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PLoS One. 2011;6(7):e22424. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0022424. Epub 2011 Jul 27.

Cat dilemma: too protected to escape trophy hunting?

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Écologie, Systématique et Évolution, UMR-CNRS 8079, Univ Paris-Sud, Orsay, France.


Trophy hunting is one of the most controversial issues in the field of biodiversity conservation. In particular, proponents and opponents debate fiercely over whether it poses a threat to hunted populations. Here, we show that trophy hunting constitutes a greater menace to threatened species than previously realized. Because humans value rarity, targeted species that are threatened are likely to be disproportionately hunted, thereby becoming even more vulnerable, which could eventually push them to extinction. With the ten felid species currently hunted for their trophies, we present evidence that (1) the number of killed individuals increases with time, in several cases exponentially, despite population declines, (2) the price of trophies is strongly dependent on species protection status, (3) changes of protection status coincide with counter-intuitive changes of hunting pressures: protection intensification with augmented hunting effort, and protection relaxation with lower effort. This suggests an over-exploitation of trophy-hunted felids and the necessity of a better quota system coupled with reconsidered protection methods.

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