Matt Craft / AP

This April 2012 photo shows a lioness walking through the tall grass.

UC Davis study: Fewer women and less wealth for ‘faker’ lion dancers

Published: Wednesday, May. 14, 2014 - 10:39 am

The tide is turning against “faker” hunters in Africa who are rewarded with women and livestock when they kill lions, according to a UC Davis study.

A long-standing practice in Tanzania surrounds so-called “lion dancers,” men who are rewarded for killing lions that prey on livestock and people.

For hundreds of years, the hunters have killed the lions and then been richly rewarded after they acted out in dance how their hunt conducted. The hunt is traditionally accomplished with only a spear and shield.

Post-lion dance in villages they would be showered with gifts, including livestock or a night with young women.

However, some villagers are just saying no to rewarding them because lion hunters are killing lions that are not a threat to people or livestock -- and the big cats live in a national park, according to a university press release. Some villagers are calling them fakers and thinking about punishing them.

Monique Borgerhoff Mulder, a UC Davis anthropology professor, said the change is a positive step toward saving lions.

“This change in behavior offers an intriguing solution to the problem of illegal hunting insofar as the community is policing itself,” Borgerhoff Mulder said. “It is a real opportunity to work with a community that is changing its customs in a way compatible with a conservation goal.”

The study interviewed 198 households with 73 reporting being visited 128 times by dancers between 2001 and 2010. The households rewarded 75 percent of the dancers.

Although most households are still rewarding the lion dancers, 72 percent said the hunters are killing lions simply to acquire wealth.

“The hunters are going deep into the national park, the border of which is 8 to 10 miles away,” Borgerhoff Mulder said. “People are saying they are cheats and are not going to give them gifts any longer.”

The study, “From avengers to hunters: Leveraging collective action for the conservation of endangered lions,” is published in the May edition of the journal “Biological Conservation.”

Call The Bee’s Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079.

Read more articles by Bill Lindelof

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