Lion facility in South Africa

South Africa takes the first step towards ending captive lion breeding and canned hunting activities

News

The South African Government has approved the findings and recommendations of a new ministerial report, marking a significant milestone in the fight against the commercial lion farming industry.

The report acknowledges a voluntary exit should only be seen as the first step in the Government’s long-term objective of ultimately shutting down the lion breeding facilities, putting a stop to canned hunts, and ending the commercial exploitation of lions. 

It also provides several recommendations that aim to safeguard and protect wild lion populations in South Africa – including the mass incineration of lion bone stockpiles – and rejects the idea of releasing captive bred lions back into the wild because of the unnecessary risks involved.

Lion in captive facility, South Africa

Dr Neil D’Cruze, Head of Wildlife Research, World Animal Protection, said:

The report’s recommendation for the mass incineration of lion bone stockpiles is of great relief given concerns that a reintroduction of lion bone exports would risk stimulating demand among Asian consumers and act as a cover for illegally sourced lion parts.

While the report recommends an end to the international trade of lion skeletons and live lions, an option for a "trade out exit" indicates that canned hunting and the domestic trade would be permitted during the phase out period.

Dr D’Cruze continued:

The opportunity for lion farmers to legally provide canned hunts and trade lion bones domestically during the phase out window underscores the need for urgent action. Until clear time-bound objectives are set, lions will continue to suffer, legal trade will provide a cover for criminal activity, and farms continue to pose risk to public health and safety. The longer the industry continues, the more opportunity for harm endures.

The report also recommends protocols that adhere to animal welfare standards in order to halt the growth of the captive lion population, while stating the need to prevent the purchasing of new lions and re-entry into the industry.

Lion cub in captivity at South Africa facility

Image credit: Pippa Hankinson / Blood Lions

Dr Louise de Waal, Director, Blood Lions, said:

It was of vital importance for the MTT (Ministerial Task Team) report to make it clear that voluntary exit should only be considered as the first step of a wider process and affirms the ultimate need for a mandatory end to the lion farming industry in South Africa.

We need to ensure that the industry fully understands that at the end of the process the only acceptable types of lion facilities in South Africa should be ‘safe havens’ - spaces for healthy lions to be given lifetime care, where they are not used or traded for profit, and have a no breeding and no interaction with people, except for veterinary care.

This huge step by the South African Government comes shortly after supporters like you helped us directly engage with decision-makers to provide evidence of the impacts of the lion farming industry, release reports that highlighted its devastating effects, and mobilise the public to speak out against this cruelty.

Lion in Zimbabwe

Image credit: World Animal Protection / Aaron Gekoski

Together, we will continue to keep the pressure on the South African Government to put an end to the commercial exploitation of lions and give them lives worth living.

Photo depicting trophy hunting

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Lion cub in captivity at South Africa facility

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