There is a growing concern about the lion industry in South Africa. And quite rightly so. There are about 20,000 lions left in the wild, in South Africa there are about 7,000 lions in captivity. In the province I live in, North West, there are over 130 registered lion farms. Over 20 of them registered as hunting farms. The lions hunted on these farms are mainly captive bred.
What makes a hunter go out and shoot an animal that has been born in captivity, knows nothing of living free?
When the South African government brought out the new TOPS regulations a few years back they had a road show to present the new laws. I went to the one in Pretoria where it was very civilised, valid questions on how to go about permits, break for tea and cookies. Back to the question and answer. I understood how the system was going to work.
I was then invited to go to another one in the far west, lion breeder country, by one of the conservation officials. I said I had been but she was insistent I go as I would be the only cheetah breeder. I was reluctant, these lion farmers are tough. But drove the 3 hours down to the farm where the meeting was being held. The farmer was a breeder, no hunting on his farm, he was the supplier. The room we had the meeting was like the Natural history museum. If you could think of any animal, it was there, stuffed and mounted, from budgerigars to bush pigs,
There were about 30 farmers and the two officials giving the road show brought along one of the ministers from the Province as back up. After three hours of non stop arguments we took a break for strong coffee, beer if you wanted and rusks. Then back to the battle. It was war. Eventually we took another break and the host said to me, “Tell that auntie you are working for I need a couple of cheetahs for a hunter that’s coming in.” I wasn’t sure if it was a joke or not.
As I had a long drive back I excused myself and left very grateful I was not any of the conservation officials. They were having a very difficult time.
The Government implemented the laws, which for lion farmers meant a lion born in captivity must be released into a free area for two years before being hunted. The lion farmers were in an uproar, immediately gathered a few million Rands together to oppose the law. It went through all the courts to the very highest and they won. The Government had to change the law and I believe, could be wrong but not far off it, a lion must be kept for TWO days (some say 4) in a free/wild area before being hunted!
The hunter is brought in, obtains his permit, is driven round and round in circles in the fenced off area until suddenly he spots his lion. And with a very big gun, shoots it!
Canned hunting at its best.
Now the Government is going to allow lion bones to be exported to Asia as they have run out of tiger bones.
When all these animals are gone there is going to be a big hole in our soul. Unfortunately no matter how many people and organisations are trying to stop canned hunting it goes on, powered by big money. Can we stop it? I have no answer.