Investigating the trade in lion body parts

Photo: Wildlife Crime Prevention Project
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Grantee Wildlife Crime Prevention
Type Combating illegal wildlife trade
Location Zambia
Grant Amount $76,000
Duration One year

In Zambia, as with several other countries, there is growing evidence of targeted poaching of lions for skins and other body parts—in addition to an increasingly severe threat to leopards associated with poaching for their skins. While this threat to lions does not yet appear to have emerged as a serious challenge on a population level in most places, there is nonetheless concern that it is worsening, and there is a need to understand the phenomenon and get ‘ahead of the curve’. There is a need for better understanding of what the drivers are for poaching of lions for body parts, who the actors are, what the trade routes are, and where the demand comes from. The Lion Recovery Fund has allocated funding to Wildlife Crime Prevention  (WCP) for an investigation aimed at identifying the trade route of big cat skins, the methods of killing and trafficking, to identify where the products end up. In addition, WCP will also develop a system based on DNA analysis which will allow law enforcement authorities to tell from confiscated big cat parts, both what species of cat it is and which protected area system it came from. This information will then be used to inform law enforcement strategy to better tackle this rapidly growing threat. This project will be conducted as a partnership between WCP, Zambia Carnivore Programme, and Zambia’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife. If this project is a success WCP will work with partners in other countries extend this project to a regional level.