CANNED LION HUNTING AND THE LION BONE TRADE
THE CUDDLE & KILL INDUSTRY
White Lions are not protected by international law, despite their critically vulnerable status. In South Africa today, it’s legal to hunt lions in the wild and in captivity, and now 1,500 lions are starving to death in cages every year in the annual lion bone trade, traded into the same Asian market that is killing our rhino. Legalized killing of our lions and illegal poaching have become synonymous.
Here we share the problem with you, and the solution.
As a key to the solution, please read the Plea to our new president on behalf of South Africa’s lions, and SHARE THIS LINK AS WIDELY AS YOU CAN. President Ramaphosa is in a position to prohibit this Cuddle & Kill industry.
What is ‘Canned Hunting’?
The life of a lion in the cuddle-and-kill industry
Here’s a brief chronology from the Global White Lion Protection Trust, a leadership organisation whose CEO has been the front-runner campaigning against this killing industry over 3 decades, and more importantly, calling for protected status for lions.
From the ‘60s to today: White Lions were forcibly removed from their natural endemic habitat of Timbavati into cages, magic shows in the States, zoos and circuses around the globe, and worse: factory farms which started breeding tame lions for killing.
In 1997: These illicit activities undertaken by a mafia-like network, were exposed by the British investigative TV program The Cook Report, and labelled “Canned Lion Hunting”: ie lions in a can.
However, what began as a mafia industry of trade in gun-running, animal parts and live animals became a tourist attraction, now offering a cub-petting experience.
At first, a prohibition was put on these activities, but then in 2010, the South African High Court ruled in favour of the killing industry.
So, the international lion crisis escalated.
By 2014: people around the world were starting to protest about the treatment of lions. The Global White Lion Protection Trust helped mobilize a Global March for Lions. Conservation groups worldwide united behind this cause and 1.5 Million signatures were presented to the South African parliament. But all these efforts were ignored.
Only one year later, in 2015: Walter Palmer made world headlines for 2 solid weeks for luring a well-known wild lion out of a national park and paying to shoot it for fun with a cross-bow. The outrage at the killing of CECIL the Lion went viral. But the killer-dentist was not alone. At this time, the States was responsible for more than 60% of dead lions leaving Africa.
Unfortunately, Walter Palmer’s action of killing a wild lion pales by comparison with what’s happening to captive lions now.
Today, there are more lions in cages than in the wild. South Africa, in particular, holds thousands of lions in captivity to serve a multi-million dollar cuddle-and-kill industry. I know it’s hard to believe, but please don’t shut your hearts down. Listen to this. This lucrative big cat production-line first offers baby cubs to tourists to pet (for a price, of course); then offers these same tamed lions as adults to commercial trophy hunters to kill for an astronomical fee. You could easily be one of those tourists, happily hugging a lion cub, and thinking it’s OK to do that.
But what you need to know is: hugging baby lions is a death sentence.
Here’s the story from the Lion’s perspective:
A few days after the lion cub is born it is taken from its mother. As the mother thinks she has lost her cubs, so she will almost immediately come back into estrus, her sole purpose is to be a breeding machine for the trophy hunting outfitter. She spends her whole life giving birth and having her cubs ripped away from her, and she never gets the chance to be a mother. Once her body is useless and can no longer have cubs she is either offered to be shot for a bargain price or just thrown in for free as part of another hunt.
When the cub is taken from its mother it is sent to a petting zoo or a volunteer project, where tourists pay to interact with the cubs. This is very distressing for the cubs who have no means of getting away. Lions are nocturnal and are intended to sleep during the day, cubs especially, but they are forced to keep awake and being handed from tourist to tourist for “selfies”. When the cubs become too big for petting, they can be used again for tourists demanding a walking experience with lions, which provides further profits for lion outfitters and tourist destinations.
When that same tame lion is fully grown, it then comes time for the lion to be shot, so it is released into a small enclosure. The hunters are generally driven around the enclosure, on the back of open vehicles, looking for the tame, hand-raised lions, which now has no fear of humans and so will often come very close to the vehicle. Meat is often hung out and the hunters open fire once the lion “takes the bait” and starts to eat. This way of shooting is also called “Put and Take”: often the tame lion feels it has freedom for the first time in its life, released from a cage and as it sees the hunters approach it just glances over and glances away, as it does not see people as a threat. The cowards open fire and take pleasure in watching the bewildered animal roll around in agony, then watch the life drain out of its body. Sometimes it takes days of agony before the lion dies of its wounds. Videos of these canned hunts are shocking and horrifying – to the average person this is abhorrent, but to the hunters it is sport?
Afterwards, the dead lion is often paraded for ridiculous photos as the “big brave” hunters stand over the lifeless corpse of tame lion. They then return home to their countries to tell tales of how they killed a big bad dangerous man-eating lion. They don’t mention they killed a tame and often starving lion inside an enclosed area.
Trophy hunting outfits have now found another way to profit from the lions they kill; they sell lion bones to the Asian medicine market. This is the same market that has wiped many species off the face of the planet and is the biggest threat to tigers and rhino today.
In 2012, Avaaz launched an advertising campaign in airports calling for President Zuma to put an end to the horrific lion bone trade. It took around one week for President Zuma to order the posters to be pulled down. Avaaz then started an online petition which already has over 700,000 signatures calling for an end to the lion bone trade and then subsequently won a high court battle to say that it was unconstitutional for these posters to have been removed.
|“Thank you AVAAZ! At last, responsible loving people are waking up to the truth that has been hidden for so long…Please remember if you handle baby cubs you are supporting this killing industry…” Message from CEO, Linda Tucker.|
The other side of the coin of the killing industry is the cuddle industry:
Volunteers and tourists pay thousands of dollars to work on these types of projects that promise that these cubs will one day be released. Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that these cubs will never be released into the wild and that their destiny is to become a trophy for sport. Volunteers are led to believe they are doing a good thing where in fact what they are doing is helping to sustain an industry that is inhumane. We would strongly recommend that all volunteers do their homework. Any cub petting facility will most likely be providing lions for the canned hunting industry.
Please use websites such as //www.facebook.com/volunteersbeware and do the research to ensure that you are not unknowingly supporting the industry.
October 2016: The Global White Lion Protection Trust presented to South African parliament and submitted a Letter of Objection to this burgeoning industry, launching a global campaign and helping to amass a petition of nearly 1.5 Million signatures by the international advocacy group AVAAZ demanding its prohibition. Many conservation groups united behind this cause, some referring to it as the “Blood Lions” industry.
Recognizing the trend in legalizing a killing industry which has escalated over the years, we urged people worldwide to unite behind one cause to save our lions – One United Roar calls for greater protection for lions in CITES.
However, in 2016, CITES (Convention for the International Trade of Endangered Species) ignored these appeals, and went ahead with legalizing the notorious Lion bone Trade, increasing the demand for hunting of wild lions for parts, and putting wild lion populations in SA at greater risk by down-listing the conservation status of lions in “South Africa from Vulnerable to Least Concern”.
At first, the Department of Nature Conservation authorized 800 lions per year would be slaughtered in slaughter houses, then sent as carcasses out of the country, legally, to feed this seemingly bottomless industry. They undertook to do a study to determine whether this captive industry was impacting negatively on wild lion populations in terms of increased poaching for trade, and would report back to CITES in 2019.
However, by July 14 2018, amidst deception from leading government officials, Department of Nature Conservation approved an increase to 1500 carcasses per year.
What can be done?
The founder of the Global White Lion Protection Trust has been actively campaigning against the canned hunting industry since the 90s. In the midst of a global lion crisis that treats Africa’s most sacred animals as a killing commodity in cross-border trade, Founders of this Non-Profit Organisation, Linda Tucker and specialist lion ecologist, Jason A. Turner, have dedicated their lives to the solution.
In 2000, Linda Tucker embarked on a complicated strategy to rescue a White Lion cub from one of these death camps, whose parents had been stolen from the wilds of Timbavati. Together with her partner, Jason A. Turner, and a team of specialists they managed to return her and her cubs to the wild in 2006, in a highly challenging long-term scientific reintroduction strategy that helped pioneer the way for similar efforts worldwide.
Where governments have failed, the Global White Lion Protection Trust has raised millions of dollars to establish a protected area for this iconic animal in the very heart of its spiritual and ecological homelands, a United Nations’ biodiversity hotspot. Linda Tucker’s life and work has been focused on campaigns to protect the White Lions as a living heritage and restore them to their ancestral heartlands after more than 6 decades of forced removals rendered them all-but-extinct in their endemic habitat.
From 2004, when their StarLion projects began, this eco-cultural program has united youth with elders, science with sacred science and indigenous knowledge, modern technology with ancient wisdom to help restore human systems alongside ecosystems.
In this way, Linda Tucker has also established a LionHearted Leadership™ model offering hope of a positive outcome not only for lions, but those of us humans who value our own future.
We will continue our international efforts to shift consciousness towards responsible and loving stewardship of our planet through celebration, education – and LionHearted action.