South Africa is an extremely popular tourist destination. With its beautiful scenery and amazing wildlife, it draws in all kinds of travellers. From nature lovers wanting a safari through Kruger National Park, to hunters eager to see wildlife for a different reason.
Many international hunters travel to the region to participate in 'trophy hunting', from which hunters bring home dead animals as trophies to display on their walls and shelves as souvenirs. Nearly all wild species are available for trophy hunting – even threatened species such as African lions and elephants – it is just a question of money.
Home to nearly 300 species of wild mammals, including the 'big five' – lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros, and Cape buffalo – South Africa has a sinister captive wild animal industry.
From 2008-2018, South Africa exported on average per year over a 1000 lion hunting trophies with most of the trophies originating from captive bred lions. Captive breeding also facilitates rarities, such as white lions and white tigers, which are more valuable and on high demand from trophy hunters. The top 5 countries where South Africa reported to export to, are the USA, Spain, Russia, Canada and China.
The breeding industry uses animals such as lions for cub petting attraction for unknowing tourists under the claim that it is for sustainable use. Later these will be used as easy targets for the canned hunting business, or they will be killed and sold for their parts and derivatives mostly for the usage of 'Traditional Medicine' in Asia'.
What is 'Canned Hunting'?
In 1997, the Cook Report, a British TV investigative documentary series, exposed the captive lion breeding industry in South Africa and introduced the phrase 'canned lion hunting'. The term is used for the commercial shooting of captive bred and often habituated big cats, who have lost their fear of humans, in fenced-off and confined enclosures on private hunting farms, where the animal has little to no chance of escape.
Canned hunting increases the chance to successfully kill the trophy animal in the shortest amount of time possible and is especially popular with the more inexperienced hunters. In some cases, big cats are drugged to make it even easier for its hunter to hit the target.
Proponents of this kind of trophy hunting often use terms such as ranch hunting, captive hunting or put and take hunting instead of the tainted term canned hunting. However, this is all semantics, as they all describe the same kind of trophy hunting that doesn’t involve a 'fair chase'.
What is a 'fair chase'?
Fair chase is a term, used by professional hunting associations, to describe a type of trophy hunting that involves wild animals exhibiting natural behaviours and that takes place in large areas with plenty of chance for the animals to escape.
A matter of money
Between the fourth and seventh year of their life, lions reach their 'trophy age' and are offered for hunting. In many cases, hunts do not s take place at the same farms where the animal were bred. Instead, lions are transported to other areas and shot there. Most of the breeding and hunting areas in South Africa are located in the provinces of Free State, North West and Limpopo. In the approximately 300 farms, estimatesrange between 10,000 and 12,000 lions that are waiting to die. In South Africa, 2 to 3 lions are shot every day within the canned hunting industry.
Canned hunting is a hobby for a well-off minority coming from rich industrialised countries. The thicker the wallet, the bigger the trophy. Shooting a male lion costs about €25,000 and animals with particularly dark, thick manes are sometimes even sold for €45,000. It is possible to get lionesses for €5,000 or less. In some breeding farms, even cubs are offered for hunting!
The life of 'protect wild lions'
Canned hunting proponents claim that this form of trophy hunting serves to protect the species. Hunters shooting lions from the canned hunting industry will not have to shoot wild lions. But in fact, the opposite is true: legal trade, facilitated by the trophy hunting industry, opens up the opportunity for illegal trade and causes a real threat to wild big cat populations.
Moreover, the government of South Africa allows for skeletons of lions to be exported. Lion skeletons, together with products from other endangered big cats such as tigers, are exported to Asia where they are used as ingredients for the 'Traditional Medicine' market. South Africa maintains a controversial export quota of 800 lion skeletons, which was based on a cherry-picked research and questionable deductions. This quota increases pressure on living and endangered big cats, by stimulating the demand for products from big cats. It is expected to have a negative effect on wild lions, which is emphasised by the recent increases in poaching of wild lions for their body parts.
FOUR PAWS launched a petition that allows people to call on the government of South Africa to ban the trade in and shooting of lions and thus protect endangered species from cruel exploitation.