SA’s captive bred lions, forever enchained

South Africa has had over two decades to stem the controversial issue of canned lion hunting but, instead, the industry has thrived. This was until the controversial documentary Blood Lions put the issue back into the spotlight – setting in motion a few small victories in SA.

It’s been almost 20 years since the highly controversial and shocking Cook report exposed the cruelty associated with South Africa’s canned lion hunting industry. The report, a British current affairs television programme aired in 1998 also featured in the globally-acclaimed Blood Lions documentary, featured footage of a lioness being shot several times within a small enclosed area, right next to a fence which separated the animal from her cubs. Conservationists and the general public were up in arms.

But, despite its obvious revelations, captive lion breeding was able to thrive and develop into a billion rand industry over the past decade in South Africa, while the ethical and conservationist red alerts have been shoved to the background. This while associations meant for lion protection have continued to run parallel with canned breeding associations.


Last year, South Africa’s ethical hunting authority PHASA, the Professional Hunter’s Association of South Africa, distanced themselves from canned hunting and breeding completely.

In November 2016, at the 38th annual general PHASA meeting held in Polokwane, the majority of PHASA members voted to distance the association from captive-bred lion hunting until such time as the South African Predators’ Association (SAPA) could prove the conservation value of this practice to both PHASA and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Following the vote, all PHASA members are now prohibited to take part in canned lion hunts.

The move was considered a victory on South African soil, but was seen as a rather intentionally delayed response – 20 years after the initial Cook Report.

One cannot help to think that PHASA’s move was a direct result of the US’s largest airline, Delta Airlines’ move to ban of the importation of lion trophies – an announcement made in August 2015. The US ban had the first major impact on the lion hunting and breeding industry in SA. And in January this year, the US Government as a whole banned the import of all lion trophies from Africa, unless it could be proven that the specific hunt makes a positive contribution to the overall conservation of lions in the wild.

But despite the global sentiments to end canned lion breeding, hunting and exporting, the South African government has found a way around the red tape. The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), in August 2017, officially approved the annual export quota of 800 lion bone skeletons, News24 reports.

Why would the DEA approve lion bone export?

One of the reasons for the approval of the controversial export quota, might be that the DEA is trying to salvage the situation for captive bred lion farmers and their livestock.

Since the cruelties of the canned industry has been brought to the light more, and push back from international role players have increased, the local industry is facing total collapse as 70% of the lion hunting clientele hail from the US. According to Pieter Potgieter from the South African Predator Association (SAPA), a group regulating the canned breeding and hunting industry in SA, the lion hunting industry’s cash flow has been affected tremendously in the past two years especially.

Because of the ban, “the lion farmers now have no income”, Potgieter told Carte Blanche. And still, they need to feed their lion stocks on a daily basis… an expensive practice for no remuneration.  “This forces the lion farmers to make all sorts of other plans,” Potgieter says… plans which include offering cheap lion hunting packages for locals, and the euthanasia of older animals.

Another way losses for canned lion breeders might be covered, will be through the legal exportation of lion bones and parts. The industry has been pushed into a corner, and now more than ever has its true colours been exposed.

Unfortunately, the captive bred animals remain the victims of the cruelties and human recklessness in all outcomes.
Want to help? If you’d like to make a positive contribution towards the conservation and well-being of lions, you can: 

– Support Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary. This haven was opened by Savannah Heuser in 2012 and it has no breeding policy, nor is it open to the public.

– Canned hunting and exploitation of captive lions has gained unparalleled support and awareness through Blood Lions documentary – bringing to the world’s attention to the horrors of predator breeding and activities using lions and other species.

As a result, Blood Lions says tourism industry leaders have collaborated to initiate a worldwide ‘Born to Live Wild’ pledge against the predator breeding and canned hunting industry –  presenting a united front that includes the most significant tourism organisations and travel companies around the world.

Travel and Tourism operators who want to join the Born to Live Wild” pledge can click here. Public citizens can join the movement by watching Blood Lions, and pledging your support to their work.


Published by louzellombard

Traveller. Writer. Food lover. Conservationist. South African.

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