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A key panel appointed by the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment in South Africa recommends banning captive lion breeding and the commercial trade of lion parts such as lion skeletons. Humane Society International/Africa has been a key player in the campaign to phase out these exploitative practices. Such a move couldn’t come soon enough for thousands of captive-bred lions who are treated as nothing more than money-making objects, from birth until death.
The captive lion breeding industry in South Africa feeds three intertwined businesses: cub petting, canned hunting and the trade in lion bones. Cub petting draws tourists by promising a chance to touch and hold lion cubs while getting their photos taken (social media is littered with the evidence of how popular this attraction is). When captive-bred lion cubs grow too big for petting, they are often corralled into confined spaces so that trophy hunters can more easily shoot and kill them. Bones from the carcasses of these once-majestic creatures are often then sold into the lion bone trade.
It’s a twisted cycle of misery for these intelligent, social big cats. Ending these practices where they begin — by stopping captive lion breeding — is the right and decent thing to do to.
The panel also recognized animal welfare as a central pillar of wildlife management policy, another key proposal made by HSI/Africa.
But not everything that came out of the convening panel was good news.
The panel had the chance to lay the groundwork for dismantling the destructive trophy hunting industry in South Africa — this it tragically failed to do. Instead, it appears, South Africa will opt to risk one of the country’s greatest treasures — its wildlife — by authorizing an expansion of trophy hunting of its iconic species. As an economic strategy, the ministry will seek to expand trophy hunting of rhinos, elephants, leopards and wild lions and to promote trophy hunting in general.
In many respects, this was a missed opportunity to reform a broken system. Ecotourism already attracts millions of visitors each year to observe rather than shoot and kill South Africa’s majestic wild animals. Instead of pivoting to grow its tourism asset and invest in other non-consumptive industries, the panel recommendations suggest that South Africa will opt to expand trophy hunting interests. For our part, we’ve long argued that this short-sighted industry is not just bad for African wildlife but bad for the citizens of the range states in which threatened and endangered animals are found.
Thankfully Australia bans the importation of lion, elephant and rhino body parts in line with strong public opposition to trophy hunting. Humane Society International encourages all Australians to steer clear of this gruesome industry when travel resumes again.
Kitty Block is CEO of Humane Society International (HSI) Global.
Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.
Image: Lion cub in a cub-petting facility in Free State, South Africa. Adam Peyman