South African lions bred to be shot in ‘canned hunts’
Thousands of lions are being bred on farms in South Africa to be shot by wealthy foreign trophy-hunters.
Lions are increasingly being bred in captivity on South African animal farms so they can be shot by wealthy tourists on hunting vacations, The Guardian reports.
The easy slaughter of the animals in fenced areas is known as “canned hunting,” and animal-welfare groups are pressuring the South African government to ban the practice.
“It’s factory-farming of lions, and it’s shocking,” Fiona Miles, director of Lionsrock, a big-cat sanctuary in South Africa run by the charity Four Paws, told The Guardian.
Canned hunting was effectively briefly banned in the country under 2007 government regulations that said lions bred in captivity could not be hunted until 24 months after they were released into the wild. Lion breeders challenged the policy, and canned hunting resumed after a high court judge struck down the regulations in November 2010.
There are now more than 160 animal farms legally breeding big cats in South Africa, according to The Guardian. More lions live in captivity (upwards of 5,000) in the country than in the wild (about 2,000).
Hundreds of lions, most of them raised in captivity, are killed in trophy hunts in South Africa each year. The hunting excursions run anywhere from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars, according to The Guardian.
BORN TO BE KILLED?
A Guardian reporter visited one of the farms, Moreson Ranch, a game and holiday ranch near Vrede in the Free State province of South Africa. Proprietors there said they do not hunt or kill the lions they raise. The company’s website had listed lions as among the animals that could be hunted at the 4,900-acre estate, but deleted the reference after the reporter’s visit.
Asked if they sell their lions to be hunted, Maryke Van Der Merwe, manager at Moreson Ranch, said: “No, not really, we don’t do that. We sell them to other people that have got the permit for lions, and what they do with the lions is up to them. So we don’t know what they do with the lions but we don’t do the canned lion hunting or anything like that.”
Animal-welfare groups say game farms often first use the lion cubs as pets to attract tourists. When the lions mature they are sold to be hunted as trophies by wealthy tourists from Europe and North America, or for traditional medicine in Asia, activists say.
Wildlife experts believe that canned hunting also fuels the illegal cross-border trade in lions. A report last month said investigators were looking into allegations that lionesses were being killed in Botswana and their cubs smuggled to lion farms in South Africa for trophy hunting.
Related: Lion Smuggling Ring Exposed
“The lion all around the world is known as the iconic king of the jungle — that’s how it’s portrayed in advertising and written into story books — and yet people have reduced it to a commodity, something that can be traded and used,” Miles told The Guardian.
The controversy over canned hunting has turned political as well.
A poster at the main Johannesburg airport urging President Zuma to crack down on canned hunts used for lion-bone smuggling to Asia was ordered taken down last year because of the potential for a “public relations disaster.”
The poster showed a lioness looking down the barrel of a gun with Zuma in the background.
Avaaz, a global activist group, has gone to court to challenge the removal, saying it violates free speech.(via South African lions bred to be shot in ‘canned hunts’)