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 kills
The most controversial animal kills
1/5 Walt Palmer (left), from Minnesota, who killed Cecil, the Zimbabwean lion (pictured here with another lion shot in Africa)
Walter James Palmer has been named by Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force as the shooter of Cecil, a 13-year-old prized lion. He is now wanted by Zimbabwe officials on poaching charges. The lion was protected and the subject of a decade long study by the Wildlife Unit of Oxford University in the UK. He was outfitted with a GPS collar and was killed in Hwange National Park. The Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority and the Safari Operators Association said that two men were charged with poaching in connection to Mr Palmer
2/5 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
3/5 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
4/5 The slaughter of Marius, an 18-month-old healthy giraffe in Copenhagen Zoo
Copenhagen Zoo made the controversial decision to euthanise a healthy giraffe named Marius, which was later dissected and fed to lions as visitors watched. The slaughter sparked a furious backlash from social media users and zoo staff have received death threats by phone and email. Soon after the incident, Copenhagen Zoo faced an international outcry once again after four healthy lions were put down
5/5 Swiss Dählhölzli zoo kills healthy brown bear cub
A Switzerland zoo faced heavy criticism from animal rights groups, after keepers put down a healthy brown bear cub to spare it from being bullied by its dominant male father. The 360 kg male bear Misha had already killed one of his 11-week old cubs in public and was bullying the second, staff at the zoo said, because he was jealous of the attention the cubs were receiving from their mother, Masha. Both adult brown bears had been donated to Bern’s Dählhölzli zoo in 2009. Campaigners condemned staff there for not separating the cubs, who are being referred to as Baby Bear Two and Baby Bear Three, and their mother from Misha after their birth in January
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.