A lion kept in a small cage at a South African lion farm where 30 lions were euthanized after being burned in a fire.

Screening of hard-hitting documentary alarms parliamentarians

The Wildlife documentary, Lions, Bones and Bullets, has shocked South African parliamentarians at a screening prior to international release.


A panel discussion was held following the film in which the Director of FOUR PAWS in South Africa, Fiona Miles and the Executive Director, Africa for Humane Society International, Tony Gerrans, discussed captive lion breeding and the trade in lion parts.

The feature documentary was completed after nearly three years of investigation and filming in South Africa, Vietnam and Laos, and tracks the journey of British conservation writer Richard Peirce as he visits lion ranches in South Africa, as well as wildlife markets in Southeast Asia. The film features interviews with local lion breeders as well as facilities in which big cats are housed prior to being shot for the trade in lion bones.

This follows in the week after the closing date for nominations to the Lion Task Team that will advise the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, Barbara Creecy, on how to offer captive lion breeders an exit from the industry.

One of the questions put forward by the parliamentarians were what effect the closing down of the captive lion breeding Industry will have on unemployment.

The Director of FOUR PAWS in South Africa, Fiona Miles, said that the captive breeding industry has long held the view that their contribution to employment is financially significant.

“They want to justify the existence thereof especially in terms of rural and regional economy and the multiplier effect. Research done by an independent wildlife governance researcher, Ross Harvey, in 2018 on the economics of captive predator breeding in South Africa, however, shows that conclusions of studies done on this are questionable. Harvey says in the study supporting captive breeding does not necessarily contribute to job creation that could not otherwise be obtained through more ethical and conservation-enhancing activities.”

Miles explained that around job loss and job creation FOUR PAWS can vouch that a True Sanctuary like their LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in the Free State has led to sustainable job creation in the area.

“LIONSROCK is very different to a commercial breeding facility, as it does not allow any trade, breeding or interactions between people and animals. Instead, it is a place for rescued animals to live out their days in an environment as close to the wild as possible. At present the sanctuary has more than 40 employees and has over the 16 years of its existence launched more than 200 people on their career paths. These were employees that were trained and developed by professionals having their best interests at heart.”

She pointed out that at breeding facilities is often an unsafe environment for employees where they must work in an undignified way without being trained. LIONSROCK proves ethically run true sanctuaries can create jobs sustainably, as the policy documents that led to the proposed White Paper on Conservation and Sustainable Use of SA Biodiversity has as a key aim.

On the question what will happen to the 8-10 000 lions in captivity if the industry is closed down, Miles said that there needs to be an assessment to ascertain exact population numbers, the welfare of individual lions and the state of the facilities.

“The first step needs to be an immediate ban on captive breeding through sterilisation.  Strict guidelines on breeding, keeping, animal husbandry and welfare need to be imposed on such facilities, and a definition of a true sanctuary must be addressed in existing legislation. The audit will also reveal true sanctuaries from commercial breeding facilities. A true sanctuary provides a permanent home for animals and does not buy, sell, breed or trade-in animals or their parts for profit, nor do they allow any human interaction.”

Lions, Bones and Bullets premiered at the Monte-Carlo television Festival in Monaco a year ago and has followed Oscar-winning My Octopus Teacher as a winner in the Jackson Wild Media Awards in the Educational and Informational Film category. Discussions between local television broadcasters and the film’s distributors are under way for South Africans to see the film. The film is expected to contribute to the debate about the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment’s White Paper on Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biodiversity. /END

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org.za 

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