, since February 2015, the EU Scientific Review Group has delivered a 'negative' opinion on wild lion conservation in Benin. Now EU member states will require and likely deny an import permit for Benin lion hunting trophies as part of EU 'stricter domestic measures'. Australia has banned all lion trophy imports since March 2015. From 22 Jan 2016, USF&W have declared lions from Benin (now, Panthera leo leo)to be 'endangered' and the issuing of an Endangered Species Import Permit will be highly unlikely.
  • A CITES hunting trophy export quota of 20 male lions is available to hunt in Burkina Faso but only by tracking during the hours of daylight. No baiting, no hunting at night or with artificial light is allowed. However, since February 2015, the EU Scientific Review Group has delivered a 'negative' opinion on wild lion conservation in Burkina Faso. Now EU member states will require and likely deny an import permit for Burkina Faso lion hunting trophies as part of EU 'stricter domestic measures'. Australia has banned all lion trophy imports since March 2015. From 22 Jan 2016, USF&W have declared lions from Burkina Faso (now, Panthera leo leo)to be 'endangered' and the issuing of an Endangered Species Import Permit will be highly unlikely.
  • A CITES hunting trophy export quota of 29 male lions can be hunted in savanna areas of Cameroon. Lions are not technically included in any animal Group and a special permit is required to hunt one. No hunting at night or with artificial light is allowed. However, since February 2015, the EU Scientific Review Group has delivered a 'negative' opinion on wild lion conservation in Cameroon. Now EU member states will require and likely deny an import permit for Cameroon lion hunting trophies as part of EU 'stricter domestic measures'. Australia has banned all lion trophy imports since March 2015. From 22 Jan 2016, USF&W have declared lions from Cameroon (now, Panthera leo leo)to be 'endangered' and the issuing of an Endangered Species Import Permit will be highly unlikely.
  • A CITES hunting trophy export quota of 31 male lions can be hunted in savanna areas of Central African Republic. A lion may be hunted as a 'precious game' animal with no hunting at night or with artificial light is allowed. Baiting is allowed but most lions are hunted by calling or tracking. Currently the import of lion trophies from CAR into the EU is permitted with a CITES import & export permit. From 22 Jan 2016, USF&W have declared lions from CAR (now, Panthera leo leo)to be 'endangered' and the issuing of an Endangered Species Import Permit will be highly unlikely.
  • A CITES hunting trophy export quota of 10 male lions can be hunted in Ethiopia with no hunting at night or with artificial light allowed. The EU has suspended all lion trophy imports from Ethiopia. From 22 Jan 2016, USF&W have declared Ethiopian lions (now, Panthera leo melanochaita)to be 'threatened' and the issuing of a Threatened Species Import Permit will only be possible if Ethiopia is judged to have implemented sound lion conservation and management plans.
  • Mozambique has a CITES hunting trophy export quota of 60 male lions which may be hunted at night with artificial light. Currently the import of lion trophies from Mozambique into the EU is permitted with a CITES import & export permit. From 22 Jan 2016, USF&W have declared Mozambican lions (now, Panthera leo melanochaita)to be 'threatened' and the issuing of a Threatened Species Import Permit will only be possible if Mozambique is judged to have implemented sound lion conservation and management plans.
  • In Namibia you need a special predator permit to hunt a lion and these hunts can only be conducted on Communal Conservancies or state-controlled concessions. No hunting at night or with artificial light is allowed. From 22 Jan 2016, USF&W have declared Namibian lions (now, Panthera leo melanochaita)to be 'threatened' and the issuing of a Threatened Species Import Permit will only be possible if Namibia is judged to have implemented sound lion conservation and management plans.

    PAC lion hunting in Namibia by a foreign, paying hunter is legal only if a particular animal is identified in a specific location and officially declared to be a Problem Animal by MET (Ministry of Environment and Tourism). A problem animal is supposed to be put down within 48 hours of completion of the investigation and the issuing of a destruction permit which is valid for 2 weeks maximum. The landowner or leaseholder of the land on which the animal is located may offer it to a hunting client to shoot, only if the lion remains on the land. If it leaves the designated area, it cannot be pursued and shot on another landowner's property by the same hunting outfitter and client. Like PAC elephant hunts, PAC lion hunts are sometimes subject to various scams run by unscrupulous outfitters so a diligent and scrupulous hunting client must know what to find out before he agrees to one of these hunts. PAC lion hunts cannot be legally offered for sale to hunting clients a long time in advance, so the client generally must already present in Namibia or able to be there at very short notice. The specific animal must be shot in the presence of a Game Warden. It is illegal to procure a PAC permit first and then start looking for any potential PAC lion that might be in the vicinity. Always check first whether the lion trophy products from a PAC hunt are exportable or non-exportable.

  • You can hunt a male lion on a 21 day licence in Tanzania. You will occasionally see lion listed on shorter hunts but the 21 day licence fees will still apply. The lion must be over 6 years of age. Read more on how the lion age rule is implemented in Tanzania. No hunting at night or with artificial light is allowed. From 22 Jan 2016, USF&W have declared Tanzanian lions (now, Panthera leo melanochaita)to be 'threatened' and the issuing of a Threatened Species Import Permit will only be possible if Tanzania is judged to have implemented sound lion conservation and management plans.
  • The ban on lion hunting was lifted in 2015 and will resume in Zambia for the 2016/2017 season. From 22 Jan 2016, USF&W have declared Zambian lions (now, Panthera leo melanochaita)to be 'threatened' and the issuing of a Threatened Species Import Permit will only be possible if Zambia is judged to have implemented sound lion conservation and management plans.
  • After the named lion hunting uproar of 2015 in Zimbabwe, lion hunting has resumed after being banned for just a few days. The new 'special lion hunting measures' include having a Government game scout present on the hunt and you must not shoot a collared or 'iconic' lion. The use of lights and hunting at night depends on the area you are hunting - it is not allowed in National Parks Safari Areas but is allowed in Communal Areas or on private land. From 22 Jan 2016, USF&W have declared Zimbabwean lions (now, Panthera leo melanochaita)to be 'threatened' and the issuing of a Threatened Species Import Permit will only be possible if Zimbabwe is judged to have implemented sound lion conservation and management plans.

Hunting Lions In South Africa

Most of the lion hunting done in the hunting countries above is wild lion hunting and is conducted under strict quota numbers. By far, most lion 'hunting' in South Africa is conducted on captive-bred lions.

From 22 Jan 2016, USF&W have declared all South African lions, including captive-bred lions (now, Panthera leo melanochaita) to be 'threatened' and the issuing of a Threatened Species Import Permit will only be possible if South Africa is judged to have implemented sound lion conservation and management plans.

PHASA has reversed its 2013 position on the hunting of captive-bred lions and will no longer tolerate this form of hunting. This decision was taken at the association's 2015 annual general meeting (AGM), where the majority of PHASA members voted to take a stand against the practice.

The official resolution adopted reads as follows: PHASA distances itself from all captive-bred lion breeding and hunting until such time as the South African Predator Association can convince PHASA and the International Union for Conservation of Nature that captive-bred lion hunting is beneficial to lion conservation.

The above decision is effective immediately and is binding on all PHASA members. If any evidence arises implicating a PHASA member as having participated in the hunting or marketing of a captive-bred lion, such member will be subjected to PHASA's internal disciplinary process, which will include expulsion if found guilty.

Stan Burger, President

Are There Any Wild Lions In South Africa?

In South Africa there are few genuinely wild lions - lions that are completely self-sustaining and largely unmanaged regarding their numbers and demographics. Still, by necessity, these lions are kept in confinement behind fences, though in very large areas. Wild lions are to be found in the Kruger Park, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and a few other large Parks/Game Reserves. These wild lions are completely protected and not huntable unless they escape from the Park. However by agreement, the fence between the Kruger Park and the bordering Associated Private Nature Reserves, such as Timbavati, Klaserie, Umbabat and Balule, were taken down, leaving the Kruger animals free to roam in these areas. These APNRs also conduct hunting operations with a very limited annual lion quota. So the closest a hunting client can get to hunting a wild lion in South Africa is if he books one of these hunts. However it must be remembered, these wild lions are still somewhat habituated to humans and vehicles which can make them bolder - not necessarily running and taking cover when approached.

In smaller fenced provincial reserves (less than 1000km2) or larger private ranches, there are smaller prides or single prides of, what is termed, 'managed wild lions'. They are primarily kept as a tourist attraction. They are self-sustaining but need management to limit in-breeding and control numbers. These lions demonstrate very different social behaviours from their truly wild cousins, such as breeding at a very early age, reduced natural cub mortality which leads to excessive population growth, no natural male pride takeovers, different prey hunting mechanisms which deplete prey animal numbers too quickly. So one of the management plans, among many, is removing the old pride male which frequently will be sold off to be hunted on another property or occasionally hunted in situ.

Captive Bred Lions In South Africa

Captive lions are bred exclusively to generate money - firstly, as cubs for tourists to pet and 'walk with', then as adults to be shot by 'hunters' and for the burgeoning lion bone trade in the Far East. The majority of lions shot and exported from South Africa were captive-bred. This is a huge and very lucrative business. In 2013 alone, 652 captive bred lions were exported from South Africa as hunting trophies, add at least another 300 or so, which were entered on CITES export permits as 'wild' but must be assumed to have been captive-bred. CITES data reveals an impossibly large number of 'wild' lion hunting trophy exports considering the annual hunting quota of really wild lions from South Africa, is less than 10 individuals.

Any Captive-Bred Lion Shooting Regulations?

Though on the TOPS list which requires the hunter to be in possession of a TOPS permit before the hunting of any of the listed species, the lion is excluded from the Large Predator List, so is not subject to the same regulations as other captive-bred predators and rhino.

This state of affairs exists because if the lion was included, it would be mandatory for a captive lion to be self-sustaining for at least 24 months (re-wilding period), after release into the area where it was due to be shot. Obviously this did not go down well with the lion breeders or operators who conduct lion shoots, as it would "kill the industry" to delay their profit and to provide prey animals for an extra 2 years, so it was challenged in court. They won on the premise that captive lion breeding was, in fact, lion farming and contributed nothing to wildlife conservation, so should not be subject to wildlife legislation. Thus captive-bred lions needed no statutary re-wilding period as they were never wild in the first place.

In an effort to level the playing field, the North-West province has a 're-wilding' or release period of 96 hours into the shooting area. Just enough time for the tranquilizing drugs used for transportation, to wear off in some lions. The Free State has a re-wilding or release period of 30 days. The South African Predators Association recommends 7 days minimum. Other provinces have no stipulated release period.

However, because a captive-bred lion is supposed to be hunted in South Africa, it does become subject to some hunting regulations. It is illegal to hunt a captive bred lion if...

  • If the animal is under the influence of a tranquilizer or immobilizing agent.
  • Hunting by means of bait, sound, smell or any other luring method. Dead bait may only be used when hunting a wild lion within an area with a minimum size of 15 000 hectares.
  • If hunted in a small area. No minimum size stipulated.
  • If the lion is trapped against a fence or in a small enclosure where the lion does not have a fair chance to evade the 'hunter'.
  • If it is hunted in an area adjacent to other lions in captivity.
  • By means of dogs, except if the dogs are used to track a wounded lion, or for the purpose of pointing, flushing and retrieving a lion.
  • From a motorised vehicle, except for the tracking of the lion if the hunt takes place over long ranges.
  • Bow-hunting of lion is permitted.

Even if they are aware of these regulations and want to abide by them, unwary clients may not be able to recognise any illegalities by unscrupulous operators.

  • Only a blood test will determine if an individual lion is still under the influence of a tranquilizer. A dopey lion lying under a tree may look completely normal to a client.
  • A client will know if his captive-bred lion was obviously baited in the way wild lions are hunted but he will not know if the lion has been previously surreptitiously baited to come a particular area of the ranch. He will also not be aware that the sound and smell of the hunting vehicle is acting as a lure. Commonly a captive-bred lion will associate a vehicle with food and come hurtling out of the bush looking to be fed.
  • The size of area is frequently not discernable by an unsuspecting client. The bush landscape looks all the same to an unfamiliar eye, so being driven or led walking around the bush all day can dupe a client into thinking he is in a very large area when it may not be.
  • Not shooting a lion in an area adjacent to other lions in captivity was probably created as a result of the practice of shooting a lion in a small compound, within sight and sound of other captive lions separated by a wire fence, which was filmed in the original Cook Report. A canny operator will not usually allow a lion to be shot on the breeding premises but relocate it to a non-adjacent property.
  • As can be deduced from the CITES lion trophy export data for South Africa, there are a lot of captive-bred lions masquerading as wild lions. For more tricks-of-the-trade, read Spotting Differences Between Canned And Wild Lions
  • See South African Predators Association Norms And Standards 2013 for captive lion breeding and shooting. Not all lion shooting operators are members of this association or abide by these standards.

A quick look at lion shooting videos posted on the Internet will show the blatant disregard some operators have for these basic regulations and the downright lies peddled to clients about the lions being 'wild'.

Does Shooting Captive-Bred Lions Save Wild Lions?

According to the IUCN wild lions have declined by 42% over the past 21 years due to human population growth and the expansion of agriculture causing both lion and prey animal habitat loss along with higher levels of lion/human conflict resulting in more lion deaths.

There are frequent instances of wild lions being translocated to supplement other diminished wild lion populations or re-introduce lions into a range where they used to exist. However captive-bred lions are not suitable to be released into the wild for these purposes due to their anomalous behaviour, dubious genetic origins and habituation to humans.

The assertion by some people that 'hunting' captive-bred lions in South Africa somehow saves the number of wild lions elsewere is fallacious. In the rest of Africa, once the wild lion quota for an area is used up, no more lions can be legally hunted in that year/season. It also assumes the type of 'hunter' who goes on a guaranteed successful, 3 day mega-maned lion shoot in South Africa is the type who can afford to bother slogging around the wilderness for 3 weeks in the hope of successfully hunting a possibly scruffy and scarred wild lion. Of course, wild lions can have spectacular manes but not quite so extravagant as in South Africa and you don't get to select one out of a catalogue. If captive-bred lion shooting in South Africa was banned completely tomorrow and as long as the quota of wild lions allowed to be hunted in the rest of Africa is strictly adhered to, it will not affect the wild lion population numbers from the hunting standpoint. It may drive wild lion hunting prices up which may be no bad thing. Wild lion populations are still at risk from poaching for bones and poisoning by local pasturalists. Without the financial input from hunting clients and diligent anti-poaching measures by hunting companies, the wild lion numbers would be even worse.

Lion Hunting Prices

West Africa offers the cheapest wild lion hunts in Africa. The lions here were a distinct subspecies, Panthera leo senegalensis (before 2014 reclassification by IUCN) and are generally smaller in the body than southern lions with less mane hair.

  • In Benin the cost of a 1x1 20 day hunt which may include a lion is about US$36000 with a lion trophy fee of between 4500 Euros and 8500 Euros.
  • In Burkina Faso you can have a 11 to 14 day hunt which may include a lion for around 15890 Euros. The lion trophy fee is between 1380 Euros to 1450 Euros.
  • In Cameroon a 12 day savanna hunt which may include a lion is between US$32000 and US$39000 with a lion trophy fee of about 4000 Euros.
Click Image To Enlarge
West African Lion
West African Lion

Central and East African lions can be bigger in the body compared to the West African lions as there is an overlap of ranges with the Congo lion, Panthera leo azandica and the Masai lion, Panthera leo nubica/massaica (before 2014 reclassification by IUCN).

  • In the Central African Republic (CAR) a 12 to 14 day savanna hunt which may include a lion will be between US$26000 to US$39000. Longer hunts of +21 days or forest/savanna combo hunts are available from US$34000 to US$58000. The lion trophy fee is from 3500 Euros to 5000 Euros.
  • In Tanzania the Government game fee for a lion is US$4900. Adding on the Community Development/anti-poaching fees, the full lion trophy fee will range from US$5450 to US$12000.

It is surmised that Ethiopian lions may be genetically distinct from all other African lions after DNA testing some lions in the Addis Ababa zoo. It is yet to be established whether the existing wild lion populations in Ethiopia are related to these zoo lions. These lions are smaller in the body but have a very big dark brown mane.

  • A lion may be hunted on a 21 day lowland hunt in Ethiopia for a trophy fee of US$4000.

Southern African lions have the largest bodies of the African lions and were originally from the subspecies of Southwest African lion, Panthera leo bleyenberghi and Transvaal lion, Panthera leo krugeri (before 2014 reclassification by IUCN).

  • As lion hunting is only due to re-open in 2016, no hunt prices are available yet for Zambia.
  • In Mozambique lion hunts are offered as lion-only packages or in combo hunts with other dangerous game. The non-refundable Government licence fee for a lion is between US$3500 and US$5000. The additional trophy fee for a lion ranges from US$10000 to US$25000 (excluding licence fee). Some outfitters amalgamate the licence and trophy fees, so always check if you can't see a licence fee list on their websites.
  • In Zimbabwe you can hunt a lioness for between US$5500 and US$6000. A male lion carries a trophy fee which ranges from US$10000 up to US$35000.

South African Lion Hunting Prices

As the great majority of lions in South Africa are captive bred, you can select the mane colour and 'record class or category' of your lion or even the actual lion you want to shoot, usually in a 3 to 7 day package hunt.

If you want to hunt a limited availability 'free-range' or fairly wild lion such as in the Kruger Park boundary areas, a 14 day hunt can cost up to US$125000, inclusive of a male lion trophy fee. A 'free-range' lioness would carry a trophy fee of about US$12500.

Click Image To Enlarge
South African Wild Lion
South African Wild Lion

If you are not too fussed about your lion's appearance, you could book a standard short lion 'hunt' with a lion trophy fee ranging from US$19500 to about US$25000. The lion will have a mane but with no assurance on quality, quantity or colour. A lioness goes for between US$6750 to US$9500.

The more 'discerning client' who wants to shoot a lion with a specific mane colour, size and style must seek out the operators who offer a more customised or selective lion service. The lions are neatly arranged in 4 or 5 categories for your convenience, according to age (in some cases), extent of mane coverage and mane colour with accompanying example pictures and prices. The age of the lion is frequently given but the 'trophy class' is really only based on the quality of the mane. For example...

  • Category 1 is generally a young 2 to 3 year old lion with a sparse blonde mane just covering the head and neck. Prices could be US$13500 for 3 days up to US$19650 for 5 & 7 days.
  • Categories 2 to 3 or 4 are generally 5 to 6 year old lions with fuller manes extending to cover shoulders and chest. They are mostly blonde with some black mane hairs. Prices could be US$18500 to US$29500. The middle categories of lions are all pretty much indistinguishable from each other regarding their manes, so prices are based on the outfitter's assessment.
  • Category 4 or 5 lions are generally the old boys of 6 to 9 years of age with huge thick and long manes extending back along their abdomen. They frequently have exaggerated long fringes that fall over their foreheads rather than the usual swept back mane, having been bred to be reminiscent of the old Barbary lions. Full black manes will command the highest prices. Prices will range from US$28500 to more than US$38000.
Click Image To Enlarge
South African Captive-Bred Lion
'Top Quality' South African Captive-Bred Lion

Captive-bred white lions are increasingly being bred to be shot because of their unusual colour. They are actually no different from regular lions as the white colour is caused by a recessive gene. They vary from blonde to near-white and have blue eyes. As with ordinary lions the trophy price of white lions depends on mane quality/quantity and also on the whiteness of the lion. A white lion may start at US$20000, going up to US$30000. A white lioness will be between US$8000 to US$10000.

White Lion
South African White Lion

Lion Hunting Methods

  • It is occasionally possible to come across a wild lion when walking in the bush, it's not very common to do so. A lion can virtually hide behind a single blade of grass and not be seen, even if you pass in close proximity to them.
  • Obviously tracking on foot is the most exciting form of hunting a wild lion. If you have the guts and fitness, there is nothing to beat the thrill of following huge fresh lion spoor, especially when you know there may be half a dozen or more lionesses in the vicinity. You need to be able to walk long distances, shoot quickly and accurately and be absolutely level-headed in a potentially very dangerous situation.
  • Most wild lions are hunted by bait and blind methods using big baits like buffalo or pieces of hippo etc. Baiting wild lions is particularly useful because it enables the PH to more accurately assess the lion in terms of age and whether he is known to be holding a pride. When a bait is hit by a lion, you will check the size of the spoor and for the presence of mane hairs. If everything points to a large male lion coming to bait, a blind will be built about 30 or 50 yards away. There you will sit in complete silence, closely surrounded by lions, waiting for your chance to shoot.
  • In South Africa, captive-bred lions should be 'hunted' on foot in enclosures of a minumum of 1000 hectares. Only wild lions in areas of more than 15000 hectares may be baited. Lions are not allowed to be hunted with dogs or from vehicles.
  • Suggested calibres and bullets are .375 H&H or larger, with fast expanding soft point bullets.

A Good Lion Trophy

  • Every hunter who goes on an African wild lion hunt dreams of a lion with a huge mane but there is a band of territory running right across central and east Africa where many fully grown male lions have either no mane or a sparse mane at best. These areas do however occasionally produce some really stunning lions with full manes.
  • Rowland Ward and SCI use skull measurements for their African lion records.
  • The black nose theory - where male lions are born with pink noses which become increasingly freckled and black the older the animals get, is being implemented to judge the age of a lion for hunting. In some cases it will be impossible for a Professional Hunter to get a good enough look at a lion's nose to rely on this method alone. Whilst nose colour should be used as a guide, there are a lot of other factors that also be applied to ageing an African lion. Good mane development (in line with what is average for the area) - when a lion is young, he has a quiff in the front and a receding hairline at the sides. As he ages, the hairline across the forehead gradually fills in. Width of head and good musculature in the front half of the lion and a thinner rear half are also good age indicators. Body language can also help - an older lion will be very sure of himself and the world around him, while a younger lion will be less confident. Colour and markings also help - a young lion is born with spots that slowly fade with age. Scars on the face and body - the older the cat, the more scars he'll have acquired over the years.

Lion Hunting Shot Placement

  • Cats have their hearts very slightly further back than most animals and as usual, heart and lungs are the largest target area.
  • If the animal is standing at right angles to you, bring your crosshairs up the foreleg and divide the body in half and then in half again and the centre of the heart will be found at the top of that first (lowest) dividing line, but just behind the foreleg The lungs extend to slightly above the mid way line.
  • If the animal is at an obtuse angle to you, remember the previous rule and aim at the opposite shoulder and you'll hit the same area.
  • If the animal is standing facing away from you, aim at the root of the tail where it joins the body.
  • If the animal is facing you, aim for the central chest area where the bottom of the neck leaves the body.
  • Remember if a lion is coming at you head-on, there is hardly any skull above the eyes - it's all just hair.
  • African Hunter Shot Placement for Lion

Male Lion Vital Statistics

  • Shoulder Height: 40-48" / 100-120cm
  • Weight: 350-500lbs / 160-225kg

Lioness Vital Statistics

  • Shoulder Height: 38-42" / 97-107cm
  • Weight: 265-375lbs / 120-170kg

Lion Habitat And Requirements

  • The African lion has a wide range of habitat tolerance ranging from desert to open savannah, but not usually in equatorial forests.
  • A lion always needs sufficient prey animals, water and preferably shade.

Lion Social Structure

  • The African lion is the most social of the big cats and live in prides of between about 3 to 30.
  • The pride consists of adult females, cubs and subadults of both sexes, and is dominated by between 1 to 4 adult males.
  • Usually one male lion will be dominant over the other males.
  • The females do most of the hunting and the males do most of the work when it comes to defending the territories.
  • When the subadult males approach maturity, the pride holders will force them out of the pride and out of the territory. They then become nomadic until they are big enough and strong enough to take over a pride of their own. These nomadic lions often travel in small groups and are often related.
  • When the new in-coming males take over the pride, they will usually immediately kill any very young cubs (less than about 18 months old), which brings the females into oestrus, and in turn allows them to breed and ensures they pass their own genes onto the next generation.
  • Correct and scientific management of lion populations is a complicated business. Shoot the wrong lion, such as one holding a pride that has young cubs in it, and it's like dropping a stone into a pool. You don't just kill one lion, you effectively kill the cubs as well. Therefore, it is vitally important that you either take a lion that is not holding a pride OR you take a lion that is holding a pride that has no young cubs in it. The Professional Hunter should try to ensure that all the mature males are taken on a 'rolling' basis, so that it becomes easier for the incoming nomadic lions to take the pride over with as little social disturbance to the pride as possible.

Lion Gestation Period

  • Just short of four months. They breed throughout the year and have between 1 to 6 cubs, although the higher number is relatively unusual.
  • The mother will remove herself from the pride to give birth and only introduce them to the pride when they are around 4 - 8 weeks old. If there are already cubs in the pride of around 3 months old or more, she will usually not rejoin the pride at all. The reason for this is that as any lioness will allow a cub to suckle and her own cubs may not be strong enough to feed sufficiently to survive.
  • Cubs will stay with their mother until they are 2 years old or sometimes older.

Lion Gender Identification

  • Lions have their their testicles sticking out behind them and they are generally very easy to spot.
  • Males are, with a very few exceptions larger than the females and in most parts of Africa, have manes.

Lion Trophy Taxidermy

Most hunters opt for a full mount lion display, often with habitat and a prey animal. Alternatives include lion shoulder mounts, traditional lion rugs or plain skulls.

Click images to enlarge
Lion Full Mount Lion Full Mount Lion Shoulder Mount Lion Rug Mount Lion Skull
Taxidermy photos courtesy of Life-Form Taxidermy

African Lion Hunting Recommended Reading

A Hunter's Guide To Aging Lions In Eastern And Southern Africa

A Hunter's Guide To Aging Lions In Eastern And Southern Africa by Karyl Whitman and Craig Packer is a guide to making lion trophy selection. The guide contains the most scientifically up to date data on judging the age of African lion.


The Book Of The Lion

The Book Of The Lion by Sir Alfred E Pease covers all aspects of lion history and hunting.


The Man-Eaters Of Tsavo

The Man-Eaters Of Tsavo by Lt. Col J H Patterson is the classic story of the lions that killed over one hundred people and the courageous botched efforts to hunt them.



Lion Hunting Recommended Viewing

Capstick: Hunting The African Lion DVD

Capstick: Hunting The African Lion DVD. Capstick describes the dangers, explains what can happen when things go wrong, and then, along with Cundill and Wilson, Capstick shows you the strategy and excitement of hunting the African Lion.


Boddington On Lion

Boddington On Lion This DVD takes the form of chapters, each focusing on specific areas of interest to the lion hunter. Included are the good old days, why hunt lion, lion country today, the trophy lion, natural history, hunting methods, guns and loads, shot placement, trophy care and taxidermy. Top African outfitters and professional hunters contribute their expertise as they lead us to numerous trophy lions, all captured on film in this exciting, action packed DVD.


Hunting Other African Animals

Big Five Hunting

Waterside Hunting

Other Plains Game Hunting

Spiral Horned Antelope Hunting

Large Antelope Hunting

Medium Antelope Hunting

Small Antelope Hunting

African Pig Hunting

Other Cat Hunting

Animals Of Opportunity





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