The lion, king of the jungle, is an emblematic animal of the African wild fauna and is admired all around the world. Unfortunately, its popularity also contributed to its exploitation. Lions in South Africa are the heart of a touristic, sportive and commercial industry which is so profitable that there are more captive lions (7000) than free lions (2500) in the country. We can find as much as 200 farms and breeding establishments legally exploiting the beast from its birth to its death, going through diverse activities, including the cruellest of them: « the canned hunt ».
Lion cubs at the heart of the touristic industry and the volunteering
Just like any farmed animal, lions are intensively reproduced. It means that an imprisoned lioness gives birth twice to three times a year instead of once every 2 or 3 years in nature. The mother and her cub are separated only ten days after its birth, which is really brutal: They would normally stay together for one year and a half, but this separation makes the lioness able to breed anew. The lion cubs are placed in charged zoos whose profits are being used for the farms’ financing. The cubs are at the disposal of the tourists who can feed them, cuddle them and even take selfies with them.
To take care of the cubs, some volunteering programs are set up, pretending that the cubs got abandoned by their mothers and will be reintroduced in nature. This activity became the most profitable for the farmers. According to Blood Lions, a volunteer worker pays approximately $2 400. It means that the farm can earn $100 000 in a few months. Moreover, the volunteer workers contribute to the taming of the cubs, making them easy targets for the canned hunt.
Older cubs can be used to promenade with tourists. Once they are considered too dangerous for this, they go back to the farm until they are big enough to be hunted.
Lions coming from these farms can also be sold to private collectors to the Middle and the Far East, in public and private zoos all around the world and can also be sold to circuses such as the Pinder Circus.
What is canned hunting?
It consists of hunting an animal in a closed area with no way for it to run away. It is not a specificity of lion’s hunt; it also exists for a lot of other African animals: leopard, cheetah, puma, giraffe, rhinoceros or even buffalo.
Hunters choose on the internet which lion they would like to kill. Before the hunter’s arrival, the animal is left next to a carcass and put under sedatives so that he wouldn’t draw too far away. Coming from farms and getting used to men since their very birth, it is very easy to kill them, sometimes at point-blank range.
According to Blood Lions, a hunter has to pay $76 000 to hunt a lion in Tanzania, having to stay there for about 20 days with a 61% success rate. A canned hunt, however, offers a 99% success rate in 3 days. This method makes the predator’s hunting easier and cheaper.
Each year, between 800 and 1 000 bred lions get killed in South Africa by trophy-hunters, representing 95% of the killed lions in South Africa.
Lion’s exploitation for profits: No interests in terms of conservation
Farmers state that they are contributing to the lion’s conservation by reducing the hunting of the wild population, but there are no data to support this statement.
It is actually quite the opposite: lion’s population in Africa never ceases to decrease. Half of the wild lions will have disappeared from now until 2035, only 10 000 individuals remaining instead of 200 000 fifty years ago. The lion could even go extinct from now to 2050. Lion is classified as vulnerable according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
These farms can in no case boast to contribute to the conservation and protection of lions in Africa. Tamed lions subject to consanguinity are unable to be reintroduced in nature. Tourists’ and volunteering workers’ money is only spent on financing the farms, not any conservation’s program.
Moreover, canned hunt forms a new market for hunters. its more reachable price allows less rich hunters to come and hunt in Africa. The farms exert pressure on the wild population as well by regularly removing wild specimens to reduce the consanguinity in their troops. Finally, captive lion bones’ business only adds a ney threat to the wild population because of the development of a black market.
In 2007, South Africa promoted a law about farm’s regulation and canned hunting. It was meant to make obligatory that big predators are able to live freely for two years before being hunted. However, it was cancelled by the locale supreme court in 2010.
Not any other measures have been suggested to regulate and block these farm’s development. Yet, if breed in farms keeps this pace, there could be between 12 000 and 15 000 tamed lions in 2020.
Lion bones’ exportation in Asia…
Lion’s exploitation goes on even after its death. Profits are the priority. No parts of the animal are wasted.
Once the hunter got the head and the skin, carcasses are sold in Asia for the Chinese traditional medicine. It’s a new market: Lions’ bones are used as an alternative to tigers’ bones, which is facing the threat of extinction because of their exploitation in medicine. Tigers’ bones are indeed been used since 1 000 in traditional medicine to prepare a bone wine to cure joints and bones disorders like rheumatism or arthritis.
According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), 1 094 carcasses got exported from South Africa to Asia in 2013 instead of 287 in 2010. Exportation’s number tends to go up. That’s why, during the 17th Conference of the Parties of the CITES, 10 African countries from the lion’s range suggested to transfer the lion from the Appendices II (allowed commercialization only with a permit) to the Appendices I (forbidden commercialization). Unfortunately, the suggestion got refused under the pressure of pro-commercialization and trophy hunting countries including South Africa. On the other hand, wild lion parts’ commercialization got forbidden and a quota must be done every year for tamed lions’ parts.
To learn more about the CITES, read our article La CITES: une convention sur le commerce des espèces.
…A danger for wild lions
Apart from the fragmentation and the destruction of their habitat, poaching is also a reason to explain the lowering of the African lion’s population.
CITES’ decision is not only encouraging the creation of farms in other countries, but also the illegal traffic of lion bones. Just like it is the case for numerous other species, legalize trade causes a growing global demand and the development of a parallel illegal trade supported by the poaching of wild lions. According to Julie Lasme, ethologist and head of the Campaign against canned hunting (CACH) in France, more than a thousand lion carcasses got illegally exported to Vietnam for their bones.
How to get involved at the end of lion farms, canned hunting and bones trade?
Sign in petitions
Do not finance the farms as a tourist or a volunteer and raise awareness among people around you
Before you go a volunteering program, search for as many information as you can about the welcoming structure through social media. You can also consult the webpage Ethical Travel on http://www.cannedlion.org/ listing associations, tour operator and tourism organizations that are not involved in lion farms and canned hunting.
Contact the appropriate authorities
Do not forget to base your argumentation on facts, constructive commentaries and solid numbers. You can get inspiration in our article, the documentary Blood Lions, information on the web page of the CACH association and your own research.
Against lion breeding and canned hunting, please contact :
South African government through its communication director Mr Albi Modise AModise@environment.gov.za
The South African Ambassade in your country.
Mr Thulani Nzima, general director of tourism in South Africa Thulani@southafrica.ne
(The professional hunter association in Africa) (It seem’s like this solution doesn’t work anymore)
Your government or the general secretary of the European Commission to ask for the interdiction of lion trophies’ interdiction. Australia and France already did.
Against bone’s trade and for a better protection of lion’s population in Africa, please contact :
The CITES email@example.com
The CACH also gives you more mail addresses and examples you can use in your argumentation HERE.
For more information:
The documentary Blood Lions (2015), directed by Bruce Young and Nick Chevallier unveiled this almost unknown practice to the general public. You will find numerous information on the official webpage of the documentary as well as some free excerpts on their YouTube page. For instance, it is available all around the world but only in English.
While we were speaking about National Order of veterinaries’ recommendation to forbid circuses with wild mammals last week, Julie Lasne, representing the CACH in France, enlights the link between circuses and lion farms in this vidéo.
In one episode of the show The New Explorers, archeozoologist Perrine Crosmary takes an interest in the breeding and trade of wild animals in South Africa, including the canned hunting at 19 minutes 58 seconds.