Lion at LIONSROCK

#BreakTheViciousCycle Milestones

Celebrating achievements and accomplishments in the fight against the big cat trade in South Africa

9.2.2023

2023 will mark two years since the South African Government announced its intention to ban the captive lion industry and since our campaign to ban the commercial trade of all big cats in South Africa launched. Big cat farming is sadly an issue that is still very much alive and needs to be addressed. An estimated 12,000 lions and an unknown number of tigers and other big cats are still kept in captivity. FOUR PAWS has been working tirelessly since 2021 to become part of the solution.

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Check our timeline below and discover the most important moments in our fight over the last two years. 

2024
Male lion photographed behind rusty fence

March - South Africa further commits to end the captive lion breeding industry 

The South African Cabinet approved a Policy Position on the conservation and sustainable use of a number of iconic species, in which it sets the precedence that the country will end the captive keeping of lions for commercial purposes and close captive lion facilities. Days later, the Cabinet approved a Ministerial Task Team report that identifies and recommends voluntary exit options from the captive lion industry and recommends that other predators, such as tigers, are included within a phase out.  Read our response here.  

2023
Tiger from Bloemfontein Zoo

November Protecting big cats at CITES SC77 

During our Side Event at CITES Standing Committee 77, together with other NGOs and organisations, we presented a comprehensive ‘Roadmap to phase out captive facilities of concern’. The roadmap outlines a strategic plan of action to address the complexities of phasing out captive tiger keeping facilities of concern and preventing the creation of new facilities.  

The Golden Pride at LIONSROCK

October Advocating for big cats with recommendations on South Africa’s Policy Position   

The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment released a draft policy position on the ‘Conservation and Sustainable Use of Elephant, Lion, Leopard and Rhinoceros’ for public comment, to which FOUR PAWS provided recommendations, with the aim of supporting the South African Government in its plans to phase out the captive lion breeding industry. Our recommendations also advocated for better protection for all big cat species to prevent captive exploitation and commercial trade. 

Nikola and Vasalyna at LIONSROCK

October - Response to the DFFE’s Draft Notice Prohibiting Certain Activities Involving African Lion  

Commending the South African government's commitment to ending commercial captive lion keeping, by establishing the Ministerial Task Team dedicated to identifying and recommending voluntary exit options and pathways from the captive lion breeding industry and we endorsed the Draft Notice prohibiting the establishment of new lion facilities. We called for stricter measures, including a moratorium on captive breeding for commercial purposes and enhanced monitoring of facilities. Read more

International Tiger Day mural in New York City

July - Celebrated International Tiger Day with a mural in New York City 

Created by the artist Sonny ‘Sundancer’ Behan and commissioned on the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, the mural raises awareness about protecting species in danger around the world, which includes big cats in the wild as well as those living in captivity. 

White tiger cub playing with man

May - #BarelyWild launch - the truth behind the business that enriches a few but exploits thousands

The campaign exposes through investigations the scale of private breeding farms in South Africa and how tourism at commercial big cat facilities fuels the demand for the exploitation of these animals. 

2022
Tiger Shevar

December – Big Cat Public Safety Act

US ‘Big Cat Public Safety Act’ signed into law! It will prohibit keeping tigers, lions and other big cat species as pets and bans interactions, including cub petting. A monumental move given that over 10,000 tigers are estimated to be kept in captivity in the US alone.

Leopard Bakari at LIONSROCK

November – A second draft

In November, moreover, FOUR PAWS submitted recommendations on the second draft of the Draft White Paper on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of South Africa’s Biodiversity. 

Tiger Shevar at LIONSROCK

November – CITES CoP19

FOUR PAWS Wildlife experts advocate for better protection for big cats at CITES CoP19. Here are the key decisions taken that will affect big cats. Read more.

Lioness Nora at LIONSROCK

October – More and more support

Thanks to the incredible support of our community, we reached an amazing milestone of 150,000 petition signatures!

Tiger Messi and Sandro

September – Recommendations

We also submitted recommendations on the newly released Draft White Paper on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of South Africa’s.

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September – Survey

FOUR PAWS publishes survey revealing the South African public’s opinion of the country’s big cat industry. 94% of South Africans said big cats should be better protected by the country’s laws and regulations.

Lions Rici and Paco at LIONSROCK

August – Lions, Bones & Bullets

FOUR PAWS is at the House of Parliament in Cape Town, South Africa, where Fiona Miles, Director of South Africa attends Lions, Bones & Bullets screening and participates in Q&A.

Lion Kimba

July –130,000 signatures

9 months after the launch of the campaign #BreakTheViciousCycle, 130,000 people have signed the petition to end the trade of all big cats for commerical trade.

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June – Q&A about big cats

FOUR PAWS team answers questions about big cats! Through the #YouAskedWeAnswer digital Q&A series, we got to talk to our supporters and answer the questions they were curious about.

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April – CITES missions

FOUR PAWS offers to fund CITES missions to captive facilities of concern in South Africa. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is the world wildlife trade regulatory body. South Africa is at risk of contravening CITES Decisions by intensively breeding Appendix I Asian big cat species for commercial trade in live animals and their parts.  

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February – Year of the Tiger Report 

To celebrate the Lunar Year of the Tiger, FOUR PAWS launches an investigative report into the big cat farming in South Africa and highlights the need for international action. Read more. 

Tiger behind bars

January – Interview with Netflix

FOUR PAWS is interviewed by Netflix, exposing the truth behind the tiger cub petting industry. "We have found through investigations and work that it’s a complete cycle of suffering for these animals involved" said Vanessa Amoroso, Head of Wild Animals in Trade at FOUR PAWS. Find the article here. 

2021

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November – #BreakTheViciousCycle launch 

FOUR PAWS launches campaign and petition urging the South African Government to ban the commercial trade of big cats and their parts. Sign here if you haven't yet!

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August – 'Tiger Mafia'

FOUR PAWS hosts an online film screening of the 'Tiger Mafia' documentary and emphasizes the big cat trade and demand from Asia. This is leading not only to a crisis for wild big cats but their trade is contributing to a biodiversity crisis across the world.

Petrica and Lavinia (deceased), two of the lions from Baia Mare

May – Historical announcement from the South African Government

The South African Government announced it will phase out the breeding and keeping of captive lions for commercial purposes. FOUR PAWS outlines necessary actions to ensure the implementation of this policy prioritises the welfare of the animals. Read more.

Starlight Tigers at LIONSROCK

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