In a major win for lions, on Monday the Obama administration proposed listing the African lion as a threatened species. This move is aimed at protecting this magnificent species from the illegal wildlife trade, as well as from the exotic meat trade. The bizarre practice of consuming lion meat has been noted in several U.S. restaurants. The International Fund for Animal Welfare has spoken out against at least ten American restaurants that serve lion meat on their menus since 2010. At least one of them boasts serving lion tacos, others serve this animal’s flesh as steak.
Surprisingly, there are no current regulations that prevent the sale or transport of lion or lion parts in the U.S. market. Populations of wild lions have fallen drastically in the past two decades. Up to 76,000 lions roamed Africa in 1980, and according to Fish and Wildlife Services, that has dwindled to approximately 35,000 today.
Botswana’s minister of agriculture, Christian de Graaff, is under fire after he exported a large shipment of lions to a canned hunting outfit in South Africa last month.
De Graaff sent 22 lions to the Makhulu Game Farm near Boshof in the Free State. Employees at the facility, owned by Henk Vorster, openly discuss how the lions are hunted and their skeletons sold to Asian buyers. Some are bred for sale to international zoos.
At the game farm, a popular local tourist venue about 80km from Kimberley, 18 young lions were crammed together in a small quarantine enclosure of about 30m by 30m this week. With no shade and only a tiny corrugated iron-roofed hut to protect them, they were panting furiously in the blazing heat.
Other camps hold fewer lions – full-maned males and white lions. The excrement is cleaned only every two weeks, according to staff, and the stench from this and the carcasses of the donkeys fed to the lions is overwhelming. Many of the young lions are hand-reared and respond to calls from staff members, who said that until recently, there were 300 of the big cats on the farm. Now there are only about 200, including the 22 exported by De Graaff.
When a lion is sold to a trophy hunter, it is moved into a larger camp across the road and “re-wilded” for at least three months, staff said. Some are sent to other hunting farms, most often near Tosca in North West province.
After the trophy head is taken from the body, the bones are removed and the rest of the carcass is buried, they said. According to figures released by the environmental affairs department last year, the skeletons can fetch up to R80 000 and often end up being ground into potions for fake “tiger wine” or “tiger cakes”.
Vorster, who has a spares shop in Hartswater and several other farms in addition to Makhulu, refused to speak to the media about the lions this week. “I am breeding with them [sic], but it is a private business and has nothing to do with you,” he said.
How do we save the lions?
A new film from Dereck and Beverly Joubert, National Geographic explorers-in-residence, looks to answer that question, and highlights the complex relationship between man and beast as the number of great cats across Africa dwindles. The feature documentary, called “Game Of Lions,” delves into the challenges facing lions, especially males — although cubs are born in equal male-female ratios, only one in eight male lions reaches adulthood. With poaching, hunting and encroaching humans threatening a growing number of the animals, the film hopes to shed light on the difficulties these lions face.
In addition to producing award-winning films and stunning wildlife photography, the Jouberts have been advocating for the African predators for decades, launching the Big Cats Initiative in partnership with the National Geographic Society to promote conservation efforts on the ground.
The Huffington Post spoke with the Jouberts about their new film and their ongoing fight to save the world’s great cats.
WASHINGTON, June 2, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Safari Club International Foundation (SCI Foundation) exposed the hypocrisy of four animal rights groups in a new report released today. The report, “Keeping the Lion’s Share” counters a “study” issued last week questioning the role of hunters in helping African communities, and calling for African lions to be listed by the U.S. government as an endangered species. The report points to figures that show the millions of dollars contributed by hunters to African communities dwarf the paltry expenditures by the animal rights groups in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Director of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) Dr Oduetse Kobotwe has remained tight-lipped about the illegal smuggling of predators and wildlife in the Southern Kgalagadi District.
An investigation into the growing South African industry of hunting lions bred in captivity has reignited a long-running controversy among hunters, captive breeders and animal rights advocates.
The Guardian’s Patrick Barkham investigated the practices of some of the 160 South African farms that legally breed lions and other wild animals — many of which, animal advocates argue, will end up being shot by hunters who pay big bucks (sometimes close to $38,000) for the experience. This is the practice known as “canned hunting,” and its popularity has increased significantly in the past few years. The South African Supreme Court in 2010 even struck down a law restricting the practice after lion breeders challenged the legislation.
“In the five years to 2006, 1,830 lion trophies were exported from South Africa,” Barkham notes in his in-depth report on canned lion hunting. “In the five years to 2011, 4,062 were exported, a 122 percent increase, and the vast majority captive-bred animals.”
THE lion cub in my arms is just two months old. His dappled yellow fur is cotton-wool soft and his long lashed eyes glow gold. He is calendar-cute, picture perfect, but when he scrambles out of my arms razor-sharp claws scrape my skin and I’m jolted back to reality, reminded that he’s a wild animal. That I’m able to cradle him at all is paradoxical.