Zambia has banned the hunting wild cats because it sees more value in game viewing tourism than blood sport, said the country's tourism minister.
Tourism Minister Sylvia Masebo told Reuters on Thursday that big cat numbers were too low to have a sustainable hunting industry.
"Tourists come to Zambia to see the lion and if we lose the lion we will be killing our tourism industry," Masebo said.
"Why should we lose our animals for $3-million a year? The benefits we get from tourist visits are much higher," she said.
The leopard population for the sprawling southern African country is not known while lion numbers are not believed to exceed around 4 500.
Africa's lion population
Estimates for Africa's lion population vary from around 20 000 to 30 000, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and is falling in the face of numerous threats including conflict with livestock farmers and loss of prey and habitat.
Wildlife-rich Kenya set this trend when it halted trophy and sport hunting decades ago.
But there are growing concerns about Africa's big animals in the face of a surge in poaching of elephants for their ivory and rhino in South Africa for their horns to meet soaring demand from Asian countries.
In a separate development, Zambia last week suspended 19 hunting concessions and fired the top management at the Zambia Wildlife Authority because of corruption allegations and a lack of transparency. – Reuters.