Global March for Lions

South African wildlife activists initiated the Global March for Lions held today (15th March 2014) in more than 60 cities around the world. Thousands of people marched for the plight of lions caught up in the canned hunting industry, roaring, making their voice heard. The Green Girls in Africa were in Cape Town, where  hundreds of people from different walks of life marched as a united front.

What is canned hunting? The Campaign against Canned Hunting (CACH) defines it as hunting, where the target animal is unfairly prevented from escaping the hunter, either by physical constraints (fencing) or by mental constraints (tame, habituated to humans).

The issues around the legal, but despicable, canned lion hunting industry in South Africa are well documented in this video by journalist Patrick Barkham for The Guardian. Please be warned, this video shows graphic footage.

The canned lion industry in South Africa has a highly lucrative economic chain. It starts with the more than 160 farms that breed lions in captivity. The vast majority of lion cubs born on these farms are removed from their mothers within hours of birth. Subsequently, they are hand reared by humans, sometimes even by volunteers from other parts of the world, who pay exorbitant amounts believing they support conservation through lion reintroduction to the wild programmes.

Removing the cubs from a healthy mother and bottle feeding them, does not only habituate the cubs, but also guarantees as many litters from a single lioness as possible. A lioness becomes fertile again much faster when her litter is removed, ensuring the lion farm can capitalise on often as many as 5-6 litters every 2 years from a single lioness (1 litter every 3 years is the norm in the wild).

Further conditioning of the lion cubs is instilled by offering cub petting and walking for (often ignorant) tourists, an activity that generates further income for the farm. Once the habituated lions have matured, they are offered for canned trophy hunting on their own farm, sold to other canned hunting establishments, or sold to the Asian traditional medicine market.

Wealthy tourists from Europe (mostly from Germany, Spain, France and the UK) and North America pay anything up to about US$25,000 to shoot a tame lion released into a confined area it cannot escape from, with cases known where the lion is partially anesthetised beforehand. I deliberately use the verb “shoot” and not “hunt” here. Hunt is defined in The Oxford Dictionary as “to pursue (wild animals) for food or sport”, indicating that it is highly debatable whether this activity can still be classed as hunting.

Melissa Bachman, who sparked a worldwide outrage in November 2013, when she shot this lion in South Africa and tweeted “An incredible day hunting in South Africa! Stalked inside 60-yards on this beautiful male lion…what a hunt”.

Melissa Bachman, who sparked a worldwide outrage in November 2013, when she shot this lion in South Africa and tweeted “An incredible day hunting in South Africa! Stalked inside 60-yards on this beautiful male lion…what a hunt”.

The controversial and multi-facetted canned lion hunting debate has many faces with ethical, economic, and conversation issues and concerns. The ethical debate focusses on the captive breeding of habituated lions that are then released into fenced areas to be shot at close range without having an escape route. The pro-hunting group argues that the money raised from canned hunting is invaluable for conservation efforts and that it is better to shoot a captive-bred lion than further endanger the wild populations. Whereas conservation groups dispute the latter, arguing that wild lion populations continue to decline (by 80% in the last 20 years) despite the growing canned lion hunting industry.

Let’s see what the beautiful people of Cape Town, urging SA government  to ban canned lion hunting, have to say.

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