Similarities Seen Between Tanzania Lion Debate, Minn. Wolf Hunt

Updated: 03/20/2013 9:18 AM KSTP.com By: Chris Egert

What do lions in Tanzania have to do with wolves in northern Minnesota?

An opinion piece in the New York Times and printed across the country caught our attention.

It seems to show parallels between lion hunting in Africa, and wolf hunting in Minnesota.

 The reason the Tanzania official wrote the opinion piece, is that the US Fish and Wildlife Service is considering listing the African lion as endangered, which would mean trophy hunters couldn't bring their lions back to the states.

Lion hunting is a multi million dollar business.

We spoke via Skype with the University of Minnesota's lion expert who is currently in Tanzania.  5 EYEWITNESS NEWS recently traveled to Africa to show you the lion project firsthand.

While the U's goal is to study the lions on the African Serengeti -- the reality is that 200 are legally hunted every year in Tanzania.

"I have no opposition to hunting," said program director Craig Packer.

What Packer objects to; is the Tanzanian government official’s claims in the New York Times, that trophy hunting generated roughly 75 million dollars for Tanzania's economy from 2008 to 2011.

"That's simply a gross exaggeration," Packer went on to say.  "There are people who go to Arizona or Utah to shoot big horned sheep, and charged maybe around 100-thousand dollars to shoot a sheep. There are only 35-thousand lions left in the world, and they pay 10-thousand dollars to the government of Tanzania to shoot a lion.”

If trophy hunting made the money Packer believes it could, those funds could be directed to conservation efforts like the giant fences he proposes building around game reserves to protect lions.

He says that’s an idea also being discussed by ranchers around Yellowstone to protect their livestock from wolves.

His impression on the wolf situation in Minnesota is, “That the pressures to hunt those wolves are coming mostly from livestock owners and ranchers. And they'd really like to control those populations.”

We wanted to know if the fence idea could work in northern Minnesota?

"There may be other solutions besides a fence, but its going to take an understanding that rural citizens don't have the same priorities for living with wildlife as city dwellers do," Packer explained.

He says in Africa, many people who live in rural areas see lions as pests; pests that kill their livestock, and can even kill people.

Much like in northern Minnesota, where attitudes about wolves differ from many people in urban areas.  Packer believes dialogue is just as important here, as it is in Tanzania.