FOUR PAWS fights to stop the captive breeding and keeping of lions and other big cats for commercial purposes in South Africa.
South Africa has more than 300 captive wildlife facilities that breed and keep an estimated 10,000-12,000 lions, cheetahs, leopards, caracals, tigers and even ligers (crossbreed between a lion and tiger). The captive lion population in South Africa for example is three times the size of the country’s wild lion population – approximately 9,000 lions in captivity vs 3,000 in the wild.
Big Cat Scam Lifecycle
These big cats are bred in captivity, often raised by humans, and kept under appalling welfare conditions for commercial exploitation. Inbreeding is common at these intensive breeding farms, which can cause health issues and physical deformities.
Lion, cheetah and tiger cubs are ripped away from their mothers to be hand-reared by paying volunteers. Those same cubs are used in petting enclosures, where the paying public can interact and use the cubs as photo props.
The cub petting Scam
The temptation to cuddle or pet a lion cub might be inevitable, but it truly is just a big scam. Here’s how you might be contributing to it!
The South African Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) sets a legal annual quota for lion skeletons for the export to Southeast Asia. Here, their bones are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, fortified “tiger” wine or carved into jewellery.
In 2018 and 2019 the quota was set for the export of 800 lion skeletons.There is no incentive to keep lions in a healthy condition, when all that is used are the skeletons for the bone trade. In an attempt to maximise profits, welfare is not a priority for these facilities and lions are often found in overcrowded and filthy enclosures with a lack of adequate basic welfare conditions, such as sufficient water, food, shelter and medical care. The lion bone trade has also created the need for lion slaughterhouses that are now springing up around the country. In these slaughterhouse lions are kept in cramped cages, unable to stand up let alone turn around, and often without access to adequate food and water. They are kept waiting sometimes for days for their fate - to be killed in the most inhumane way, skinned and dissected, and sent to Southeast Asia.
THE LION BONE SCAM
How an unregulated and unchecked industry has been allowed to explode.
Many young people mostly from Europe and North America want to make a difference and are willing to pay handsomely to spend time volunteering in Africa. Many captive wildlife facilities take advantage of this willingness to give back by offering volunteers the opportunity to be surrogate mothers for their “orphaned” cubs.
Paying volunteers are seriously ripped off, as they truly believe to be contributing to the conservation of lions through reintroduction of these “orphans” back into the wild. Surely, if these facilities would be releasing lions back into the wild, this would be a huge PR opportunity. So, why do we never read about this? Simply because it isn’t true!
The Voluntourism Scam
International volunteers are often ill-informed and unaware that these cute cubs that they bottle feed and bath are not orphaned and will never be returned to the wild.