Should lions be admired?

in wildlife •  last year

On the question-and-answer site Quora someone asked what struck me as a somewhat strange question:

Is it just me, or do Africans not hold lions to the same degree of admiration Europeans do?

To me, rather weird question, but let me attempt an answer anyway.

A difficult question to answer, because “Africans” comprise more than a billion people, spanning more than fifty countries, hundreds of languages, dozens of religions, skin colors from pitch black to lily white, income levels from zero to billionaire and life styles from hunter-gatherer to minister of finance.

I’m not sure one can make any generalizations about a group that large and diverse. I think you’ll find that whatever continent people are from, their attitude to wildlife will depend to some extent on their culture, and to some extent on their personal circumstances: the poorer people are, the less likely they are to have romantic notions about wildlife and the more likely they are to see it as either a nuisance or a potential source of food or income.


I’ll post my own personal answer as a data point, rather than a sweeping statement. I am not too sure to what extent Europeans admire lions. I’m also not sure what exactly the term “admire” even means in this context.

Lions are magnificent animals, yes, in the same way that lots of African animals are. Thus I admire them in the same sense I admire the rest of nature. But admire them as somehow “noble” or more dignified than, say, badgers or impala or hyenas? No.

They are beautiful in the same way a nuclear bomb or a tornado is beautiful. And they are also fearsome, murderous and dangerous, and should be kept under strict control. It took many millennia of competition with humans for lions to evolve an instinctive fear of humans. We’d better see to it that they retain that fear, unless we want us, our children and domestic animals to feature on a lion’s menu.

And thus, as far as I am concerned, all the outrage about trophy hunting or “canned lions” is utter romantic nonsense. In this sense, I suppose I “admire” lions rather less than Europeans do, but I can’t be sure.


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We only admire them in movies and stories, in reallife we go to their countries to hunt them for fun and money.


True, though it seems to me that lots of westerners cannot clearly distinguish between movie lions and real ones. Hence the outrage over hunting.