The 8th December 2019 saw 30+ Lions and Leos from the Brackenfell Lions Club – South Africa and Brackenfell Leos jailing the District 410A Governor and a mystery guest at the Pick n Pay Hyper in Brackenfell. This was our first ever Captive Lion awareness day. District 410A will hold more awareness days once a month or bi-monthly in 2019.
Why is it so important to raise awareness about captive Lions?
According to the global Blood Lions campaign, the demand for canned hunting has plummeted in the last few years. But captive and wild Lions are now increasingly being killed for the bone trade. The bones are dropped into rice wine vats and sold as tiger bone wine which is promoted in Asian markets as a treatment for rheumatism and impotence.
This District project will be going on until we have reached R 100.000. Lions are volunteers, we are not paid and Lions Clubs all over the world spend 100% of any donation made to them back into the projects. No costs whatever are deducted. The District leaders will decide how to spend the money that we raised.
The Parliamentary Colloquium on lion farming in SA by Chris Mercer.
Chris Mercer has been re-reading the transcript of the submissions made to the Portfolio Committee of Parliament, 6 months after the Colloquium on lion farming in Cape Town recently.
The arguments advanced on behalf of the hunting industry make one wonder if they were written by a five-year-old child. In fact, they were made by senior officeholders of hunting associations. Tragically, unbelievably, these puerile arguments are accepted as gospel by conservation structures in South Africa. At least, they’re childish – you make up your own mind.
The Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs hosted a two-day colloquium on captive lion breeding. The colloquium titled “Harming or Promoting the Conservation Image of the Country” took place on 21 and 22 August 2018. It gave stakeholders from across the board an opportunity to present arguments for and against captive breeding of lions.
A first positive result from the Colloquium about Captive Lion Breeding for Hunting in South Africa: The Committee demands a revision of agreement between Kruger National Park and Private Reserves.
3 weeks after the Colloquium Captive Lion Breeding for Hunting in South Africa took place in Cape Town, a first positive result came out. The Committee chairperson, Mohlopi Mapulane said, that the aim of the event would be to facilitate a constructive debate around the future of captive lion breeding and hunting in SA. The colloquium titled “Harming or Promoting the Conservation Image of the Country” took place on 21 and 22 August 2018. It gave stakeholders from across the board an opportunity to present arguments for and against captive breeding of lions. Obviously, Mohlopi Mapulane does a great job so far.
Lions in South Africa are treated like livestock. They are classified as farm animals. Ca. 8.000 to 12.000 Lions live in captivity in most incredibly bad conditions.
The Lion farmers have ONE GOAL, to make money out of their livestock. This circuit starts at the volunteer projects. Volunteers pay to be able to raise young cubs, that are taken away from their mother a few days after birth. When they are too old to be fed, the animals are exploited on Lion walks. Once they’ve grown up, the end as cannon fodder for hunts and bone sales. Sadly, lions are often traded between the breeding facilities, the volunteer projects as well as the Canned Hunting farms.
They breed Lions to be sold as targets in Canned Hunts, where the animal is brought into a confined area, often just hours before the hunter arrives and often drugged, just to be shot by a wealthy person coming from Europe or America, recently also from Russia.
Now the cruellest part of the Lion exploitation begins
The confined animals are easy targets for these safari loving hunting tourists. They have no chance to escape.
The hunters pay up to $5.000 for a female and up to $40.000 to shoot a male Lion. Export of trophy heads is booming. But only 10 % of the farmed Lions are destined to be hunted. And the greedy breeders have discovered a new market.
Lion bones are now sold to Asia. A whole lion carcass can bring up to $7.000. Nobody at the SA government cares, what bones are sent to Asia, and nobody checks if the skeletons are complete with a skull or not. So, bones from trophies and bones from bred Lions are mixed in bags and sent to Asia.
Lion bones have replaced Tiger bones in Tiger Wine that is sold all over Asia. The South African Breeders claim, that they conserve the wild Lions, but all that happens is that the demand for the bones is steadily increasing. But why should the criminal syndicates that organize the bone trade buy expensive bones from breeders, while its cheap to poach wild Lions?
Wild Lions are under enormous threat. The species has lost more than 90 % of its range in the last 100 Years. If we don’t act, the species will surely be wiped out in 2050. Please help us to avoid wild lions losing their fight against extinction! Share and join our Facebook Group.
Video: Courtesy of .Brut Featured Image: Courtesy of The Guardian
APPEAL FOR LIONS – South Africa must end the breeding of big cats in captivity, Lion slaughterhouses and cruelty against our wildlife
MEDIA STATEMENT by NSPCA
ISSUED ON 26 SEPTEMBER 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NSPCA LAUNCHES URGENT LEGAL APPEAL FOR LIONS
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.
Predator farming using lions and other species could cost South Africa over R54-billion over the next 10 years in loss of tourism brand attractiveness. This is according to a scientific report about to be released by the South African Institute of International Affairs. According to a scientific report about to be released by the South African Institute of International Affairs, the Economics of Captive Predator Breeding in South Africa, the burgeoning lion bone trade, canned lion hunting, cub petting and “voluntourism” are doing escalating damage to the image of South Africa as a tourism destination. There is already substantial body of evidence stacked against these notorious industries says the author, Ross Harvey, and it’s going to get worse.
The report comprises two sections. The first is a formal academic review of the scientific and “grey” literature, some of which is being used by those involved in attempts to justify their commercial predator activities. The second deals with the conservation and economic claims being made, including the most recent lion bone quota of 1,500 carcasses awarded by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA). According to Harvey, “perhaps the most surprising finding was the sheer extent to which the skeleton quota numbers for the last two years (from 800 to 1,500) appear to have no grounding in science. Also startling is how little reliable economic analysis has been conducted on this industry”.
The cruelty and brutality of industrial-scale farming of lions in South Africa has been documented by Blood Lions and others, as has the killing of predators by hunters. In the past, these have been the ugly face of this industry. But Harvey’s report adds the burgeoning lion bone trade as well as the cub petting and “voluntourism” sectors which have over the last decade become just as insidious.
Some of the principle findings in the report are that: Based on the current literature and data available, the conservation and economic claims of the entire industry “do not correspond to reality”. Excluding the canned hunting sector, the predator breeding industry and its other related activities may generate over R1-billion of revenue a year– less than 1% of the total tourism economy. The opportunity costs and negative externalities associated with these industries may “undermine South Africa’s brand attractiveness as a tourism destination by up to R54.51-billion over the next decade”.
The conservation claims have no validity. Current data is based on small sample sizes dependent on interview responses. If the industry is going to make any claims of economic benefit, further analysis and data collection is needed. The lion bone quota should be removed as there is insufficient scientific basis for awarding it. In addition, legal quotas create supply-side signals of legitimacy that promote parallel illegal markets as well as poaching for illegal stock to be laundered through “legal” markets. Volunteers on predator facilities are taking work away from local full-time job-seekers.
While the market for canned hunts has fallen, this has not resulted in any noticeable increase in demand for wild lion trophies. The price of lion bones is on the increase; heading over R50,000 for a carcass, and that this trade may well be replacing canned/captive hunting as the breeders primary revenue source. The connection between predator farming and organized crime has been well documented.
Of particular interest to the government, particularly the Department of Labour and the revenue authorities, will be Harvey’s findings on the much-touted job creation claims made by predator facilities and so-called sanctuaries. Rather than creating jobs, they make use of a seemingly endless stream of volunteers which is “crowding out” full-time jobs that would otherwise be available to local work-seekers. The volunteer exchange is the most incongruous of contracts as those offering their labor for free are also asked to pay substantial sums before setting foot in a facility. In essence, the volunteers pay twice; their cash in dollars or euros that provide substantial revenue streams for the operators, and then they work for free, without pay. It may seem inconceivable that anyone would offer both their cash and labor to scrub lion cages, mend fences and feed animals among many other chores. But as Harvey points out, this happens because of the misleading or false conservation claims used to lure them.
Unsuspecting volunteers from around the world are prepared to make these sacrifices thinking they are making a contribution to securing the future of wild lions. A further lure is the chance to cuddle and bottle-feed newly-born cubs ripped from their mothers.
The report highlights the economic contributions of these predator farming facilities as being relatively small. However, it is the first to quantify the significant potential losses to Brand South Africa. Concerns about the future of lion hunting and breeding are being noted at the highest level and next week Parliament will hold a two-day colloquium to hear a range of viewpoints. DM
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.
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.
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.
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”.
Article from Cape Chameleon – 16th June 2016 – The Fight Against Canned Lion Hunting – Finding 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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 – 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.
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.
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.
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.
An Overview of the Breeding of Lions for Hunting and Bone Trade
The rapid expansion of commercial lion breeding and canned hunting industries, particularly in South Africa, is a cause for real concern. From small beginnings a decade or so ago, there may now be as many as 8,000 lions and other predators spread across more than 200 captive breeding facilities, many languishing in poor conditions. These animals are unashamedly exploited for profit by their captors at every stage of their often short lives. Cubs are removed within a few days of birth in order to bring their mothers back into breeding condition quickly, and to provide unwitting tourists with cute photo props and misguided volunteers with cubs to hand-rear in the mistaken belief that they are genuine orphans and that, one day, they are destined to be returned to the wild. As the animals grow, they are used for other tourist activities such as ‘walking with lions’. The ultimate fate for many of these unfortunate animals is to be shot in a ‘canned hunt’ by a paying ‘hunter’, usually from overseas, to be killed so their body parts can be exported to Asian markets, or to be cycled back into the breeding machine.