Gabo Wildlife Founder, Carly Gamrasni Åhlén highlights the abusive life cycle of Canned hunting and farmed Lions in South Africa.
The still-growing lion cub petting industry masks a sinister legal industry in South Africa. Playing with cute little lion cubs is the tip of the iceberg – it’s what you don’t see that defines this abusive industry and we must all work to change that.
Having spent time myself in South Africa , I witnessed tourists and volunteers visiting numerous ‘lion parks’ in South Africa and enter the play pens of young orphan cubs, their instinct was to question the situation.Why are so many lion cubs being orphaned? And, almost without exception, are all told a lie, “That the cubs mothers died or abandoned them.” This lie is repeated time after time – So good is the lie that even good, caring people repeat the mantra and become party to the lie, and the scam in South Africa. You see, most of these lion cubs are forcibly removed from their mothers – to feed what has become a lucrative the lion cub petting machine.
According to South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs, South Africa has an estimated 8,000 captive lions in approximately 200 breeding facilities. Each of these lion parks and breeding facilities may have between 1-4 breeding females. If we take a conservative idea of two lionesses per facility – that’s 200 facilities, 400 lionesses and conservatively 2,400 lion cubs born every year.!
Lion farmers/breeders speed-breed their lionesses by removing the cubs soon after birth.. Wild lions breed only once per year, at the most. The tiny blind cubs have now become part of the money machine, So around 2400 Cubs born every year.
Where and what are all these lion cubs destined for.. There is no documented evidence of any captive-bred lion in South Africa having been released into the wild – despite claims to the contrary. So remove that solution from the equation.
Why are these lion parks claiming that their lion cubs are “orphans”? And what exactly is the journey for that lion cub after its petting shelf life has expired? What is the link between these tiny cubs and the burgeoning canned lion hunting industry?
Here is a Timeline ~ From petted to hunted Lion.
REMOVAL OF CUBS: This usually happens after only a few days after birth, when the newborn cubs are forcibly removed by breeders from their mothers and sold or loaned to lion parks for exhibition and petting purposes.
PETTING: Each tiny cub, initially still with closed eyes, is petted by thousands of tourists keen to experience a close encounter with a cute cub. The cubs are handed from person to person and forced to pose for the all-important pictures..
WALKING: Once the cubs reach the age of around 6 months they become too big (and dangerous) to cuddle, and graduate to being walked with tourists, while a handler protects the tourists from being harmed by the adolescent and sometimes boisterous lions.
VOLUNTEER EMPLOYMENT: Local and international volunteers are tempted to South Africa, with the tantalising prospect of caring for these newly “orphaned” baby lion cubs. These kind but naive volunteers pay for such work experience, believing the lie that there work is important conservation work – to ‘save’ orphaned cubs and help with ‘lion research and conservation’ and/or to ‘return the lions to the wild’
TOURISM: Local and international tourists, in their thousands, pay around £10-£20 for the opportunity to play with baby lion cubs and to walk with adolescent lions, usually at the same facility. These tourists are fed the same lies. At this stage the lion parks wash their hands of their ‘orphaned’ lions.
HUNTING: After two years of tourist petting and walking, the lion progresses to the second-last stage of its usefulness. The tourism industry now has no further need for this lion, and it is traded into the hunting industry, where it is shot by trophy hunters in what is known as ‘canned hunting’. Some of the lions are sold to zoos, others are kept back for breeding, but the majority disappear into the opaque and sprawling network of trophy hunting farms that are spread across the South Africa… Lion parks will often vehemently deny any association with the hunting industry, claiming that they sell / trade / swap lions to intermediaries and that they have no control over what happens after that.
The canned hunt attracts trophy collectors paying anywhere from £4,000 for a lioness, to £40,000 for a male white lion (hunting wild white lions is illegal but still happens). The hunt takes place in a small fenced area (often the size of half a football field), complete with typical bushveld trees, for that feel African feel. The lion, fresh from captivity, is released into this enclosed area – and shot and anyone can shoot a Wild animal in S.Africa if you pay meaning the Lion might have to ensure more agony because of the Shooters inexperience.
LION BONE TRADE: The final stage for the (now dead) lion is the selling of its bones to the insatiable Asian market for Traditional Chinese Medicine.
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