Skip to content
Animal Animal WelfareRights, Travel Tourism

South Africa’s cruel lion farming industry is fuelling the illegal international trade in big cat bones

World Animal Protection 4 mins read
A few weeks old cubs inside the interaction area, with high levels of noise, mixed with tiger cubs, and a group of n children that were participating in the interaction moment. Groups of children interact with the cubs for anfee.

Friday, 11th August 2023 

IMAGES AVAILABLE HERE 

South Africa’s cruel lion farming industry is fuelling the illegal international trade in big cat bones 

A new report by World Animal Protection details the horror of South Africa’s inhumane lion farming industry and its ties to international crime syndicates. 

World Animal Protection is calling on the South African Government to stand by its commitment to shut down the country’s cruel commercial captive lion breeding industry for good.  

The international NGO has received evidence from anonymous sources on unregulated “off grid” lion farms who described unimaginable animal suffering. They also detailed how the facilities are using South Africa’s legal lion breeding and ‘canned’ hunting industry to cover their involvement in the illegal international export of lion bones for use in traditional Asian medicine.  

Their gathered evidence includes:  

  • Lions kept in decrepit, filthy and barren enclosures littered with old food carcasses and piles of faeces 

  • Lions and tigers slaughtered and processed on-site, with up to four animals processed by each labourer per day at both facilities during busy periods 

  • Lions severely neglected and starved to save farm owners money – resulting in instances of lion cannibalism, including how desperately hungry lions attacked and ate another adult lion at a facility 

  • Inhumane and unhygienic slaughter processes, with lions’ entrails spilled over the floor, and skin peeled back from their paws and skulls 

  • Low paid farm staff working in unsafe conditions without protective gear and at high risk of suffering an accident or being infected with zoonotic diseases. 

World Animal Protection’s Global Head of Wildlife Research, Dr. Neil D’Cruze, said: “Even as experienced researchers, we were deeply disturbed by the cruel practices taking place. It is sickening to see these majestic mammals reduced to mere commodities kept in merciless conditions.” 

Although the commercial captive breeding and canned hunting of lions remains legal, though poorly regulated in South Africa, the export of lion skeletons - including claws and teethwas declared unconstitutional by the South African High Court in 2019.  

In 2021, the South African Government announced its intention to immediately halt the “domestication and exploitation of lions, and to ultimately close all captive lion facilities in South Africa”. 

But in late 2022, the government backtracked on its commitment and instructed a Ministerial Task Team to “develop and implement a voluntary exit strategy and pathways for captive lion facilities”.  

Lack of enforcement of regulations and clarity on the future of the industry, has left a legal grey area, enabling some farms to operate what on the surface appear to be legitimate captive lion breeding and canned trophy hunting businesses - but which in reality supply the illegal international big cat bone trade facilitated by organised crime gangs.   

While the skins, paws and skulls are handed over to the canned hunters as prized trophies, the skeletons are left to dry in the sun, packaged and sold to “Asian buyers who regularly visit” the off-grid breeding farms.  

Dr. Neil D’Cruze continued:This new intelligence gathered by brave sources confirms what was previously suspected - these well-established legal operations are plugged secretly into unethical practices and an illicit international trade network.”  

According to sources whose identities World Animal Protection and local partner NGO Blood Lions are protecting - staff and their families are routinely threatened with violence to maintain their silence about the cruelty and illegal bone trade.  

It is estimated that between 8,000-12,000 lions and other big cats, including tigers, are bred and kept in captivity in more than 350 facilities across the country. 

Dr Neil D’Cruze added: A voluntary phase out of the industry alone won’t be enough to halt the commercial exploitation of captive lions in South Africa. We now know some off grid lion farms go to great lengths to avoid detection. 

Facilities use various tactics like security cameras, patrols and messaging apps to avoid detection during inspections to conceal illegal activities.” 

Dr. Louise de Waal, Director, and Campaign Manager of Blood Lions, said:We urge the South African government to make good on their 2021 decision and bring a mandatory time-bound end to the commercial captive lion industry, which will make detecting and preventing the illegal trade easier at the same time. Only then our reputation as a leader in conservation be restored, and the welfare of the country’s captive lions and other big cats ensured.”  

World Animal Protection and Blood Lions have handed their findings to the South African Government. 

South African citizens are encouraged to add their voice and call on the South Africa Government to phase out the captive lion breeding industry by registering their support at https://www.pridenotcruelty.co.za/    We also advise tourists and visitors to avoid venues and attractions that cruelly exploit lions and other big cats for entertainment, such as cub petting and walking with lions.  

ENDS 

Notes to Editors: 

For more information, photos, and videos or to arrange an interview please contact Sandra Sopin at ssopin@worldanimalprotection.org.au. 

  • You can read the full Putting a stop to cruelty: why South Africa´s commercial captive lion industry should be shut down for good report here.  

  • World Animal Protection have shared this evidence with the government of South Africa, calling on them to protect people and their wildlife heritage by shutting down this industry.  

  • Any reference to the location of these facilities has not been shared to safeguard the identity of the brave informants who helped expose the ongoing cruelty and illegal activities. 

  • The term “canned trophy hunting” refers to the hunting of captive-bred wild animals in small, fenced enclosures with no chance of escape. 


Key Facts:

Their gathered evidence includes:  

  • Lions kept in decrepit, filthy and barren enclosures littered with old food carcasses and piles of faeces 

  • Lions and tigers slaughtered and processed on-site, with up to four animals processed by each labourer per day at both facilities during busy periods 

  • Lions severely neglected and starved to save farm owners money – resulting in instances of lion cannibalism, including how desperately hungry lions attacked and ate another adult lion at a facility 

  • Inhumane and unhygienic slaughter processes, with lions’ entrails spilled over the floor, and skin peeled back from their paws and skulls 

  • Low paid farm staff working in unsafe conditions without protective gear and at high risk of suffering an accident or being infected with zoonotic diseases. 


About us:

About World Animal Protection

World Animal Protection is the global voice for animal welfare, with more than 70 years’ experience campaigning for a world where animals live free from cruelty and suffering. We have offices in 12 countries and work across 47 countries. We collaborate with local communities, the private sector, civil society and governments to change animals’ lives for the better.


Contact details:

Sandra Sopin
ssopin@worldanimalprotection.org.au

Media

More from this category

  • Travel Tourism
  • 13/06/2024
  • 08:00
Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water

RARE OPPORTUNITY TO VIEW MUOGAMARRA NATURE RESERVE AMIDST CELEBRATION OF 90TH ANNIVERSARY

13 June 2024 Please find images here. Muogamarra Nature Reserve will once again celebrate ‘Muogamarra Open Season’ by welcoming visitors over a six-week period to experience all the reserve has to offer, including species of native plants and animals as well as the area's rich Aboriginal history. The reserve, which is situated just north of Sydney, is closed for much of the year to protect its significant Aboriginal cultural heritage and fragile ecosystem except for a brief period during August and September when visitors can visit the sanctuary. Visitors will experience over 900 native plants, including glorious wildflowers coming into…

  • Contains:
  • Travel Tourism
  • 12/06/2024
  • 17:53
Hong Kong Tourism Board

Hong Kong Tourism Board and Art Basel Announce Three-Year Global Partnership

This New Strategic Alliance Makes HKTB the First Tourism Organisation to Partner with Art Basel Worldwide HONG KONG–BUSINESS WIRE– The Hong Kong Tourism Board…

  • Animal Animal WelfareRights, International News
  • 12/06/2024
  • 09:28
Humane Society International Australia

Iceland will allow commercial whaling to resume in ‘devastatingly disappointing’ renewal of one-year permit

This is a rejection of once-in-a-generation opportunity to end slaughter at sea, says Humane Society International (11 June 2024)―Asnews breaksthat Iceland’s Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Bjarkey Olsen Gunnarsdóttir will renew a one-year commercial whaling licence to whaling company Hvalur hf., despite clear evidence of immense animal suffering, global animal protection charity Humane Society International calls it a devastatingly disappointing decision. An independentreportpublished last year by the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority revealed some whales killed in Icelandic hunts had taken up to two hours to die, with 41% of whales suffering immensely before dying for an average of 11.5…

Media Outreach made fast, easy, simple.

Feature your press release on Medianet's News Hub every time you distribute with Medianet. Pay per release or save with a subscription.