kruger park times - 3 - kruger park times
Cannd huntng, a publc spnsblty
Every year thousands of people visit facil-ities in South Africa where they can interactwith lion cubs, young Cheetah and in somecases even tigers. But seldom do people ask what happens to the cubs when they growtoo big for the facilities to manage them.“There is substantial evidence to suggestthat these animals are very often sold, or‘returned’ to lion and other predator breed-ing facilities from which they are often soldon as trophies into the very lucrative cannedhunting industry, which has thrived in South Africa for at least the past 12 years,” saysYolan Friedmann, CEO of the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT). With the inclusion of lions in the Threat-ened or Protected Species Regulations, thehunting of a captive bred lion within a pe-riod of less than 24 months post its releaseinto an extensive wildlife area is now pro-hibited.Cubs are often taken away from theirmothers to stimulate faster reproductionand so keep up a constant supply of pet-ting lions. Visitors pay to pet the animal andhave their photograph taken with it, and ei-ther do not consider the animal’s situationand what will happen to it when it growsup, or they assume that there is a conserva-tion effort associated with petting lions.
The lions are however human imprintedand have not grown up in a natural socialgroup, making it impossible to release theminto a natural habitat for the long term.This, coupled with the disease risk posed bycaptive bred animals, as well as their dubi-ous genetic lineage renders them a risk forrelease. They therefore have no conserva-tion value and are purely a source of in-come for those exploiting them.Often the situation of a “paying volun-teer” is also exploited for further financialgain, with volunteers being told that thelion mothers are not able to care for theiroffspring and that once they are old enoughhand raised lions are returned to the wild. A recent report by the National Councilof SPCAs suggests that many of these li-ons end up as targets for canned hunting.The report states that “the hunting of cap-tive bred lions is in fact at an all time highand the South African Predator Breeders Association (SAPBA) estimated in Januarythis year that about 1 050 lions were huntedin South Africa in 2008. Nearly all of theseanimals were raised in captivity. This is amore than 300% increase on the 322 lionsthe Department of Environmental Affairsand Tourism (DEAT) says were hunted in2006 and a 35% increase on their 2007 fig-ure of 700.”This raises the question: where do allthese lions come from? In South Africa, athriving canned hunting industry can inmost cases be linked to an equally thriving industry based on cub petting and commer-cial captive breeding centres.The EWT encourages the public to takean active role in putting an end to cannedhunting by asking the following questionsbefore taking an opportunity to play witha cub:
• Where is the cub’s mother?• Why is the cub not being raised by its
• What happens to the facility’s cubs
when they grow up?
• If they are released into larger wildlife
areas, where are these and can the facilityprovide documentation to prove a viableand ethical release process?
• If, and therefore once cubs have been re
-leased, do they have the opportunity to liveout their natural lives, or are they hunted?
• If they are sold to game reserves, is their
future secure or is this a cover for simplybeing hunted?
• If they become part of a breeding pro
-gramme, for what purpose?
• What happens to the facility’s surplus
animals?Some may argue that there is educational value in allowing people to handle wild ani-mals. However this kind of education pro- vides the incorrect message that wild ani-mals exist for human entertainment, thatthey can be petted like domestic animals,and that they have value only in captivityand not in their natural habitats. Moreover,lion cubs are naturally boisterous and evena young lion is capable of inflicting damageon a human being. Visitors are expectedto sign indemnity forms that protect the fa-cility, but many people are hurt, sometimes very badly, through these interactions. It isalso important to note that captive breed-ing is not a conservation recommendationfor any carnivore species in South Africa.Carnivores in fact breed extremely well inthe right conditions and for almost all ourthreatened carnivore species, the conser- vation priorities include reducing human-wildlife conflict, securing suitable habitat,reducing poaching and illegal offtake andmaintaining balanced, functioning eco-systems. Without these in place, captivebreeding leads to an over-supply of non-releasable animals which often end up astrophies.The Endangered Wildlife Trust is notagainst legal, ethical forms of sustainableuse and recognises the role that hunting plays in many conservation programmes. We do not however support the intensivebreeding of wild animals for canned hunt-ing. It must be noted that other species arealso hunted under condtions where theyhave no chance of escape and thus are also victims of canned hunting. While we urge the government to ad-dress captive lion breeding situation inSouth Africa, and all canned hunting, wesimilarly urge members of the public torecognise their role in supporting or put-ting an end to both the cruel treatmentof lions in some captive facilities, and thepractise of canned lion hunting.The EWT is working with many otherNGOs to develop an ethical, humane pro-posal which may avert the continuance of cruelty being meted down to Africa’s King of the Beasts.