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Image of captive lions courtesy of Justice for Captives


An Ecotourism Scam

There are thousands of lions held captive in South Africa. There are more captive lions than there are wild lions. Why? For canned hunting.

In 2015 the Australian Government introduced laws to ban the trade on most lion items from importation and exportation, including hunting trophies as lions are classed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Preventing hunting trophies from import is a very important step. Sadly, unsuspecting tourists, particularly western tourists, are playing a contributing role in this industry.

Overseas breeders sustain high breeding numbers in canned hunting farms as they get unsuspecting tourists to pay to bottle feed cubs, have a photo with the cubs, to walk them…often under the guise of being a “sanctuary” or “rescue organisation”. This false ecotourism / voluntourism is a front. Many tourists likely believe that they the activity involving lions they are partaking in are ethical choices, but the industry is rife with lies and manipulation.

What is canned hunting?

  • Lions that have been handled by humans are released into an enclosed/fenced property and are sold to hunters. Hunters pay very big money to kill them. Many are used as trophies on people’s walls. 
  • The animal’s price will depend on how it is killed. Shotgun price is different to a crossbow price
  • Lions are often drugged when they are ‘released’ to be shot.
  • In 2011 over 4000 lions were exported out of South Africa as trophies.

This is not conservation. Wild lion populations have declined since the rise of farms and this is not skilled hunting. This is riding on the back of a ute with a local guide and murdering a lion that cannot escape.

What happens to the lions?

  • Females are over-bred, often they have a litter every 6 months (as opposed to 2 years in the wild)
  • Cubs are torn from their mothers while they scream and the mother grieves. Usually this is around the 100-130 day mark after a strong bond has formed.
  • The health affects physically and mentally often lead to small, weak lionesses that are offered to hunters at a discounted rate.
  • The cubs often suffer deformities as they are lacking the correct care from their mum
  • The cubs are stressed by human interaction and handling
  • Once the cubs are a few years old they become “trophy age”. 
  • Cubs raised on farms (or pretend sanctuaries and rescue organisations) are placed in canned hunting farms. 

These facilities are factory farms for big cats and often if the lion dies before it is of trophy age, its bones are sold as medicine..

What can you do about it?

  • Do your research and do it well. Read reviews online, ask around, and more importantly do not trust what you read on a website. In most cases, if you can have direct contact with a lion, you are supporting this trade.
  • If you are going to volunteer with animals, be 100% sure you are not supporting this trade.
  • Sign every petition you can. This will likely not result in any facilities being closed down, but it will help spread the message and inform others.
  • Advise your Travel agent about canned hunting and false ecotourism/sanctuaries. If they support a canned hunting facility, they may be unaware.
  • Tell your friends, do research, watch the documentary “Blood Lions”.
  • Attend the global march for lions and speak up for the voiceless. There is a march held in Melbourne and Sydney  and in capital cities all over the world every year and;
  • Don’t shoot animals.

Canned hunting is not restricted to lions.