As many as 10,000 lions are bred and kept on South Africa’s lion farms when only between 1,300 – 1,700 adult lions remain in the wild.
Today it is estimated that there are only 20,000 lions living in the wild across the whole of Africa. Sadly they are disappearing from the wild at an astonishing rate. So why does South Africa support a captive lion industry? In Part One of this blog we looked at lions being bred for their bones on captive farms. We also wrote about more than 100 neglected and diseased lions discovered in a South African captive lion breeding farm. Calling it one of the most shocking cases of animal neglect by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA), it was even more sickening to find out the owner of the farm was a prominent member of the South African Predator Association (SAPA). This is an organisation that prides itself on its members upholding the concepts of responsible hunting, responsible breeding and responsible custodians.
In 2018 the South African government’s Environment Portfolio Committee held a two-day academic conference in which lions were the main focus.
The committee were made up of lion breeders and hunters to conservationists and animal rights NGOs. The committee concluded that lion farming and canned hunting were disgusting and repugnant and had no conservational value. It fell on the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) “as a matter of urgency to initiate a policy and legislative review of captive breeding of lions for hunting and lion bone trade with a view to putting an end to this practice.” The Director-General to DEFF, Nosipho Ngcaba, pulled together 25 appointees for the review which changed the reference “putting an end to this practice” to the weaker inadequate phrase “review policies, legislation and practices.” The initial conference had sent out a worrying message to lion breeders and cub petting farms and those who sold canned hunts and lion bones. Around 24 environmental NGOs checked out the 25 appointees and confirmed that these individuals would hardly support Parliament’s instruction to put an end to the terrible exploitation of the lions on these farms. The overriding intent appeared to be one of opposition to Parliament’s Environmental Portfolio.
Canned trophy hunting of lions can be a very profitable way of making a substantial income for these farms.
Back in 2014 SAPA declared that 90% of captive-bred lions killed on hunting farms in South Africa were killed by Americans. But in 2016, any hunter wishing to import lion trophies into the USA had to have an import certificate. This permit was only issued if the killing could be proved to enhance the survival of wild lion populations. Canned trophy hunting of lions could do nothing of the sort. It followed that the numbers of Americans seeking to take hunting holidays in South Africa more than halved. The captive-bred lion farms had to invent or find reasons for pulling in the hunters and they certainly did that! Taking a leaf out of the supermarket trade they tried not to reduce their basic fees but offered a ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ deal. If a customer books to kill a male lion they would offer a female lion to kill for free or at a much lower fee!
It’s quite ironic that Safari Club International (SCI), a US based organization with more than 50,000 hunters dedicated to preserving the right to hunt, was purportedly against canned lion hunting.
From 04 February 2018, SCI banned the sale of canned lion hunts at its conventions. These canned hunts are ‘internationally-scorned’ because they are not seen as sporting and require no skills as a marksman. Basically these canned hunts gave customers the experience of shooting a captive-bred African lion in an enclosed area. Trophy hunters are offered a range of lions over the internet showing the price to kill each lion and they can book the lion they want to kill. It can be carried out in a relatively short time. Sometimes the lions can be baited with meat (often containing drugs) before the trophy hunter arrives. This saves on time and the trophy hunter can quickly get back on a flight home and wait for his trophy to reach him later. According to the Humane Society International (HSI), purchase of canned hunts were openly on offer the following year at SCI’s Convention in Dallas during January 2019. Apparently there were at least six companies selling canned lion hunts yet SCI claim in writing that they oppose captive bred lion hunting. Obviously money comes before ethics and morals.
But look at these websites of the Safari companies offering captive bred lions for hunting.
They offer credentials from the likes of SAPA whose members are not necessarily up to the organisation’s purported standards. They have ‘ranches’ and ‘privately owned wildlife reserves’ but fail to mention that they breed the lions. One website did suggest they were breeding but the cubs were left with their mothers. They claim to take the lions out of their compounds they have grown up in and release them into an open area a few days before the hunt takes place. The owners even claim the lions are killing wildlife to feed themselves during these few days. This is supposed to support the belief that captive bred lions can easily go back into the wild. But why should they leave their lions in the wild when one lion shot can bring in $20,000 for their owners. They maintain their hunts are such good value because they give discounts on the basis the customer only wants the skull and the skin of the trophy lion. That leaves the bones and flesh. Let’s not forget about conservation these hunts carry out by doing what they do and the meat they ‘sometimes’ give to the local communities. Their wives apparently use the lion meat to make delicious gourmet meals for their customers in their restaurant and at the camps. Seems they are happy to offer ‘Photo Safaris’ these days along with golf, shopping trips and sightseeing local cities. It must have hit them hard when so many Americans gave up coming to South Africa to bag a guaranteed lion trophy………
There is so much so wrong about these captive lion bred farms or ranches and private reserves.
There are about 250 breeding and hunting facilities churning out lions. Many of the lions are sick and malnourished because owners won’t spend the money feeding them adequately or getting them veterinary attention. The South African government doesn’t know how many of these facilities there are or who owns them. There are no welfare regulations for the lions who are now actually classed legally as ‘farm animals’. During 2019 there hasn’t been a quota set by the government for the export of lion bones. The value of a lion’s skeleton is barely $1,500 dollars so there is no incentive to keep some lions well fed and in good health if they cannot see a return from the lions. It’s hell on earth for these poor creatures whose fate is one of being poorly fed in a compound from birth until it is finally shot by a ‘tourist on holiday’ with zero hope of escaping from a bullet. Yet SAPA still claims that farmed lions have a better life than those out in the wild living free in their natural surroundings. I think the emphasis is on the concept of being wild. Shall we also mention that dirty word money again?