Born to be killed: Lion hunting in South Africa
Travel to South Africa is booming, not only for nature lovers. South Africa is also a paradise for hunters - Thousand of hunting tourists from Europe and the USA travel to the region – they bring home dead animals instead of photos as souvenirs.
Nearly all wild species are available – even protected species like elephants: it’s just a question of money. An especially perfidious form of trophy hunting is “Canned Hunting” of lions.
The most extreme variety of trophy hunting is “Canned Hunting”. Most of the victims are lions, which are served to their hunters on a silver platter: The animals are kept in fenced areas and then simply shot.
The lions are bred on farms and raised by hand. They hardly demonstrate any shyness of humans. The animals can’t escape from the cages. Occasionally they are attracted with bait, sometimes they are even sedated with medicine.
Anyone can go and hunt lions in South Africa – a hunting licence or proven hunting experience isn’t usually necessary. This means that many lions aren’t killed by the first shot which results in them experiencing an agonising death.
Rapid boom in breeding farms and shootings
For trophy hunting in South Africa, lions are bred on more than 160 farms, usually raised by hand and accustomed to humans. In the last six years, the number of farm lions has risen by 250 percent. Today, around 4,000 captive animals are threatened with the same gruesome fate – more than ever before.
From 2006 to 2008 the number of lion shootings in South Africa has tripled; almost all of these lions were born in captivity. The national environmental agency counted 322 lions that were shot in 2006, 700 in 2007. The Predator Breeding Association, South African Predator Breeders Association, estimates that the number grew to 1,050 in 2008.These figures are confirmed by the rapidly increasing export of lion trophies.
First pat …
Many of the young animals must then serve as tourist attractions where people can pat them, take photos with them and take them for walks. Unwitting tourists visit these farms and pay money to look at or touch young lion cubs. That they are thereby supporting a horrific industry, an industry that even many hunting associations reject as being unethical, is something that most of the tourists don’t know.
… then shoot
The lions reach the trophy age after four to seven years and are then offered to the hunters for shooting. In many cases the ‘hunting’ isn’t carried out on the same farm that the animal was bred at. Instead the lions are transported to other areas and shot there. Most of the breeding and hunting stations in South Africa are located in the provinces Free State, North West and Limpopo.
A question of money
Canned Hunting is a hobby for a well-off minority from rich industrial nations. The larger the wallet, the larger the trophy: A male lion with its magnificent mane costs about €25,000, animals with particularly dark, thick manes go for up to €45,000. It’s possible to get the lionesses for €5,000 or less. On some farms even the cubs are offered for shooting!
Complete hunting packages, which include the “support” of professional hunters as well as room and board, are offered in the internet, at hunting trade fairs or in specialist travel agencies. The transport costs and expenses for the animal preparer are also paid.
But not only lions fall victim to the trigger happy hunting tourists. In order to offer hunters special trophies some farms even breed and offer tigers for hunting, even though the animal isn’t indigenous to South Africa.
Danger for wild lions
The supporters of Canned Hunting claim that Canned Hunting serves to protect the species. In fact the opposite is the case: The increasing number of trophy hunting tours on offer is increasing the pressure on the lion populations living in the wild. An increasing number of animals are captured in the wild for breeding purposes.
The number of wild lions has been shrinking for years: Experts estimate that there are only 23,000 lions living in the wild on the African continent and the SSC Cat Specialist Group of the IUCN expects that the largest lion populations will shrink by approximately 42 percent.