Thursday, March 28, 2013

Privatize Lions and Fence Them in to Save Them?

NYT reports on a scientist, whose thinking is moving in this direction:

After 35 years of field research in the Serengeti plains, Craig Packer, director of the Lion Research Center at the University of Minnesota, has lost all patience with the romance of African wilderness. Fences, he says, are the only way to stop the precipitous and continuing decline in the number of African lions.

“Reality has to intrude,” he said. “Do you want to know the two most hated species in Africa, by a mile? Elephants and lions.” They destroy crops and livestock, he said, and sometimes, in the case of lions, actually eat people.

Dr. Packer’s goal is to save lions. Fencing them in, away from people and livestock, is the best way to do that, he believes, both for conservation and economics. He made that argument in a paper this month in Ecology Letters, along with 57 co-authors, including most of the top lion scientists and conservationists.

The paper lays out the value of fences in clear terms, although it stops short of endorsing fencing as the only sensible option. That is Dr. Packer’s own view. With a growing human population whose rights must be respected, he says, open and free co-existence with lions is not practical, nor is it fair to the humans who have to live with the big cats.

In conversation, Dr. Packer goes beyond the measured scientific prose of the paper, venting his frustration with the fantasy often offered to tourists of a free and unfettered African wilderness. “That’s 130 years ago,” he said. “I’m just trying to push people to admit the obvious. Let’s get real here.”


  1. Reminds me of a debate I had recently about privatizing oceans. The debate stopped when I brought up Walter Block's ideas of electric fences to keep fish in, at which point I was told that was "Crazy". End of conversation.

    And yet, is the ocean really any different than land? Privatizing land and keeping lions fenced in runs along the same idea.

    If the land is open and public,the tragedy of the commons occurs and everyone poaches because they have no real incentive not to.

    When land is privately operated and controlled, the operators have control over the grounds and any hunting that may go on.

  2. They've already started doing it with elephants. Some herds are now managed by humans and hunted at a sustainable rate. Poaching is almost non existent because herd managers protect their livelihood.