Stop the exploitation

A cub’s tale.

The unknown cub

 I did not name him.  Perhaps somewhere in my mind a mechanism jumped into place to try to protect me from what was to come in the next couple of years as my country created a terrible addition to a rapidly growing wildlife industry.  How was I supposed to know that he was destined to die in one of the most horrid ways South Africans could dream up to utilize the King of the Beasts.

Our game capture unit arrived on the game farm late that evening.  I did not even know that there were lions present on the farm and when I heard the first male lion’s roar in the early hours of the morning just before daybreak I settled more snugly in my sleeping bag and fell asleep with the knowing that it was great to be back in the bush again after spending three weeks in Johannesburg.

An hour later I woke up to a steaming cub of coffee and as I watched the sunrise I thought how beautiful the surroundings seemed on that particular morning.  I loved nature and all the wild animals that form such an integral part of this very complex system and I was truly experiencing what I mistakenly identified as happiness.

At the breakfast table I interrupted the conversation to inquire about the lions whose roars I heard in the early hours of the morning.  The game farm owner’s wife smiled and said she would go and show me the lions.  They seemed very proud of their “lion breeding project”.

A half an hour later I saw him for the first time.  He was in a group with 6 other cubs, which were all slightly bigger than him.  They were absolutely adorable and I immediately fell in love.  He however quietly watched me from a distance while I was trying to avoid the robust attention of the other lion cubs.  While they were all moaning in their deep little voices, greeting me with heavy rubbing and the occasional little paw gripping onto my legs, he moved away and tried to hide away in the sleeping pen.

I have always had a soft spot for the runt of the litter, but when I approached him I was greeted not with the enthusiasm of the other cubs, but with a sudden growl and the cute little cub turned into a spitting, snarling bundle of fur.  He tried desperately to hide from me and his fear was quite tangible.

The game farmer’s wife told me that he had not quite settled down as he was “new” to the group of lion cubs, but that his behavior would soon be the same as the other cubs.  As we moved away from the enclosure his little growls turned into a soft moaning sound that somehow pierced my soul.  I think that the combination of the moaning and him running up and down the fence seemed very wrong at that moment.  My joy in seeing the cute bundles of fur and this single very aggressive little animal turned into a feeling of concern and unhappiness; a little voice in my soul had just spoken its first words: “This all seems so terribly wrong, what is going on?”

Politely I inquired about where the lion cubs originated from.  How could so many little cubs be orphaned all at the same time? Had their mother perhaps died, but then surely they should all be the same size?

Quite openly the game farmer’s wife told me that their mothers were fine and that three of the older cubs’ mothers were expected to produce more litters quite soon.  The women made it clear that they were quite displeased with the single cub’s mother as it had only produced one cub.  This lioness’s fate remained undecided as she was not a good “breeder”.  However as it was her first litter they may consider breeding with her again.

Like a fool I inquired again to find out if the lionesses (or her mate) had tried to kill their cubs, as animals sometimes will do in captivity. Was this the reason why cubs were removed from their mothers?  I felt shock and horror when I was told that this was not the case, but that most of the cubs were removed from their mothers within 10 days after birth to allow the lioness to come into estrus again to produce another litter of cubs in a shorter period of time.

After being removed the 10 day old cubs were normally hand raised by the game farmer’s wife and then placed into camps when they were about 8 weeks old.

The smaller cub however was left with his mother for some weeks as she only had one cub and a decision to continue to breed with her was still to be made.  However a client who would be arriving on the farm shortly had inquired about a possible lioness hunting trophy and for this purpose the little cub which by now had starting eating meat were removed from his mother and placed with the other cubs.

For the first time in my life I saw the terrible practice of breeding lions commercially for a growing trophy hunting industry.

As we entered the area where the adult lions enclosures were situated I immediately heard her calls!  It was the same haunting moans that were made by the little lion cub but it was more penetrating and the sorrow and despair in a single animal mother’s voice made me feel quite ill.  Without needing any directions I found her.

She was a pitiful creature moving up and down the enclosure uttering her desperate moans.  Her mouth was bleeding from her efforts to bite through the wire mesh which separated her from her cub and had stained the light brown hair of her neck and chest.  As she turned around to look at me my heart broke in a million pieces. Her mouth was obviously painful, but it did not seem to bother her.  Her amber eyes were filled with hatred as she stared at me through the fence, but at the same time her eyes questioned why?

As I tried to take in her wild beauty my eyes filled with tears and I was thankful that the other people were too interested in some other lions to sense my sorrow and pain.  Through her eyes her soul called out to me to help her find her cub that was only removed from her two days ago!

A baby that got to know her love; loved her smell and her caresses and in return gave her all the love that she deserved as first time mother.  He had learn’t to trust her in a foreign world of brick, cement and wire fences with funny smelling creatures with loud voices. In the wild his mother would give her life to defend his, but in this strange world she could do nothing to protect his life; it was not to be.

The lioness had been removed from her pride days before giving birth, but this did not bother her too much as in the wild she would move away from her pride to give birth to her cubs and would only return to the pride once her cubs were much stronger.  She settled contentedly with her new-born cub and the bond between them grew stronger by the day.

Weeks later she “lost” her baby! How this happened she did not know.  She had felt a sting on her rump and even though she desperately tried to fight off the approaching drugged sleep, she could not stay awake.  When she opened her eyes the most important thing in her life was removed from her.

All her instincts must have called out for her to give him her protection, but the wire enclosure prevented her from finding him. All her efforts at biting at the wire strains holding her captive were in vain.

The lioness knew her cub was alive because she could her him calling and to my utter despair at that very moment as the wind direction changed and I too could actually hear his faint calls.  Tears streamed down my face as I quickly turned and walked away.

Fortunately for me we were kept busy over the next couple of days and even though I avoided talking about or even visiting the lion area the lioness and her cub’s images kept me awake during the loneliest hours of the night.  Their haunting lion roars did not please me anymore.  They became a desperate call of help to an animal god that did not respond – a call for freedom and justice.

Sadly during this time I realized knew that the poor creatures were being bred for hunting and that the lionesses were turned into trophy hunting producing machines.

I never visited the little lion cub or his mother again and what became of either of them I do not know, but what I do know is that if somehow I could put you in my soul to look into this little cub and his mother’s eyes you will know why we must stop the horrors of captive lion breeding farms.

These poor creatures have to endure the most horrible physical and physiological abuse in captivity simply to have them hunted by COWARDS that believe they are “BRAVE AND ETHICAL HUNTERS”.

Louise Joubert (Founder trustee – SanWild Wildlife Trust)


24 responses

  1. mandi du plessis

    When I visited a small game it was to, initially, see the meerkat that I had heard of. He had only 3 legs and I was told that he had adapted quite well to his plight. I needed to see for myself and satisfy the need in me to ensure that he was, in fact doing well. I can report that he was exceptionally bouncy and content in his environment that he shared with a few others. When it came time to leave I was asked if I’d been in the enclosure with the lion cubs. There were two enclosures which you looked down at from the dining stoep/patio and from the wooden walkway. I decided to have a look from above and was accompanied by a young foreign volunteer. I enquired as to why one of the very young cubs seemed to have burn marks around their mouth and nose and was shocked to be told that “as it was their first day in the new enclosure they hadn’t yet got used to the electric fence and kept trying to bite it. “They don’t do it for longer than a few days though” she told me, almost proudly. I asked if they received any medical help as the one cub seemed to be in pain but she answered that she didn’t know but didn’t think so. This was many years ago and it fortified my soul to reach out and Shout for those that cannot speak. Louise I can understand the images and cries that you repeatedly heard after your experience and I, like you, will do whatever is necessary to stop the Canned MURDERS that continue in South Africa and other African countries. Lead on …….

    May 8, 2012 at 16:49

    • Nina

      Is it the Seaview lion park in PE?

      July 16, 2012 at 12:10

  2. Terry Patterson

    Oh Louise this is heartbreaking. I am crying just reading this…can’t imagine being at a place like that. Yes, these horrible places need to be shut down! You are a brave woman working for such a just cause! Thank you.

    May 8, 2012 at 17:56

  3. linda

    this is horribly cruel how would they like it if we took there babies n used them for hunting these people should be shot anyone involved what has the world came to MONEY MAKES THE WORLD EVIL!!!

    May 10, 2012 at 00:08

  4. me contaron un cuento africano.Por la mañana,cuando sale el sol,el leon abre sus ojos y empieza a correr para cazar una gacela.Por la mañana,cuando sale el sol,la gacela abre sus ojos y empieza a correr para que no se la coma un leon.Lo importante no es ser leon o gacela sino que cuando salga el sol ¡corras¡ ¿quien es la raza humana para interrumpir la vida de los animales?¿porque matar por simple gusto?¿porque cazar para encerrar a un libre en un circo,zoo….?Yo no entiendo en que nos estamos convirtiendo como preocupa mucho.

    May 10, 2012 at 23:24

  5. Jay

    THANKYOU for your work – –

    May 11, 2012 at 10:51

  6. Dorith Jensen

    I live in a small country Denmark far away from Africa. I have never been to Africa but hope some day to visit Cameroon where I have an adopted male gorilla that I pay a little bit of money to every month.
    I think the human race is destroying our planet especially Africa and Asia and I fell helpless and sad when I read about the cruel and barbaric ways lions, apes, rhinos, elephants and lot of others animals are treated just for the benefit of humans to make money.
    I don’t have a lot of money to give but I’m trying to get people in Denmark to see what is happening to the wildlife in Africa and sometimes I get so mad because, people that just don’t care about anything else then them self.
    That’s why I really admire people like you that have the courage to do something to help Africa’s wildlife when they are in need and give them a better future, great job you and your staff are doing.
    Hope for the lion’s that the breading farm’s are closed down forever in the near future so the lion’s can get justice and freedom and all types of hunting lion’s are forbidden.
    You have my admiration for the awesome work you do for Africa’s wildlife, hope the future brings you and your animal’s happiness.

    May 12, 2012 at 00:49

  7. Louise – this sounds like the same ghastly place Kirsten Allen wrote about. It’s really good to hear Sassy+Tiger with safely with you:-)

    Thank you for doing the amazing work you are doing: it must be very difficult sometimes but so very positive:-) … a Brilliant job which must be really awesome and rewarding at times. I’ve clicked your ‘Like’ option so hopefully all my FB friends will as well!:-)

    Although obviously terribly upsetting, it’s really good to know there are dedicated people like you saving these vulnerable creatures who have just as much or more right to be on this earth.

    Thank you for bringing what’s actually happening to world attention. Hopefully, if the tourist industry/public is sufficiently educated regarding the reality of the situation, there won’t be the same attraction when/if they know the truth.

    All the best with the incredible work you are doing: thank you so much:-)

    May 12, 2012 at 11:50

    • Hi Cecily, sadly it is not the same disgusting place, but another. However we will slowly but surely start exposing what is really happening to lions in this country.

      May 12, 2012 at 12:00

      • Hi Louise – Thanks for your prompt reply: really appreciated … yet another: awful! The more exposure the better. Instead of getting depressed (although it is this as well) I’m trying to think of what else I can do … !:-) Need some powerful animal-loving people in powerful places to change the depraved and barbaric mindset of the perpetrators.

        I really admire and appreciate all that you and your colleagues are doing: what an awesome purpose in life:-)

        May 12, 2012 at 12:12

  8. I love the way you write: very moving … beautiful … and with such feeling:-) – thank you:-)

    May 12, 2012 at 12:04

  9. Glenda James

    Look forward to reading your book and I hope it becomes a best seller not just here in South Africa but world wide!

    Another sad aspect to this saga is the fact that Louise of SanWild already has a monthly uphill battle to finance the food for their 16 lions and has to continually rely on donors who some times let her down. It appears the cubs food is being donated at the moment and I sincerely hope that such donations continue into the future…

    May 12, 2012 at 18:37

  10. Jamila Jafri

    It is horrible to read this story, especially on Mother’s Day. I think I can imagine what might have happened in the days that you, Louise, weren’t there. The mother lioness is probably taken away and killed in trophy hunting and the cub, still in hope that his mother is alive but far away from him, probably keeps calling her. and for days he must have been calling for her. Until he slowly starts to understand that he may never get an answer back ever again. He will grow up with this sorrow in his heart and be in line for the trophy hunting. And the mother lioness died in desparation to see her cub one more time.

    I don’t how human beings can be so cruel and untouched in treating animals in this way… in situations like these I really start to questiuon whether there is a God or not. and if there is a God, why does he not help these poor creatures?

    May 13, 2012 at 09:26

    • Jamila, man’s cruelty knows no bounds that is for sure. But man can also make all the difference in the world to change things. We do so with courage of conviction; courage like Martin Luther King jnr said: “Never, never, be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way”.

      Never doubt God’s presence; He is always there and He made us a promise which He will keep and that is to deal with these people eventually. We just have to be patient. If they do not repent and stop their evil ways God will deal with them in a very harsh manner. How can I say God is always there you may ask: I know because God has given us the strenght, insight, staying power and determination to set up this project and to save thousands of wild animals. It is truly not up to Him to stop man’s evil ways; it is up to all of us to stop these evil people whenever we can. To lobby governments, to lobby the press and to expose such atrocities on every occassion we have. I hope this will help you!

      May 15, 2012 at 18:03

  11. roktraceur

    How sad a story to read, Louise! But brilliantly written.
    It is heart-breaking to read of so many exploitations of wildlife going on in one country; Especially that there are so many places with the same goal to feed the canned-hunting industry and the captive-bred wildlife industry, all concentrated around the whole of South Africa.
    Having visited such a captive-breeding type facility myself 2 years ago, I share your sadness in seeing such beautiful creatures, caged up in electrified enclosures with nowhere to go! It actually bought tears to my eyes reading the sad plight of the Lioness trying all she can to get her cub back.

    Thank you, Louise, for all that you do. even if you can’t save every single captive lioness and her cubs, you are still making a big difference to our natural world. I wish there were more dedicated people like you, especially in government, that had the heart to protect our wildlife species

    May 15, 2012 at 21:37

  12. Paula

    I was at the place Kirsten wrote about and am one of the ex-volunteers. I’m currently writing a book about what I experienced during my first stay and the times I went back and in particular what transpired in the past few months. It is not a pretty picture and it makes me very sad, but truth will out and the world needs to know what is still going on. The Cook report highlighted some of this many years ago, but it is time to refresh people’s memories and educate the ones who were at that time too young to understand.

    I do not know where ‘my’ lioness is, all I know is that they sold her and I can only hope and pray that the now 2 1/2 year old is safe.

    For Nala and all the others I have come to love, I will complete this difficult task which has turned into a bit of a journey.

    June 2, 2012 at 12:29

    • Hi Paula, sure your book will make for some very interesting reading. Let us know when you are ready to start selling it and we would be happy to assist with the marketing via our websites and blogs. It is neccessary that word is put out there what truly happens to the unfortunate lion and other large predator cubs that continued to be exploited by private land owners that own lion interaction and breeding projects.

      June 8, 2012 at 15:55

  13. Thelma

    Damn…just by reading this story my stomach hurts.. I feel impotence

    June 4, 2012 at 13:57

  14. Minette

    Damn Greed!!!!!!!!!!

    July 4, 2012 at 09:28

  15. This particular posting SanWild Lion Rescue, offers genuinely very good info and I figured out precisely what I was basically hoping for.

    Many Thanks.

    December 25, 2012 at 13:22

  16. Sue

    This was just heartbreaking to read, since I have become aware of this practice of breeding lions for canned hunting as an animal lover you feel helpless as what to do, what lion parks participate in such a terrible thing, people need to be made aware of this

    July 24, 2013 at 04:34

  17. Thank you for this site and for helping people become aware of the awful canned lion industry. I will be taking part in the Global March for Lions next month (15th March) in Cape Town, my brother is going to the one in Toronto, my sister in Chicago, and another friend in Washington DC. The more people that are aware the better. The March is taking place in nearly 42 countries around the world!! Hopefully when the truth about “cub petting” “walking with lions” and “trophy hunting” hits the overseas public, more foreigners that visit SA will condemn this industry instead of unknowingly supporting it. I hope that with international help enough pressure will be put on our government to stop this awful cruelty and protect our lions and all our wildlife. Our rhinos are being slaughtered and our lions too, it just seems like a free for all – take and do what you want -with no consequences situation. My faith is that there are more people like us that care than those that don’t and we have to carry on believing we can make a difference. Because we will. Information is key, the more people that are informed the sooner this insane industry will be shut down. For anyone interested in participating in the GLOBAL MARCH FOR LIONS on 15th of March, check it out on Facebook, also go to the site CAMPAIGN AGAINST CANNED HUNTING and see if a march is happening in your city, you will find all the information there.

    February 12, 2014 at 21:36

  18. Jullian Clarke

    Love ya

    September 6, 2014 at 04:37

  19. Karina

    I cried while reading this 😦

    January 16, 2015 at 23:47

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