More horror scenes at Pienika lion farm in Lichtenburg

Further horrific scenes of animal abuse and neglect were unearthed at Mr Jan Steinman’s lion farm in Lichtenburg, while the local SAPS are dragging their heels on the charges laid against the owner by the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) in May this year.

During a follow up inspection on the 23rd July, NSPCA Wildlife Protection Unit inspectors found new disturbing evidence of serious animal welfare concerns, including a dead lion cub left in a storeroom, two cubs in dire physical condition hidden in a crate and a freezer full of baby lion and tiger carcasses at Pienika farm in the North West province.

Dead lion cub found by NSPCA on 23rd July 2019

The picture of this poor dead lion cub tells a story in its own right. The pressure sores may be attributed to the fact that he has been lying in one position for a considerable length of time, unable to get up to eat or drink, or even find shelter. It would have taken days for this cub to die, an unnecessary slow and cruel death, says Senior NSPCA Inspector Douglas Wolhuter

The two other cubs appeared to be suffering from a similar neurological condition found on Pienika Farm earlier in the year. Both their front and back legs were paralysed, and their heads were bobbing involuntarily. The local veterinarian, Dr Fritz Ras, later euthanised these cubs.

On the 2nd May 2019, the NSPCA laid charges against Steinman in terms of the Animals Protection Act at the Lichtenburg SAPS station, but since the case has not progressed one bit. Captain Moabi, the Investigating Officer, claims he only received the docket last month and is still in the process of collecting evidence and taking witness statements. After pushing him further on the reasons for this long delay, he said didn’t have all the necessary phone numbers for the witnesses.

The charges were laid following a complaint and a NSPCA inspection in April, revealing a large number of lions, caracals, tigers, and leopards in small and overcrowded enclosures often with inadequate shelter and a lack of water. The farm was also facing parasitic conditions and 27 lions were found suffering from severe mange.

During this initial inspection, the NSPCA discovered four lion cubs that were also unable to walk and two were removed for assessment and intensive veterinary treatment by Dr Peter Caldwell, a carnivore specialist.

Dr Ras hasn’t been able to pinpoint the cause of the paralysis in the last cubs but said “we are obviously seeing a repeat of this disease, which could be a toxin, an infection or even a genetic predisposition as a result of inbreeding. They did not respond to the antibiotics, vitamins and supplements that were administered.”

However, Dr Caldwell believes that the cubs were taken away from their mothers too early and suffered nutritional deficiencies, which compromised their immune system. They subsequently contracted a Meningoencephalitis infection of the brain and spinal cord, severely limiting their ability to move and even use their tongue to drink. “A case of severe neglect”, he said.

A chest freezer full of dead lion cubs could point to a case of long-term and sustained neglect at Pienika Farm.

Chest freezer with 20 lion and tiger carcasses of varying ages found by NSPCA on 23rd July 2019

Dr Ras fears that this is not an isolated case and that many other cubs may suffer the same fate on some of the 300+ lion breeding farms around the country, especially considering that at least one third of these facilities breed lions for the lion bone trade.

With the increasing profit-driven commodification of lion products, especially when all the breeder needs is the lion’s skeleton, there is no incentive to keep these animals healthy. In an attempt to maximise profit, it is inevitable that even the most basic needs, such as adequate food and shelter as well as medical care, are lacking”, says Linda Park (Director – Voice4Lions).

The condition of the two cubs confiscated by the NSPCA in April has fortunately improved considerably under Dr Caldwell’s specialist care.

Initially, they were unable to stand and were just paddling on the ground to try and move away from their own faecal matter, but they are now able to stand and even take steps. This highlights that there are major pitfalls in the knowledge and care that captive lions are given at this particular breeding facility – and many more like it, says Wolhuter.

The NSPCA removed several carcasses for post-mortem examination to establish the cause of death and will lay further charges in terms of the Animals Protection Act against Steinman following these latest discoveries.

This article is written with support of Conservation Action Trust and appeared among others on The South African and IOL.


  • can it be closed ???/ this is horrific !!

  • Closing these breeding farms is not easy, but the NSPCA laid charges against Steinman in May this year. Sadly, SAPS have done very little to move these charges along. The NSPCA are now putting together a fresh docket with more charges. Hopefully this will make it to court.

  • I can’t believe this. Only for money! These are wild animals and they are endangered species. How low can mankind sink to do this to other creatures sharing the same planet. First the poachers get them and then the Trophy hunters and now they get bred for there bones and canned hunting. Evolution or God made a mistake somewhere along the line. And no organisation can do something? SPCA or the WWF or ….. Why bothering donating money.

  • Why can’t this be stopped! These are wild animals and first the poachers get them and then the Trophy hunters and now they are bred for their skins, canned hunting and their bones. Evolution or God made a mistake along the way. So the SPCA nor the WWF or … can’t stop this? Why bother to donate money. Shame on Mankind.

  • I don’t understand why our government doesn’t ban the lion bone trade and stop trophy hunting. We should stand together as a country, a country that’s home to the king of the jungle, a civilised country, have some pride and dignity. South Africa supplies China soup bones. Wow. Something to be proud of. A Trophy for hunters and a soup for idiots. That’s what South Africa does, that’s what makes South Africa no better than China!

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  • I find this so disturbing, we must try to protect our wild life, the spca has such a vital job, thank you, please continue to monitor these killing fields.

    • Thank you for your support Cheryl and I agree. The SPCAs and NSPCA combined do an amazing job, as watchdogs for animal welfare, without any financial support from government. We will most definitely continue monitoring these kind of breeding farms and fight to stop this abhorrent industry.

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