Export Quota on Lion Bones and Parts – DEA calls for Public Comment

Export Quota on Lion Bones and Parts – DEA calls for Public Comment

Export quota for Lion bones and parts

Jabula the Lion was slaughtered in 2018 and his bones sold to Asia

Members of the public are invited to submit concise written scientific information or data in order to be considered by the Scientific Authority. The information must be submitted on or before 15 June 2019, to Ms Malepo Phoshoko.

On 16th May 2019, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) sent a public request. Information is needed to be considered for determination of the 2019 export quota for Lion bones and parts for cross-border trade in the lion parts from SA captive breeding operations.

NEMBA, the Scientific Authority is required to advise the Minister of the Department of Environmental Affairs on the 2019 export quota for Lion bones, bone pieces, skeletons etc. of captive Lions for commercial purposes. 

Wild Lion enjoying the sun

Help us to stop the export quota for Lion’s bones and end the captive Lion breeding and send commenting EMAILS to MSPhoshoko@environment.gov.za

To point out, in 2017, the quota was set by the DEA at 800 skeletons. See www.environment.gov.za/mediarelease/quota 2017. In 2018, the DEA set the quota at 1500 skeletons, the quote was later dropped back down to 800 skeletons.
See https://www.environment.gov.za/quota 2018

We will keep you updated on any developments in this regard. Join our Facebook group and stay informed! Contact us here!


The NSPCA is currently engaged in litigation on this matter with the DEA and other parties

  • Animal cruelty charges laid against lion farmer by NSPCA
    Animal cruelty charges were laid by NSPCA against Jan Steinman, a lion farmer in North West. The NSPCA found several contraventions of the Animal Protection Act. 108 Lions, Caracal, Tigers and Leopards were found in filthy and parasitic conditions. “It is deplorable that any animal would be forced to live in such conditions” …”READ MORE

Slaughtered Lion Sceleton CC SPCA Bloemfontein - Natucate

    The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) has lodged an urgent interdict against the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to suspend DEA’s authorisation of lion bone exports. At the CITES CoP17 meeting, the Minister of Environmental Affairs established an export quota of 800 skeletons for 2017. The NSPCA requested a judicial review of the quota... READ MORE

Export Quote for Lion Bone Trade - Bloody Lion carcass hanging down - C NSPCA

We will keep you updated on any developments in this regard. Join our Facebook group and stay informed


24 Lions relocated to Mocambique – Update May 2019

24 Lions relocated to Mocambique – Update May 2019

24 Lions relocated to Mocambique – UPDATE May 2019 –

24 Lions relocated to Mocambique in 2018 to a 2.5 million-acre habitat in the Zambeze Delta area. After years of civil war in Mozambique, Lions were all but lost in the Zambezi Delta region. The introduction of  Lions from South Africa in 2018 will grow the population to as many as 500 within 15 years. It was the largest move of Lions across an international boundary in history. The environment was once decimated by civil war and poaching in Mocambique. It has only benefited as a result of a 24-year effort led by Zambeze Delta Safaris. However, in spite of these efforts, the lion population has struggled to recover. Lions have are extinct in 26 African countries. Twenty Four Lions is determined to make sure that Mozambique doesn’t join that list.

24 lions relocated to Mocambique © 24 Lions

There was very little wildlife in the Coutada 11 concession, in central Mozambique, when Mark Haldane, a South African hunter and one of the architects of the lion reintroduction, first arrived in 1995. In a spontaneous decision, Haldane bought the lease from a German owner who wanted nothing more to do with war-torn Mozambique. At the time, there were fewer than 44 sable antelope and perhaps a thousand buffalo on one million acres. The forests were full of snares and traps for small game species, and signs of civil war were everywhere.

Operating a single hunting lodge, Haldane dedicated much of his time and resources to helping the wildlife return by investing in anti-poaching measures, such as motorbike patrols and a team of scouts. There are over 3,000 sable antelope on the concession today and the block holds some 25,000 buffalo.

24 lions relocated to Mocambique © 24 Lions

6 cubs have already been born

Haldane and his partners on the project spend a lot of time with the community living in the concession. Haldane employs some villagers at his camp, but most rely on subsistence farming.

In order to keep the genetic mix as wide as possible, the team sourced the Lions from various reserves in South Africa and kept them all in a boma in KwaZulu Natal’s Mkhuze Game Reserve for three weeks to complete medical tests. In two private planes for the journey to Mozambique in May 2018 the 24 Lions did fly to Mocambique. 

Already, six cubs were born since the Lions’ release. Many don’t like the idea that Zambeze Conservation and Anti Poaching, a hunting orientated venture, is the head behind the relocation. But not all hunting outfitters are doing bad things. The past has shown that when Lions return to a previously wildlife-emptied area, all other wildlife will sooner or later come back. These particular Lions will never be hunted.

We are sure, Coutada 11 will be a stronghold for the wild African Lion in the future.

Read the full National Geographic article

How the world’s largest lion relocation, from South Africa to Zimbabwe, was pulled off

24 Lions relocated to Mocambique © 24 Lions


First article about the Twenty Four Lions relocation

Previous article about the reintroduction of 24 Lions to Mocambique

24 Lions24 Lions Facebook Page   Zambeze Conservation and Anti Poaching

Captive Lions Awareness Day 

Captive Lions Awareness Day 

District 410A – Captive Lions Awareness Day

Join us on our Captive Lions Awareness Day on Saturday, 8 December 2018, at the Brackenfell PicknPay from 11:00 to 13:00. More than 10 000 Lions are held in captivity in South Africa. At the same time, less than 20 000 Lions still exist in the wild in the whole of Africa. South Africa, one of only 7 hotspots with more than 1000 Lions, counts less than 2 000. As members of Lions Clubs International, we have the responsibility to save our iconic Lion species. District 410A is looking to raise R1000 per Lion on behalf of the Project Lions4Lions

The Brackenfell Lions & Leo’s will be taking and jailing the District 410 A Governor on the 8th of December at Pick n Pay Hyper Brackenfell at 11 am. They will only release him on a minimum bail of R10 000.

Raising the awareness of the plight of our Lions in Africa

In 2018, more than ever captive bred Lions are currently living behind bars in South Africa in estimated 300 facilities. Raised in captivity at hidden breeding farms or at public scamtuaries, some of these animals are petted as cubs by tourists, who feed and care for the young lions or even walk with them. Once the animals are too old for petting/walking, they are sold to canned hunting outfitters. While Canned Hunting becomes less attractive, breeders simply slaughter their Lions for their bones to be sold to Asia. 

Our Lions are in need and we need to do our best to save our iconic symbol

Since the Lion bone trade isn’t a “sideline” of the canned hunting industry any more, low-cost mass Lion slaughterhouses have been erected in Free State and probably other provinces as well. The presence of a legal trade clearly results in more and more poaching of wild lions as well as in poaching of lions that live at the very few real sanctuaries in South Africa.

You can SMS your name/club with your pledge amount to 084 788 6523. Bank details will be forwarded to you for your deposits.

Keep your eyes open for our upcoming posts on our Facebook Pages:

Lions4Lions Facebook Group
Lions4Lions awareness video
District 410 A Facebook Page
District 410A Leo Facebook Page

#Freethelions #Lions4Lions #District410Arocks #WeServe #CaptiveLionsAwarenessDay

Captive Lions Awareness Day
Captive Lions Awareness Day

You didn’t think that selling parts and bones from captive Lions boost poaching?

You didn’t think that selling parts and bones from captive Lions boost poaching?

Lion poaching: the brutal new threat to Africa’s Lion prides

You didn’t expect that selling parts and bones from captive Lions boost poaching? Think AGAIN!

The big cats are horribly easy to kill with poisoned meat, allowing poachers to hack off their faces and paws – but rangers are now on their trail

Read more

How the captive Lion bone trade is killing Africas and Asias big cats

How the captive Lion bone trade is killing Africas and Asias big cats

Original Article August 2, 2018 – by John R. Platt – Article adapted for better readability
Angry headlines around the world decried the news that the Trump administration had issued trophy-import permits for 38 lions killed by 33 hunters — including many high-rolling Republican donors — between 2016 and 2018. But the captive Lion bone trade is much worse. Experts worry this booming trade could doom the big cats in the wild.

The Lion species has experienced massive population drops over the past two decades. In 2016, the big cats got some protection under the Endangered Species Act. The Obama-era regulations still allowed some hunting. Imports of trophies were legal, as long as the host countries could prove that their hunts were sustainable. The Trump administration lifted that requirement last year and instead allowed imports on a “case-by-case basis.” Those 38 dead lions represent the Trump administration’s shift on hunting of endangered species.

A story that came out about the captive Lion bone trade around the same time was more worrying than these trophies. A leaked letter from the South Africa Department of Environmental Affairs revealed that it had nearly doubled the legal captive lion bone trade quota and it would allow the skeletons to be exported from the country. The quota went up from 800 to 1500 skeletons, a dramatic increase.

Avaaz Poster in Mall against Captive Lion Bone Trade

The captive Lion bone trade is worse

Unlike the lions that are slain by hunters, the South African bones come from the country’s 300-plus lion farms. Here, the big cats are raised — often in terrible conditions — for use in “caged hunts.” There, according to the 2015 documentary Blood Lions, foreign hunters pay as much as $50,000 to shoot semi-tame lions in small, walled-off, inescapable encampments. The heads and skins from these caged hunts become trophies. The rest of the bodies are shipped to Asia. There the bones are ground down to be used as “medicine” and as a component in wine. There is no medicinal quality in lion or tiger bones.

These factory farms are believed to contain about 8,000 to 12,000 captive-bred lions. An astonishing number compared to the fewer than 20,000 lions estimated to still live in the wild throughout Africa. South Africa itself is estimated to hold fewer than 2,000 adult wild lions.

Where does this demand for lion products come from? Experts say the increase in the lion-bone trade is a response to the decline in wild tiger populations in Asia. Tigers are also poached for “medicinal” products, although those big cats have become so rare in the wild — an estimated 3,900 animals spread across a dozen countries — that the industry has been forced to turn to other felines to feed its fortunes.

The captive Lion bone trade now feeds the Tiger Wine industry

Captive Lion bone trade is on the rise, whily hunting for trophies declines

Luke Hunter of Panthera says, “the lion never had any traditional value in China. It’s an analog to the tiger, so it seems to be acceptable there”. As more lions enter the legal bone trade, the danger to wild lions increases. A July 2017 report from the Environmental Investigation Agency said that legal trade in lion bones further threatens wild tigers and lions by stimulating demand for products made from their bodies. In traditional Asian medicine, wild products are considered more potent and valuable than farm-raised equivalents.

Interestingly enough, the farms and lion bone trade appears to also be inspiring an increase in the poaching of captive lions. Last month a report found that at least 60 captive lions in South Africa were killed by poachers since 2016.

Lion bred for the capitive lion bone trade

At least five captive tigers were also killed in South Africa

It is unclear how many tigers exist in South Africa, but the country has exported more than 200 captive-bred tigers over the past five years. About half of those cats were exported to Vietnam and Thailand, hubs of tiger-product smuggling activity.

All of this is big business and while most of it is legal, some of it may not be. Another new report, issued by two South African organizations called the EMS Foundation and Ban Animal Trading, accused the legal lion-bone trade of shipping a much greater quantity of bones than officially reported. The two organizations used their report to call for eliminating all lion exports from South Africa. They aslo call for restricting the breeding of lions and other big cats, and investigating the finances of breeders.

What does the future hold for wild lions? A 2015 study predicted that wild lions would see another 50 percent population decline in two decades. Reasons are poaching, the bushmeat trade, retaliatory killings for predation of livestock, and habitat loss. Add legal trophy hunting and poaching inspired by the legal bone trade into the mix and that timeline may become accelerated — and lions throughout Africa could pay the price.

Original Article August 2, 2018 – by John R. Platt

Drakenstein Lion Park – We need YOUR HELP

The Drakenstein Lion Park needs a roaring help 

The Drakenstein Lion Park is one of only two real sanctuaries in the Western Cape (and only a hand full in South Africa!). It was established by Paul Hart in 1998. The park provides lions in distress a safe location, where they could live in safety. Where they can roam free from abuse and persecution, and be treated with the compassion and respect they deserved.

When we posted on our Facebook group, that the Drakenstein Lion Park was looking for donations for a fence upgrade, Wellington Lions Club member Benny Smith and his company Kraaifontein Construction & Fencing immediately jumped into action. He could arrange the necessary razor wire at an incredibly discounted suppliers quote. This brought the cost for the fencing down from R 65.000 to R 32.000. Kraaifontein Construction & Fencing also installed the razor wire free of charge, donating the manpower costs to the park. 

Lion poaching statistics - © EWT Endangered Wildlife Trust

Saving one animal won’t change the world, but for that animal, the world changes completely!

For 20 years, many Lions found a new safe home at the Drakenstein Lion Park in the Western Cape. But sadly captive Lions lives aren’t secure any more in South Africa to make sure, something similar doesn’t happen to them! These Lions have been gone through so much to finally arrive here in safety! The Lions cannot be sent to Game Reserves. Because they are human imprinted they cannot be rehabilitated and released to the wild. Cubs are taken from their mothers so that she can produce another litter soon and that volunteer can bottle-feed them. Cubs are being pawed, picked up and being posed all day long, day after day. Lions are abused in circuses and roadside shows. Captive Lions cannot be part of breeding programmes that will save lions from extinction.

But, they can spend the rest of their lives peacefully and secure at the Drakenstein Lion Park!


Click here to donate with PayPal



APPEAL FOR LIONS – South Africa must end the breeding of big cats in captivity, Lion slaughterhouses and cruelty against our wildlife 





The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) has lodged an urgent interdict against the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to suspend DEA’s authorisation of lion bone exports.

The NSPCA has long been actively involved in addressing the cruelty in the captive lion industry; starting with lion cubs for petting to ‘canned lion’ hunting or slaughter for lion bone, with pending cruelty cases.

The NSPCA has been frustrated in its efforts to prevent this cruelty by the lack of regulation within the industry. Not only are there regulatory loopholes, but there is also generally a lack of cooperation and communication from both national and provincial authorities.

Following decisions were taken at CITES CoP17, the Minister of Environmental Affairs established an export quota of 800 skeletons for 2017. The NSPCA requested a judicial review of the quota; with the review process still grinding through the Courts; the DEA announced a 1500 quota for 2018.

The NSPCA has launched an urgent interdict based on welfare concerns

The NSPCA believes, for both the review and interdict purposes that:

• there is inadequate regulation of lions’ conditions of captivity and slaughter;
• the study on which the decision was based is incomplete;
• the DEA failed to comply with its statutory duty to consult;
• based on expert opinion and data available, consider the decision to be scientifically irrational;
• lion bone trade may threaten the viability of lion and other big cat populations globally encouraging consumers to utilise lion bone as a replacement for tiger bone in wine, tonics and traditional medicines and may increase demand;
• captive lion ‘farming’ is an industry that has no conservation value. It poses a risk to both wild lion, tiger and other big cat populations globally;
• The lion bone trade has links to transnational wildlife crime syndicates and other wildlife crime.

The NSPCA would like to extend its heartfelt appreciation to the dedicated legal team and the various experts who have supported our efforts and cause.

The NSPCA is of the view that cruelty to lions is an inevitable consequence of the DEA’s misguided actions and is therefore committed to fighting this decision in court to protect lions.

— END —



The Ongoing Disgrace of South Africa’s Captive Lions

The Ongoing Disgrace of South Africa’s Captive Lions

The Ongoing Disgrace of South Africa’s Captive Lions

An estimated 7,000 to 14,000 (numbers vary) captive lions are held at over 300 Lion breeding facilities in South Africa. Increasingly, the animals are slaughtered for their bones and other body parts, many of which are sold in Asia for their purported — and scientifically discredited — health benefits.

Original article by

  1. The incident at the Lion Slaughterhouse in Bloemfontein, Free State

    Reinet Meyer is the senior inspector at the SPCA in the provincial city of Bloemfontein. She had received a tip. Two adult captive lions had been held 2 days without food or water in tiny transport crates on a farm called Wag ‘n Bietjie. She went to the farm, found the lions, and discovered that they’d been trucked about 250 miles. They came from Predators Pride, a “safari park” near Johannesburg. It keeps big cats in small enclosures so tourists can get close to them. For an extra fee, hold lion cubs or cuddle adult cheetahs while having their photos taken. 

    She then noticed a large pile of rotting, fly-covered meat outside a farm shed. Inside she found a supervisor. About eight workers stripped the skin and flesh from the fresh carcasses of 26 lions. “You could see that it wasn’t the first time they’d done this,” she says. That afternoon a truck arrived with 28 additional lions, which were to be killed the next day. Meyer insisted that the lions be released into a corral rather than be left in their transport crates overnight.

    She returned to Wag ‘n Bietjie the next morning to observe that animal welfare standards were being maintained. A veterinarian arrived at 9 a.m., drove into the newly arrived lions’ corral in a pickup truck, and darted all 28 with tranquillizers. As they lapsed into unconsciousness, he walked from one to the next. He methodically shot each in the ear with a .22-caliber rifle. “Overseas buyers don’t want a skull with a bullet in it,” he told Reinet. Which is why he didn’t shoot them directly in the cranium.

    Lion killed at Lion Slaughterhouse near Bloemfontein @ Conservationaction
    Jabula the Lion killed at Lion Slaughterhouse near Bloemfontein © Conservation Action
  2. Tiger Bone products made from Captive Lions

    These lion carcasses, as well as the ones Reinet had seen the previous day, were being processed into skeletons to be sold to wildlife product dealers in Asia. They would likely resell them as “tiger bone” to be made into a wide variety of products. Products like jewellery, “tiger-bone wine or -cake” and a dizzying array of “health tonics.” There is no mainstream scientific proof that tiger bone is of genuine medical use. On further investigation, Meyer counted 246 lions confined elsewhere on the farm, more than 100 of which were scheduled to be shot and reduced to bones.

    As grotesque as the scene at Wag ‘n Bietjie was, the farmer gave Meyer unfettered access to his property. Although he expressed some unease at killing the animals, he told Meyer that he was making good money. It was all legal; he had government permits to keep and kill lions.

    The low-tech lion slaughterhouse that Meyer had stumbled upon was part of South Africa’s large and increasingly controversial captive-bred lion industry. Not even Edna Molewa’s DEA knows how many lions this industry currently holds because it is poorly monitored. But, it’s one of the most lucrative of South Africa’s wildlife breeding sectors. It has generated generates tens of millions of dollars annually from a worldwide client base.

    Tiger Bone Wine Bottle somewhere in Asia
    Tiger Bone Wine Bottle somewhere in Asia
  3. Captive Lions History – Part I

    The industry originated in the late 1990s* to provide relatively cheap lions for foreign trophy hunters to shoot in fenced areas. (*More than 20 years ago, in 1997, the findings of  The Cook Report investigation were presented to the public by famous Roger Cook). Captive Lions (Males) were sold at between $25,000 and $40,000. Femelaes sold at half of it. But following U.S. restrictions on trophy imports from such “canned” hunts, the captive-bred lion industry is increasingly focused on supplying bones to Asia.

    Supporters of the industry, including especially the late Edna Molewa, the South African Environment Minister, promote captive lion breeding.  They define the slaughter as an example of “sustainable utilization of natural resources”. But increasingly vocal opponents, including prominent hunters, say that it is cruel, damaging to South Africa’s reputation. There is no benefit to wildlife conservation. Luke Hunter of the leading big cat conservation group Panthera says, that captive-bred lions have “unequivocally zero” conservation value.

    The debate about the industry is heating up — hunting groups have split over it. Lobbyists on both sides are ramping up their rhetoric. Now politicians are considering legislating against it. Because lions are a high-profile species and the captive-bred lion industry sells its products across the globe, South Africa’s decisions will have ripple effects through the international hunting and wildlife trades.

    Roger Cook who first uncovered the Canned Hunting Industry @ LionAid
    Roger Cook who first uncovered the Canned Hunting Industry © LionAid
  4. The circuit of abuse and exploitation

    Wild female lions only give birth every 18 months to two years, but in captivity, cubs can be are removed within days of being born.  This allows the females to produce up to four litters every two years. Lion breeders have learned to profit from every stage of a lion’s life.

    First – they extract by extracting cash and free labour from “voluntourists”.  These are often young foreigners in their school gap year and who pay well for the chance to hand-raise cubs while being told that “their” lions will later be released into the wild.

    Then – breeders charge tourists to hold cubs for photos, and when these cubs become adolescents, charge tourists again to go on “walking with lions” excursions.

    Then – adolescent lions become too large to be controlled — hand-raised lions have no fear of humans and can be extremely dangerous — they are sold to trophy hunting outfitters,

    Later – they are released into fenced areas and lion farms guarantee their clients easy, time-efficient kills, often without disclosing that the lions being shot are effectively tame.

    With its increasing size and high profile, the industry inevitably attracted scrutiny. In late 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service banned the import of captive-bred lion trophies, saying the industry had not proved that it benefited the long-term survival of lions in the wild. (Trophies from wild lion hunts could still be imported, however, because the agency found that trophy fees often went toward habitat conservation and anti-poaching patrols).

    Almost overnight, the industry lost more than half its hunting clients. Prices of Captive Lions plummeted. But the game wasn’t over for lion breeders.  They had an alternative market for their products — the bone trade — which they had quietly been developing since 2008.

    Canned Hunting Say No to Cub Petting
    Say No to petting of Captive Lions © Cannedlion.org
  5. Captive Lions History – Part II

    A trophy hunter normally takes just the skull and skin of the lion to a taxidermist to be mounted. The flesh and remainder of the skeleton remain with the outfitter or landowner. Prior to 2008, this was normally disposed of. In 2008, however, the first exports of lion bones — 35 skeletons — from South Africa to Southeast Asia took place. Arranged by powerful Asian syndicates that finance and commit wildlife crime in dozens of countries.

    The business grew rapidly. In 2009 and 2010, for example, 16 consignments totalling 320 lion skeletons were exported to Laos. Nine of these consignments were destined for Vixay Keosavang, a The circuit of abuse and exploitation who deals in a wide range of threatened species. (In 2013, the U.S. government The circuit of abuse and exploitation for information leading to the dismantling of his organization, the Xaysavang Network.) Early South African lion bone exporters included Marnus Steyl, a game rancher who has been implicated in The circuit of abuse and exploitation including The circuit of abuse and exploitation.

    By 2015, exports had risen to around 1,300 skeletons per year. Between 2008 and 2016, South Africa The circuit of abuse and exploitation with a total weight of more than 70 tons, almost all to Southeast Asian countries known as hubs of the illegal wildlife trade. That robust business continues today.

    Wildlife crime researchers say that Asian wildlife syndicates view lion bone as a convenient substitute for tiger bone.  There are well-established markets — albeit often black markets — across Asia. Tigers have long been listed on Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) treaty. This mean means that virtually all international trade in their parts is banned.

    Captive Lions at a Breeding Farm @Big Cat Conservation
    Starving Lion at a Breeding Farm © Big Cat Conservation
  6.  How Lion Bones become Tiger Bones

    African lions have long been viewed as less threatened than tigers, and have been listed on Appendix 2. As a matter of facts, this allows international trade subject to permits. Lion bones leave South Africa legally, with CITES permits.  Once it arrives in Southeast Asia it is typically relabeled as tiger bone and smuggled to black markets. Thus, the legal product feeds illegal business. (Anti-hunting activist groups have recently identified numerous criminal participants in the South Africa-to-Southeast Asia lion bone trade.)

    In Vietnam, lion bones are likely made into “tiger-bone cake,” an expensive “traditional remedy,” with no proven medicinal properties. It is made by boiling bones along with turtle shell and other ingredients until they disintegrate. Then it is compacted into a chocolate bar-like “cake”. In China, the skeletons of big cats are often suspended in large vats of alcohol, which are tapped to produce “tiger-bone wine.”

    Read the full article  https://e360.yale.edu/features/the-ongoing-disgrace-of-south-africas-captive-bred-lion-trade

Raising awareness about the Lion Species Fate – Lions4Lions in the press

Raising awareness about the Lion Species Fate – Lions4Lions in the press

The Lion species survival is in our hands!

In January 2018 Lions4Lions was explicitly started to raise awareness about the Lion species fate. Today, at the end of September 2018, our Facebook group has 4700 members. Every single day, we meet people, that didn’t know what is happening to the most iconic species on Earth. We hear from shocked people. They shiver when they hear what is going on in South Africa’s captive breeding scene. Read more

UPDATE – 24 Lions – a future for Lions in Mocambique

UPDATE – 24 Lions – a future for Lions in Mocambique

😈👿👿 Update about the project – one lion lost to a poacher

Twenty Four Lions bring hope to Mocambique!

Hope for Twenty Four Lions in Mocambique
Hope for 24 Lions in Mocambique

Twenty Four Lions were reintroduced to a 2.5 million-acre habitat in the Zambeze Delta of Mozambique on August 5, in the largest move of lions across an international boundary in history. Today, fewer than 20,000 Lions run wild. Twenty Four Lions will be the seed population that will reverse this trend in the Zambeze Delta, an ecosystem of over 2 million acres. The environment, once decimated by civil war and poaching, has benefited as a result of a 24-year effort led by Zambeze Delta Safaris and dedicated to sound conservation practices. However, in spite of these efforts, the lion population has struggled to recover. Lions have become extinct in 26 African countries. Twenty Four Lions is determined to make sure that Mozambique doesn’t join that list.

24 Lions were relocated to a private reserve in Mocambique. They will be closely monitored for a minimum of 6 years
24 Lions were relocated to a private reserve in Mocambique. They will be closely monitored for a minimum of 6 years

The Cabela Family Foundation, in partnership with the Ivan Carter Wildlife Conservation Alliance, Zambeze Delta Safaris and Marromeu Safaris is proud to support this initiative. Without the revenue from hunting and the decades of conservation work from Zambeze Delta Safaris and Marromeu Safaris, none of this would have been possible.

The most important aspect of any conservation initiative is the scientific foundation upon which it is built. Learn more about the research behind Twenty Four Lions and what we hope to learn from this project.


ENJOY the lovely video about the 24 Lions Project



Update about the 24 Lions at the 8. September 2018

Lion paw destroyed in a gin trap, lion euthanizedSadly lion 2783 has been lost due to a very cruel act by a poacher.
The harsh reality of gin traps – the poacher knew he had a lion in his trap! He had contacted interested buyers to sell off the lion parts. He had informed them he would only kill the lion once he had been paid and the lion had weakened! As a result, the Lion had to be euthanized.
Lions 2783 along with his brother started walking their new territory. They headed inland from the delta. Tragically he was caught on the front paw by a poacher’s Gin trap. The anti-poaching unit picked this up on their morning flight to monitor all the lions. They mobilized their team and darted him.

A vet was on hand but unfortunately, the damage was too bad, every bone in his foot had been crushed. Finally the young male was euthanized. 

Lion paw destroyed in a gin trap Lion euthanisedThe poacher who set the trap has been arrested and is now with the Marromeu police. His brother (lion 2784) is still walking but seems to be heading back to the security of the floodplain as a result of his loss. The balance of the lions are on the floodplain and are really doing well. They are monitored on a daily basis. Anti-poaching is on high alert and continue to do everything in their power to keep the area clean.

Follow this link to learn more and to donate for antipoaching measures …


24 Lions24 Lions Facebook Page   Zambeze Conservation and Anti Poaching

Help LYKA, the blind Lioness at Maasin Zoo

Help LYKA, the blind Lioness at Maasin Zoo

UPDATE about LYKA –  8.4.2019

Lyka the blind LionessA Rescue Team has been in the Philippines working on a mission to help Lyka. The six-year-old lioness lives with an undiagnosed eye condition at the Massin City Zoo. Lyka’s story has drawn international attention when visitors of the zoo have brought light to her cause.
A Team from the Lions Tigers & Bears Sanctuary was able to meet Lyka. The team wants to find out the truth behind her story. Lyka was born at the zoo, six years ago. After just six months, her litter mates all passed away and left Lyka as the sole survivor.

Does Lyka have a chance?

Veterinarian Dr Nielsen Donato and his team assessed Lyka over the course of the day. Lyka suffers from a metabolic bone disease. Due to this disease her foot did break after birth. As a result to poor breeding practices, Lyka has several malformations. Not to mention improper nutrition by previous zoo management. The team will be able to better diagnose Lyka’s eye condition during her physical examination.

The next steps will be to provide Lyka with a thorough physical examination under anaesthetic. This procedure will be the first veterinary examination ever for the lioness. The skilled veterinary team will be taking every precaution necessary. As with any procedure that involves sedation – it always comes with risks. There is no formal medical history to refer to. With Lyka’s apparent health issues, the team will utilize the safest means possible. But the medical exam is necessary, so she can properly be diagnosed and treated according to her conditions.

View the teams first report about Lyka



Lyka the blind lioness living under terrible conditions in a tiny cage at PhilZoo
Lyka the blind lioness at the Philippine Maasin Zoo

LYKA, the blind lioness

has been written off as a ‘breeding mistake’ by the zoo, after going blind as a result of a congenital eye problem and now lives in a very small and barren enclosure in the zoo that is based in Iloilo, Southern Philippines. PhilZoos is an individual zoo facility, a government-run zoo in the Philippines. Without a doubt the rest of the zoo is in sub-standard condition as well.

PhilZoos is the Philippine Zoos & Aquariums Association – The National Zoo Association of the Philippines. But, Maasin zoo does not abide by PhilZoo’s ethical and welfare philosophy. However, colleagues in the Philippines and at PhilZoos are concerned for all animals in captivity. They have told us that: “While Maasin Zoo is not a member of Philippine Zoos & Aquarium Association, Philzoos, however, is looking into the matter already and is coordinating with Maasin Zoo and the concerned government agency on addressing the issues raised.”

Lyka the blind lioness living under terrible conditions in a tiny cage at PhilZoo
Lyka the blind lioness living under terrible conditions

Other animals near LYKA were also in very poor health and living in extremely unhealthy conditions. Maasin Zoo is government-funded but the staff has said that they don’t have enough money to improve the enclosures or properly care for the animals.

It’s unacceptable that Lyka and other animals at the Maasin Zoo continue to suffer from neglect in captivity while zoo officials and government do nothing.

Please sign the petition HERE to call on the Governor of Iloilo to immediately close the Maasin Zoo and free Lyka to a sanctuary. Please, we must save this beautiful Lioness. To see such a beautiful creature suffering like no one cares is extremely painful to see. Thank you sincerely!


Skye is the limit – the kruger lion hunt saga continues

Skye is the limit – the kruger lion hunt saga continues
Skye the Lion – shot at Umbabat Nature Reserve – Charlie Laynam

SKYE is the limit

Outrage, secrecy, abomination, controversy, suspicion, and cat and mouse game, are some of the verbalisations around the events linked to the lion hunt in the Umbabat Private Nature Reserve bordering Kruger National Park (KNP), of what is believed to be Skye, leader of the Western pride.

Many of you will feel jaded by the continued stories around this one lion. However, the narrative is not necessarily just about one lion. This story is about the many unanswered questions and the lack of transparency and accountability around the events that took place pre-hunt, during the hunt, and post-hunt.

It is about the free migration of KNP wildlife into the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR). Free migration of national assets that form part of our natural heritage. Wildlife that receives protection under the Protected Areas Act (2003) (PAA) from trophy hunting in the KNP, but not in the ANPR.

The PAA states that “all animals occurring in a national park are….deemed to be public assets held in trust by the State for the benefit of the present and future generations….”. The act further describes that these animals are not only public assets within our national parks but remain public assets even when they leave the parks.

In February 2018, SANParks KNP informed Umbabat they will not support the requested off-take for among others one lion, based on census wildlife numbers, sustainability and governance issues.

Skye the Lion with cubs @Charlie Lynam

Later that month, Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) approved the Umbabat proposed hunting quota for 2018, including one male lion older than 5 yrs.

Subsequently, MTPA issues a hunting permit for one lion, marked as a hunt where baiting is allowed. Several official requests to view this permit have been made post-hunt to no avail.

Michel Pickover (Director EMS Foundation) says they contacted Glenn Phillips (Managing Executive SANParks KNP) post-hunt “to confirm, as a matter of urgency, that the KNP did not change its mind and grant permission to Umbabat to kill a lion”. In response, Ike Phaahla (SANParks Media Specialist) states that they “make recommendations, but that does not prescribe to the issuing authority and they have the final say”.

Pre-hunt, other shareholders in the Umbabat PNR wanted reassurance from Bryan Havemann (Umbabat warden) that the dominant male lion of the Western Pride (called Skye) would not be the target of this hunt. Skye was identified as a “high-value pride male” for reasons of genealogy, pride stability and from an eco-tourism perspective.

The Ingwelala share block (non-hunting properties) raised concerns over the safety of Skye’s offspring (infanticide) and the negative impact it would have on the wildlife recreational experience of the whole of Ingwelala, if Skye was shot.

At the time, Havemann assured the target of the hunt was not Skye, but an elderly male lion that often encroached into the north-eastern section of the Umbabat from KNP and steps were being taken to increase the probability of this elderly lion being shot by baiting.

Skye was easily identifiable by two distinctive S-shaped scars on his right rump and scarring under his right eye.

Skye – @ Charlie Lynam

On 7th June 2018, an American hunter is believed to have paid R1 million to shoot a Kruger male lion in Umbabat with still unconfirmed reports suggesting it was Skye. The last sighting of Skye was on this very day.

Havemann has been evasive ever since the hunt. He admits it was a lion hunt using the carcasses of a buffalo and elephant as bait, both killed on the same hunt. In some instances, he seems to be aware of Skye’s identity and other times he is not, whereas clear identifying images were presented to him pre-hunt.

An Ingwelala member met with Havemann days after the hunt, during which the latter confirmed to have inspected the hunted lion. Upon further questioning, Havemann claims to have only seen the left rump and not the distinctive scar on his right.

Nevertheless, Havemann insists it was not Skye, but the target elderly male. Yet, among the photos of all the known male lions in the area, provided by Motswari Lodge pre-hunt, there is no lion of such description nor have there been any recorded sightings in the area.

We need to ask the simple question, if indeed an elderly lion was hunted, why not be transparent and allow the skin to be inspected? This would surely put an end to all speculation? I contacted Havemann on several occasions and he declined the opportunity to comment.

There also seem to be violations of the Greater KNP Hunting Protocol as well as national legislation. The Hunting Protocol states that “hunting should be conducted according to set rules to ensure that the spirit of fair chase is honored”. Using bait neither consists of an ethical hunt nor fair chase.

On the 20th June 2018, Riaan de Lange (Head of Professional Hunting, MTPA) tells Adam Cruise in an interview: “It’s a pity we didn’t have more pictures. If the hunter had other pictures, then there would be no excuse, but he only had this one, so one can’t blame him if he did shoot Skye.” Yet another inconsistency, as we know that many identification photos were made available pre-hunt.

However, if indeed the hunt took place based on one photo, this further contravenes the Hunting Protocol, which states that “reasonable steps should be taken to gain knowledge of the males with pride affiliations and their ages, thereby ensuring that pride males under the age of 8 years are not selected”.

Skye the Lion watching over his territory – @ Charlie Lyman

Furthermore, Skye was believed to be younger than 8 years and, if he was shot, this would constitute another violation of the Hunting Protocol.

Cullinan & Associates (Environmental Attorneys) believe there are potential violations of the Threatened Or Protected Species (TOPS) Regulations 2007, which provides that the issuing authority (MTPA in this case) may not authorize the hunting of a listed TOPS using bait.

Baiting is however allowed under the Mpumalanga Nature Conservation Act (1998) – one of the two provinces in South Africa that are not TOPS compliant. This obviously creates a conflict between national and provincial legislation.

Cullinan & Associates argues that conflict of this nature is dealt with in our Constitution and TOPS Regulations should prevail when it comes to the killing of a listed TOPS species. They say “the survival of the whole species in South Africa requires a uniform approach and cannot be dealt with effectively by each province making their own laws”.

Cullinan & Associates asked the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) in a recent letter to take urgent action by looking into this potentially illegal lion hunt.

They conclude their letter to the DEA as follows, “there is a good reason to believe that the lion that was hunted was not the animal which was specified in the permit. Our client and other concerned individuals have been denied the opportunity to inspect the skin despite repeated requests, from which only an adverse inference may be drawn. There is thus a reason to believe that other offenses may have been committed.”

DEA promised to undertake a full investigation, including whether or not the lion hunt was lawful and the correct lion was hunted, and, if necessary, take appropriate action.

In light of this investigation, I asked de Lange (MTPA) whether or not he has granted the hunter an export permit for the trophy. He replied a “PAIA request may be the way to go”.

Earlier last week, Albi Modise (DEA Chief Director of Communications) told me that a draft investigation report is currently under review, but that this will not be made public. “At this stage, there is no evidence that any offenses were committed in the execution of this hunt”, Modise continued.

Nearly 30 NGOs with the support of 139,000 global citizens asked SANParks some very pertinent questions in an attempt to create more transparency around the hunt.

SANParks’ response has been evasive, hiding firmly behind their mandate of the KNP only. Phaahla concluded his response that “in the spirit of transparency and open communication, you [29 organizations] are urged to follow the formal engagement routes by consulting with the issuing authorities MTPA, LEDET, with DEA, and with the Private reserve representatives”, clearly another attempt to divert the responsibility to other authorities.

A representative of those 29 animal welfare organizations, Stefania Falcon (Future4Wildlife), told me that they followed up with all the authorities involved on many occasions, but were met by a wall of silence. “The stakeholders are clearly ignoring public inputs and consultations, as well as petitions signed by many global citizens”, she said.

Nonetheless, SANParks KNP doesn’t seem happy with the whole deplorable situation. Glenn Phillips stated in a recent email that “if Umbabat does not sort out their governance issues, they will re-erect the fence” with KNP. An external source says that “Umbabat has been given six months to get their house in order and to ensure that a new Hunting Protocol is signed with KNP”.

Now more than ten weeks since the hunt, all the evidence is stacking against the survival of Skye. Sightings in Umbabat suggest that the Western Pride is breaking up in the absence of its leader.

Among the many unanswered questions, remains one central issue of national importance. If all animals occurring in a national park are deemed under the PAA to be public assets, even when they occur outside of a national park, would the public not have the right for more consultation and transparency?

By Dr Louise de Waal


Skye is the Limit – The Kruger Lion Hunt Saga Continues

Every Day is WORLD LION DAY!

Every Day is WORLD LION DAY!


That is the question you need to ask yourself today: Is today a Wold Lion Day?
Are you going to continue 😤😖😡 posting angry face images 😣👺😈 on social media every time you read about the plight of our lions? Or are you going to become actively involved somehow to stop this exploitation? Will you give up YOUR TIME and CREATIVITY to prevent even one more destruction of a lions life? Take today to think of those thousands of lions who gave up their lives unnecessary for the sake of greed, status and an inferiority complex. Share and raise awareness to support our cause to fight lion exploitation. Every Day is WORLD LION DAY!

World Lion Day - Statistics - Poster @ EWT https://www.ewt.org.za/
World Lion Day – Statistics adjusted- EWT – Endangered Wildlife Trust

Take the Pledge for the Lions HERE

Wild ‘n Free

“I pledge to keep all carnivores Wild ‘n Free by not petting, walking, feeding or taking selfies with them. I vow to become an ambassador for wild carnivores and to honour their right to live a natural life. I encourage others to do the same.”
Every day is World Lion Day - Pledge - https://www.ewt.org.za/ - #WildnFree
Every day is World Lion Day – The Pledge


#WildnFree #NoPet #Lions4Lions #WorldLionDay


Saving Serabie – How one woman makes a difference

Saving Serabie – How one woman makes a difference

Saving Serabie

Serabie was a 5-month-old lion cub belonging to a facility breeding for canned hunting. Canned hunting is essentially a trophy hunt, where the animal is kept in a confined space, like a fenced area, with a 100% chance of killing. These animals are so habituated to humans that many of them do not even flee their killers.

Alexandra and Serabie © Alexandra Lamontagne
Alexandra and Serabie © Alexandra Lamontagne

This story tells about how Alexandra Lamontagne saved the tiny little lion cub

The place is called Bambelela Wildlife Care. For six weeks Alexandra was responsible for five cubs. It was a very rewarding experience. Four of these cubs were transferred to a zoo in Denmark. The youngest cub, a female, returned to a hunter reserve in Africa. It is therefore likely to be hunted. The Lions were in Bambelela because the person doing the mating could not take care of it. So she asked us to take care of it, otherwise, they would die.

The baby cub was named Serabie. Alexandra set up a crowdfunding campaign because she found a park ready to welcome it, the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuaray. Serabie now lives there with 2 other lions of her age. This park hosts animals rescued from zoos, circuses or hunters’ reserves. 

Serabie © Alexandra Lamontagne
Serabie © Alexandra Lamontagne

Volunteers pay to care for cubs like Serabie

Baby Lions, like Serabie, are often raised by vacationing volunteers, like Lamontagne, who believe they are helping animals and who rarely even know the bloody end that awaits these cubs. “I tried to find out, but I was never able to know the truth”. She was appalled when she learned Serabie was born just to be shot. She knew she had to do something.

When she returned to the facility, Lamontagne found Serabie in an enclosure with 14 other cubs. As Lamontagne looked around, she noticed there were new, younger cubs at the facility as well, in another enclosure. In yet another were larger lions. Lamontagne knew would probably be sent to an undisclosed canned hunting facility to be killed. So many lion cubs were being raised just so hunters could buy the right to shoot them.

A new life for Serabie at Emoya

Lamontagne did what she could: She prepared Serabie for a trip to Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary, where the young cat would get the privilege of which so many others were robbed: Serabie would be able to live out her life. Even after the rescue, Lamontagne couldn’t eat, sleep or stop crying. The thought of the other lions being killed was too horrific. But word was starting to get out. Lamontagne was interviewed for the new MSNBC documentary “Blood Lions,” an exposé on the canned hunting industry. Serabie’s story was also turned into a video to raise awareness about canned hunting. 

Serabie and Siblings at the lion breeding farm © Alexandra Lamontagne
Serabie and Siblings at the lion breeding farm © Alexandra Lamontagne

The Lion Slaughterhouse in Free State

The Lion Slaughterhouse in Free State

The lion breeding farm, the lion slaughterhouse discovered in Free State last week, belongs to a former SA Predator Association council member Andre Steyn. The gruesome discovery of at least 54 dead lions and a further 260 plus lions in captive conditions at Steyn’s farm, Wag n Bietjie, last week, sparked public rage over lions and tigers that are bred for the bullet and skinned for their bones for export to South East Asia’s widely unregulated medicine markets and wildlife body-parts trade.

A statement released by Blood Lions claims that there has been a mass lion shooting in the Free State Province, South Africa. The Blood Lions team and other environmentalists reacted with horror to reports that a lion slaughterhouse was established ‘overnight’ on a farm outside Bloemfontein. The team said in a statement that 19 lions were shot on this farm last week and 80 were allegedly on their way to the Free State or were already being held on the farm to be shot and their bones to be sent to the East. However, another source said 26 lions were shot on the farm on Tuesday and 28 more were shot on Wednesday. Allegedly the lions were anaesthetised before they got shot.

Captive Lioness waiting for her death
Captive Lioness waiting for her death

Their skeletons are then boiled until the meat falls off. After that, the bones are brought to a collecting point at a free-trade branch in the Free State where everything gets prepared for export. Traders in China and Vietnam pay for what is claimed to be as much as R100,000 for a lion skeleton exported from South Africa. Blood Lions referred to the decision of Environmental Minister Edna Molewa, who announced last year that 800 lion skeletons may be exported to the East every year.

Ian Michler, campaigner for lions and member of the Blood Lions team says that this trend should be very worrying for South Africans because the farmers of the country’s 8,000 captive lions will start shooting them all over the country. André Steyn’s farm, Wag-’n Bietjie, outside Bloemfontein is just the first of many to follow, says Michler. “The cruel reality is that South Africa’s iconic lions are traded on an industrial scale, to provide for China’s insatiable demand for their bones.” Lions in crates were brought to the farm from Gauteng, North West and other parts of the Free State. A source who works at a game farm in North West approached Blood Lions and asked for help after two lions were shot on the farm this week, were loaded on a truck and brought to the Free State. No permits were issued for the transport of the lions from North West to the Free State.

Lion skeletons missing their heads
Lion skeletons missing their heads

According to legislation, a veterinarian should have shot the lions but the driver of the truck shot them himself, he said. According to him (the source), he watched powerlessly how the lions were taken away. Steyn did not respond to inquiries. Complaints about alleged animal abuse on Wag-’n Bietjie have been received. A veterinarian, Dr. Hennie Klopper of Bloemfontein, confirmed he was involved in the anaesthesia of the lions at Wag-’n Bietjie. He said he had received permits to anaesthetise the lions. Reinet Meyer, a senior inspector of the Bloemfontein Animal Protection Association (DBV), confirmed to have been called to the farm on Tuesday.It was about two lions held in a very small crate for two or three days before being destroyed,” Meyer says the SPCA is investigating the incident. Adv. Antoinette Ferreira of the National Prosecuting Authority in Bloemfontein says she has no file/info at this stage and does not know whether criminal charges can be filed. She said the big question is if there were legal permits issued for this shooting. She said the National Department of Environmental Affairs issued permits according to a quota system.

The other question is if cruelty was committed to the animals when they were shot or before they were shot. The National Department of Environmental Affairs sent Beeld to the Free State Department of Economic Affairs, Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs. This department did not respond to inquiries at any time. According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), export permits must also be obtained because lions are an endangered species.

Lion skinned for his skin and his bones
Lion killed for his skin and his bones

Link to the Blood Lions Facebook post

International Lion Breeding Awareness Day (12 August)

International Lion Breeding Awareness Day (12 August)

International Lion Breeding Awareness Day

Create Awareness! Today is solely dedicated to captive bred lion cubs of all ages. How we can improve their survival and improve their animal rights. South African lion sanctuary boss says every other breeding facility in nation linked to “canned hunting”. Paul Hart (Drakenstein Lion Sanctuary) said those who claim they are seeking to conserve the species are directly or indirectly providing animals to be slaughtered by wildlife trophy hunters. The Drakenstein Lion Park, which bills itself as the “only genuine lion sanctuary in the Western Cape”, rescues captive animals destined for canned hunts. Hart said: “There are thousands of volunteers getting conned”.

The fight against canned lion hunting

The fight against canned lion hunting

Cape Chameleon Logo

Article from Cape Chameleon – 16th June 2016 – The Fight Against Canned Lion HuntingFinding Morality in a Corrupt Industry – About UKUTULA, an alleged Lion Breeding and Petting Centre – WORDS Kate Latimer –

The fight against canned lion hunting:

It’s 42 degrees outside. I’m standing in the back of a pickup truck with eight other girls, ducking from stray branches as we rocket along a bumpy dirt path leading back to the lodge. Sometimes we look back to check on the horse in the trailer we’re hauling. Yep, still dead.

It’s a normal day for a volunteer at Ukutula, the lion education and research facility, or as they advertise on the sign at the front gates, ‘a place of quiet’. We begin the morning feeding cubs, preparing bottles of formula milk to hand feed to baby tigers and hyenas. During my visit, the Lions were around three to five months old, and were receiving whole chickens we packed with protein powder. They are fed every day around 4 pm. The volunteers stand around just outside their enclosure and throw in the stinking chickens, aiming so that the little cubs have a chance of eating first. Some days a bigger lion steals their food, but ‘that’s how they learn’, the guides told us.

Cub breeding for petting and bones in South Africa

The Tigers get stimulated

Before feeding, the Tigers get ‘stimulated’; the term we use to describe our imitation of the process where the mother licks her cubs until they poop. The volunteers wipe with paper towels as the cubs squirm and scream. Then a bath, then feeding. The enclosures are kept immaculate, the cubs are cared for, clean, and most importantly, disease free. We receive a little training from the rangers, but mostly we just learn from volunteers who have been there longer than us, the practices getting passed on by watching and imitating. Then our morning cub duties slow down, we can play with them, pick them up and cuddle them, take pictures of them in our arms. 

The tourists love it

If a tour group comes along we stand at attention, ready to save a poor tourist’s leg from a cub bite. They can take pictures of the animals, but they are not allowed to pick them up or disturb them from whatever they are doing. They sit on the floor, just waiting for one of the animals to come over to them, maybe get bitten by a baby lion or tiger – ‘an African tattoo’ the rangers usually joke to the startled tourist. Sometimes we take delight in the overconfident tourist who shrugs us off as three cubs start attacking their leg.

‘They’re just playing,’ they might say

But soon the look of pain crosses their face and we step in quickly. It’s so easy to forget that you’re dealing with lions and tigers. In the afternoon we might have ranger duty: usually picking up old vegetables and chickens, cleaning enclosures. Sometimes we get a call from a nearby farmer with a sick horse or a cow with a broken leg, and our rangers grab their gun as we pile into the pickup to go put down the animal. In exchange, we take the body and bring it back to our lions. A full-grown cow usually lasts about a day in the enclosure with our ‘walking lions’. During my stay, Ukutula had around 20 walking lions, all waiting to eventually find homes in safari parks or zoos. The lions come and go seemingly overnight, but all are micro-chipped with a tracking device.

Lion siblings in the wild cuddle together
Lion siblings in the wild cuddle together

A paradise

It feels like paradise while you are there, like nothing in the real world can touch you. One day blends into the next. It’s clear how much the animals are loved. Gill Jacobs gets up several times a week to take the volunteers and special guests on a 6:30 am lion walk. She never gets tired of seeing the animals, she tells us. There are animals roaming free on the property – ostriches, zebra, giraffes, and wildebeest. Sometimes on a lion walk, even these seemingly tame lions who happily walk along next to humans, calmly taking chickens from their handlers, get distracted by an animal. We watch in amazement as their natural instincts take over and they move in for the kill. Usually an ostrich, sometimes zebra. Just when you start relaxing, these animals jolt you out of your comfort zone – reminding you of what you’re dealing with.

A paradise? 

On our first day, we receive an orientation from the owners, Gill and Willi Jacobs. The research they are conducting, the disease-free lions they raise for the research, the lab they are building. The documentation of the research they have carried out with the University of Pretoria. As I listen to their talk, I realise they seem to be subtly on the defensive. For what reason, I’m not sure. Finally, they mention it – ‘Has anyone seen the documentary Blood Lions?’ I look around at our little group of new volunteers and we all shake our heads. They’ve made some accusations about our practices here at Ukutula, all completely untrue, things were taken out of context. But we are happy to answer any questions you have, please don’t worry about offending us,’ Willi says to the group. ‘Offending them?’ I think to myself. ‘But this is paradise.’

What is canned hunting?

Image Credit Ian Michler – BLOOD LIONS

Up until the late 1990s, the term canned hunting didn’t exist. Now it is a term that is tarnishing South Africa’s hunting reputation. The Blood Lions documentary, distributed by Regulus Vision and Wildlands, an attention-grabbing film created to raise awareness about the canned hunting industry, interviewed Chris Mercer, founder of the Campaign Against Canned Hunting (CACH), who explains, ‘a canned hunt is where the target animal is unfairly prevented from escaping the hunter, either by physical constraints, such as fencing, or by mental constraints, such as being habituated to humans.’ It is called canned hunting because the kill is ‘in the can’– you are almost 100% assured of your trophy. And it’s legal in South Africa.

It seems so easy: you contact a hunting lodge and are presented with pictures of lions to browse through. Once you have chosen a lion, you pay in advance and then set up your stay, often around three days. It’s a guaranteed kill. Prices vary, but as of 2014, a full grown female would be around $5,400 USD; a young, blond male would be around $16,000 USD; and a male lion with a black mane would be upwards of $48,000 USD. And while this might seem pricey, it is a fraction of the cost of wild lion hunting.

Why is canned hunting a problem?

Sitting in a dark theatre listening to the star of the documentary, Ian Michler – a renowned specialist wilderness guide and safari operator – answer questions after a screening at the World Travel Market conference, I couldn’t help thinking, why is this such a problem for this audience made up of travel agency owners and tourism experts? There are no animal activists in the room, and other than the obvious moral issues of breeding lions to be hunted with no chance of survival, I couldn’t really understand the bigger picture issues of canned hunting. It all seemed quite self-contained.

Although it is a rapidly growing industry, as of 2014 canned hunting contributes only R122 million towards South Africa’s total R95 billion tourism industry. The problem is that this tiny percentage of the tourism industry is damaging South Africa’s whole tourism reputation. Countries worldwide marched this past year to protest the canned hunting industry, and Australia and France have banned the import of lion parts into the country, with many countries soon to follow. The world is starting to stand together to reject this industry, and South Africa’s tourism reputation is dying in the dirt right alongside the canned lions. One in seven Africans’ livelihoods is dependent on the tourism industry. Now I understand the problem. Alongside lions’ well-being, a polarising activity like canned lion hunting is turning South Africa’s tourism industry into a target, without enough firepower to hold up the industry by itself.

Image credit Bee Lingg – Lions4Lions

Taking the pressure off wild Lions?

Ian Michler was also there to shut down some of the popular claims many canned hunting supporters make: doesn’t the canned lion industry take pressure off wild lion hunting? If lions are bred specifically to be hunted, doesn’t this save the wild lion population? ‘No’, Ian Michler stated emphatically. There is such a variation between canned lion hunting and traditional lion hunting, that instead of taking off some of the pressure, it just creates a new market. A wild lion hunt will last around 21 days, cost $76,000 USD, with a 61% success rate. This in comparison with captive bred lion hunting: lasting around 3 days, costing $19,000 USD, with a 99% success rate, makes it clear that these are not comparable activities and are drawing two very different kinds of hunters. According to the Blood Lions documentary, many traditional lion hunters have spoken out against the canned hunting industry.

Not only does the canned lion hunting industry not relieve the wild lion hunt, it in fact actively contributes to the direct demise of the wild lion population. From canned hunting, a spin-off industry has begun: the export of lion bones to Asian markets. Beginning with tiger-bone wine, many believe in the healing powers of a concoction created from boiling down the bones of tigers. Because of the increasing difficulty attaining tiger bones, the Asian markets have re-aimed their focus on lion bones, readily available as by-products of canned hunting. The bones are boiled down into wine and cake and sold for large amounts of money. Now, 100 grams of lion-bone cake can be sold for $1,000 USD, making lion bone just as valuable as rhino horn.

The side effect of the canned hunting industry

This side effect of the canned hunting industry is known to the South African government and is believed to be sustainable, according to Thea Carroll, the director of the Department of Environmental Affairs. She said in an interview given for the Blood Lions documentary, we are aware of the lion bone trade, and the extent of it. At the moment the department regards it as a sustainable activity. The bones are obtained as a byproduct from the lion hunting industry.’ In 2009, 169 carcasses were exported from South Africa to Asia, and by 2013, a staggering 1094 carcasses were exported. Chris Mercer has estimated that as of 2014, there were 8,000 captive bred lions some 250 sites around South Africa.

However, the market is no longer satisfied with bones obtained from the captive-bred lions. There is a belief that the bones from wild lions are more potent. The industry that has been awakened by the easy access to lion bones, is no longer satisfied with captive-bred lions and is turning instead to wild lions, posing a direct threat on the already dwindling numbers of wild prides.

Why is there no legislation against canned hunting in South Africa?

Image credit Bee Lingg – Lions4Lions

When canned hunting began as an industry, the South African government made an attempt to pass legislation to ban the canned hunt, but the High Court ruled in favour of canned hunting. In the last four to five years, the government has done nothing to ban canned lion hunting, and in that time, the industry has doubled. The intensive breeding of lions is accepted, with no regulations.

The problem seems to be that the banning of canned lion hunting falls somewhere in between different departments’ authorities. The Department of Environmental Affairs can only legislate based on biodiversity threats, and animal welfare falls to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Therefore, Environmental Affairs cannot ban the captive breeding that in some cases can be considered animal cruelty. It is a weakness of the South African system; the specificity of power allocated to each department often means it is impossible to take real action.

Red Tape

Alongside the legislation red tape, there is the inevitable economic incentive that makes Derek Hanekom, the Minister of Tourism in South Africa, reluctant to ban the industry. He says in Blood Lions, ‘Tourists come here to hunt, they are of great value to our tourism sector, as long as the hunting that they do doesn’t negatively impact on the reputation of the rest of the sector […] Trophy hunting can contribute positively to […] conservation, done in such a way that it is understood and appreciated by the public, including tourists who want to visit South Africa for the safari experience.’

It is, however, important to note that the Professional Hunter’s Association (PHASA) has made a stand against canned lion hunting. PHASA defines canned hunting as ‘when the animal is hunted in an enclosure small enough to prohibit it from evading the hunter, or when the animal is hunted while tranquillized.’ Ian Michler, in the documentary Blood Lions, isn’t convinced by this statement, as the wording used to define canned hunting is ambiguous, allowing for some loopholes when it comes to their associations with canned hunting. The statement goes on to later say, ‘captive bred animals, on the other hand, may be legally hunted.’ To keep an untarnished reputation, public opinion demands a denouncement of the canned lion hunting industry. It seems PHASA’s half-hearted denouncement might be a result of bowing to the pressures of popular opinion.

Haven’t you heard – it’s not cool to hunt captive-bred lions.

Hermann Meyerdricks, the president of PHASAS has now made the statement to his members, ‘I have come to believe that, as it stands, our position on lion hunting is no longer tenable. The matter will be on the agenda again for our next annual general meeting and I appeal to you to give it your serious consideration so that together we can deliver a policy that is defensible in the court of public opinion.’

The Fight Against Canned Lion Hunting - Finding Morality in a Corrupt Industry

The Fight Against Canned Lion Hunting – Finding Morality in a Corrupt Industry – Image Credit CACH

How can we eliminate canned hunting?

The first step is to cut off the revenue stream. According to Mercer, 55% of trophy hunters in South Africa are from the United States, while 40% come from Europe. To slow down US trophy hunters, one of the first steps is to get the United States’ Fish and Wildlife department to raise the status of lions to endangered. As of December 2016, the department has announced, “lions in central and western Africa will be listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, while lions in southern and eastern Africa will be classified as threatened- meaning that the importation of the heads, tails, and skins of lions”. The next step is to raise awareness in Europe. In the next few months, Ian Micheler will be screening Blood Lions in parliaments across Europe, directly followed by a vote to ban the importation of animal parts.

Where do the lions come from?

No one is formally associated with canned lion hunting. There are no facilities that acknowledge any connection with the canned hunt. But trophy hunters want full grown lions – so they must be living somewhere. The answer is in lion conservation sites and sanctuaries. There is a whole side of the South African tourism industry reserved for lion walking and lion petting. These sites across the country breed lions specifically for tourists to come and handle cubs. They are removed from their mothers at around three days old, both to make them friendly to humans, but also so that the mother can begin breeding again quickly. Often the conditions in these places, as Blood Lions highlights, are far from acceptable. Once the cubs are too old to be cuddled by tourists, or to go on walks, they are sold to hunting farms. 

Lions living in small cages, with poor hygiene, and obviously mistreated.

A place that claims the status of a sanctuary relies heavily on the voluntourism industry: usually young adults from across the globe, willing not only to volunteer their services but to pay for the opportunity to do so. They are told that they are helping to save abandoned lions that will one day be released back into the wild. There are no known cases of any lion being successfully released back into the wild. Ever. There are no conservation benefits of breeding lions specifically to be hunted. It does not help the wild lion population. This is simple: these places are bad. They lie to volunteers, they breed lions for tourism purposes and often end up supplying them to canned hunting farms when they have outgrown their cuddly phase. The incentive here is purely mercenary, and their claims of conservation have been proven untrue by countless animal specialists.

Saving Serabie - The Fight Against Canned Lion Hunting - Finding Morality in a Corrupt Industry
Saving Serabie – The Fight Against Canned Lion Hunting – Finding Morality in a Corrupt Industry

In the late 1990s, around the time Ian Michler began following the canned lion hunting industry, he decided to prove the connection between these lion tourism sites and canned hunting. He signed up for a canned hunt, went online and picked his lion. He was sent a picture of the lion. Following tips from some workers at a lion ‘conservation’ facility, he drove up a road marked ‘Do Not Enter, Trespassers Will Be Shot’ and found the owners house, along with a cage full of lions kept away from the eyes of the tourists. And there he found the very same lion he was scheduled to kill a few weeks later. Connection confirmed.

But what about Ukutula?

Featured prominently in the Blood Lions documentary, it is lumped in with facilities claiming to be sanctuaries or conservations. Ukutula does not claim to be either of these things – they are a research and education facility. They do breed lions, they do have a tourism industry, they do take in volunteers, but they have another very important side: the research. What the documentary fails to mention is the growing number of wild lions affected by tuberculosis. According to a ranger in Kruger Park interviewed by The Independent, around 90% of their wild lions are affected by tuberculosis, spread from the buffalo herds. But unlike Buffalo, tuberculosis affects lions much faster.

Research. Really?

Ukutula is researching a vaccine for tuberculosis in lions, looking at hyenas who have a natural immunity to TB. There are many real issues facing the wild lion population that have nothing to do with canned hunting. At Ukutula they are researching artificial insemination techniques, with the hope that captive breeding will allow for genetic diversity to be brought to endangered animal species. The research is necessary, and they are looking not just at the short term, but playing the long game for the survival of the lion species.

Relaxed Lioness
Relaxed Lioness

The tracking device they place in their lions is not enough.

Though they claim it lasts a lifetime, people on the lodge explained the tracking information available to the public only lasts two years. The age they sell their lions at, around two to three years old, means that the tracking expires around the age of four to five years old. Trophy hunters are looking for lions around six to seven years old. There is still time for the lions to be sold to canned hunting farms long after the device has stopped tracking. Though they don’t really mention breeding to their volunteers, somehow there are always cubs for the volunteers to look after. During my time at Ukutula, three baby tigers were there, after an accidental pregnancy with a male tiger they had thought was infertile. There was a baby lion separated from its mother immediately after its birth – she was apparently stressed by construction going on at the time.

There were a lot of coincidences.

But Ukutula receives no funding for their research. The tourism that Ukutula considers part of the educational side of their efforts, seems to be the necessary evil that funds their research. But it is an inherently corrupt cycle, a constant stream of cubs with nowhere to go. And even with the best of intentions, where do these cubs go? It seems impossible that they have completely avoided all associations with canned hunting. The owners have denied any connection with the canned hunting industry, as do all the workers at Ukutula.

Ukutula is an exceptional case, serving to complicate the already murky industry of lion tourism in connection with canned hunting. However, it is the opinion of Ian Michler and Chris Mercer that we cannot support any lion petting or walking tourists activities. Perhaps under the threat of canned hunting, we are not ready for the long-term research Ukutula is working towards, because there is still an almost certain risk of associating with the canned hunting industry.

The murky industry

The most pressing threat is the canned hunting industry, spiralling out of control, tarnishing Africa’s tourism industry and risking the livelihood of African citizens. Canned hunting must be stopped. In such a corrupted industry, where very few hands can stay clean, the cost of long-term research at this moment in time might be too high. But, by the time we eliminate the canned lion hunting industry, what if there are no wild lions left? Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, especially when going down one path comes at the expense of another. We have created seemingly impossible circumstances for our lion populations to continue to live in, and even ending the canned hunting industry is only the beginning. 

THE EXTINCTION BUSINESS – Report by EMS Foundation and Ban Animal Trading – 2018

THE EXTINCTION BUSINESS – Report by EMS Foundation and Ban Animal Trading – 2018

For more than a decade, South Africa has been actively supporting and growing the international trade in big cat bones, despite local and international outrage and condemnation from conservation and protection organisations, lion scientists, and experts.
In 2017, South Africa’s Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, controversially, and in the face of vociferous opposition and robust arguments against this trade, set the annual export quota at 800 lion skeletons. Even more alarmingly, Molewa, without stakeholder participation, took the incomprehensible decision to almost double the quota in 2018 to 1,500 skeletons.

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The Lion – King or Commodity?

The Lion – King or Commodity?

AN ANALYSIS OF THE LION BREEDING INDUSTRY IN SOUTH AFRICA published in the Africa Geographic Stories Issue 8 – 22 Aug 2014.

A wild lion is a scrappy thing. A fierce, dishevelled, fly-bitten beast with battle scars from nose to tail and a matted, grimy mane. This is a rug you don’t want on your living room floor. But the beast has been cleaned up and rebranded in one of the greatest wildlife marketing stunts of all time. Since humans painted them on a cave wall in France 30,000 years ago, lions have populated our imagination. Despite being extinct in Britain and Europe for thousands of years, they have grown in stature through myths and legends.

Tens of centuries ago, kings and conquerors of Britain and Europe adopted the mighty lion as their symbol on military shields, tunics and crests, a form of marketing if you will: Look on us in awe. Use of the symbol eventually extended to the nobility who displayed lions “rampant” and fierce, often human-like, clutching axes and swords or wearing crowns.

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Lion - King or Commodity? Issue-8-Africa-Geographic-Magazine