A safari company has come under fire for running a £1000-a-ticket raffle which gives hunters the chance to kill a lion.
The lion raffle was started by Martin Nel Safaris, a company that organises hunting tours in Zimbabwe, and the Bubye Valley Conservancy, a large wildlife conservation area in the south of the country.
After purchasing one of the 100 raffle tickets, which are priced at US$1,500 (£1,015) each, hunters get the chance to win an 18-day safari which includes a "full lion trophy hunt."
Alternatively, the winner can choose a "photographic safari", which culminates in a lion being collared for research purposes, and its name being removed from the list of animals that hunters are allowed to kill.
During the hunt, the winner will also be able to kill buffalo, zebras and giraffes, at a price of $6,000, $1,150 and $1,650 each, respectively.
The winner of the raffle will be announced on 5 February at the Safari Club International Convention in Las Vegas, which describes itself as the "ultimate hunters' market."
The most controversial animal killings
The most controversial animal killings
1/6 Cincinnati Zoo worker shots and kills Harambe, the 17-year-old gorilla
Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla was shot and killed by a Cincinnati Zoo worker after a three-year-old boy climbed into a gorilla enclosure and was grabbed and dragged by Harambe. The incident was recorded on video and received broad international coverage and commentary, including controversy over the choice to kill Harambe. A number of primatologists and conservationists wrote later that the zoo had no other choice under the circumstances, and that it highlighted the danger of zoo animals in close proximity to humans and the need for better standards of care
Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden
2/6 Walt Palmer (left), from Minnesota, who killed Cecil, the Zimbabwean lion (pictured here with another lion shot in Africa)
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3/6 Kendall Jones hunting images
Kendall Jones, a 19-year-old Texas Tech university student, has provoked worldwide fury after posting pictures of herself smiling next to animals she hunted, including a lion, rhinoceros, antelope, leopard, elephant, zebra and hippopotamus
4/6 Rebecca Francis hunting images
Rebecca Francis, a huntress who has killed dozens of wild animals has been sent death wishes by furious social media users after a picture showing her lying down next to a dead giraffe was circulated. Rebecca Francis has a website and Facebook page dedicated to the animals she has killed in hunts across Africa and America. Francis, a prolific hunter who has also co-hosted the television show Eye of the Hunter, regularly posts pictures of herself posing next to dead bears, giraffes, buffaloes and zebras, among other animals. She uses a bow and arrow to kill her prey
5/6 The slaughter of Marius, an 18-month-old healthy giraffe in Copenhagen Zoo
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6/6 Swiss Dählhölzli zoo kills healthy brown bear cub
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Responding to the news of the raffle, which was reported in the Mail on Sunday, lion conservation charity LionAid said they were "shocked and appalled," adding the raffle took the world of lion trophy hunting "to a new low."
On its website, the Bubye Valley Conservancy says it has previously worked with staff from Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), which is known for its research into the protection of wild lion populations.
WildCRU received hundreds of thousands of pounds in donations following the controversial killing of Cecil the lion in July by American trophy hunter Walter Palmer.
Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, WildCRU director Professor David Macdonald said he had not heard about the raffle, and added: "I would not personally accept funds to my unit based on raffling a lion hunt, but what the Bubye Valley Conservancy decides to do is completely up to them."
The Conservancy said the proceeds raised in the raffle will go towards their anti-poaching and conservation efforts.
Writing on its website, it said there were over 500 lions living within its boundaries, a number that concerns land managers and conservationists due to the impact that these "super predators" can have on other animal populations.
It says: "But what do you do with excess lions? There is no space left in Africa for them; everywhere that can have lions already does, and their greatest threat is habitat destruction and intolerance by local communities that encroach on wildlife areas in competition for grazing with the natural prey of lions, and subsequently persecute them in retaliation for killing livestock."
It added that "despite the sensation", trophy hunting cannot significantly affect lion population density or long-term numbers, and provides an important stream of income that can fund the management of the area and future conservation efforts.