Petting and Walking with Lions
By Amanda Marks
This sounds like an incredible experience to have, doesn’t it?
Well, it might be for you, but it’s lethal for the animals involved.
Have you heard of the terms ‘canned hunting’ or ‘canned lions’? Possibly not. They’re not that well-known, though, thankfully, the message is getting out there.
The terms refer to the hunting of wild animals (the majority being lions) in an area in which they are captive. This can be a large private game ranch as opposed to a very small confined space, but that doesn’t get around the fact that the lions are sitting targets for hunters who pay handsomely to shoot these magnificent animals.
I say ‘sitting targets’ because these animals are not really wild. They have usually been captive bred and hand-reared – and they are basically money-making machines from the moment they are born.
How has canned hunting got anything to do with tourism? Please read on…
The life and death of a canned lion
Gullible volunteers are told that the cubs have been orphaned, and need to be cared for. International volunteers pay for the privilege of caring for the lion cubs, assuming they are helping and funding wildlife conservation, not realising they are part of a despicable scheme of exploitation of a living creature. The volunteers are usually told that the lions will be released into the wild when old enough. They won’t.
As young lions
This is where tourists unwittingly bring money to this horrific industry, which, believe it or not, is legal in South Africa. Tourists can pet and walk with lions ‘before they are released into the wild’. So you really think that once a lion is habituated to humans in this way, that they are safe to be let out into the wild? No, they are not. They will never be free.
As adult lions
It is no longer safe for tourists to pet or walk with older lions (they do after all retain their wild natures), so the only way their owners can now make money from them is via the hunting industry. There is always a ready market of (add your own adjective here – I could think of a few) individuals who want to kill a beautiful living creature, even if they know that this creature has been habituated to people from birth, so has no fear of humans. These lions are often happy to walk right up to their murderers.
Though this dreadful industry mostly concerns lions, it is not limited to them. Cheetahs, leopards and other predators are also used in this unethical manner. An example, a recent article (July 2018) by Louise de Waal, showed that in South Africa there are at least 600 cheetahs kept in captivity, and only one or two of the roughly 80 captive cheetah facilities are genuine in their efforts to reintroduce the cheetahs to the wild. The rest are there purely to make money.
What can you do to help?
- AVOID: Please don’t visit any attractions where petting or walking with lions (and other predators) is offered – whatever the explanation.
- TAKE ACTION: Encourage a ban of the hunting of captive-bred predators.
BORN FREE is a key player in trying to make this illegal, so we’d recommend backing this campaign via their website. www.bornfree.org.uk