May 5, 2021 11:44:27 AM IST
South Africa on Sunday announced plans to ban breeding lions in captivity for trophy hunting or for tourists to pet them, and advocates a more “authentic” experience for visitors. The decision followed the recommendations of a government study on controversial practice. The panel examined the rules governing the hunting, trade and captivity of lions, elephants, rhinos and leopards. Environment Minister Barbara Creecy said at a press conference that the study recommends an end to the “domestication of lions through breeding and captivity”.
“We do not want any breeding in captivity, no hunting in captivity, no petting in captivity (young animals) and no use of lions in captivity,” said the minister.
The move, which has not yet been formulated into politics, is likely to put the government on a collision course with the powerful, multi-million dollar captive lion-raising industry.
The minister said the recommendations were not intended to stifle the hunting industry.
“Legal and regulated hunting of the regulated cult species will continue to be allowed,” she said.
However, the report called for an end to “tourist interaction, including petting, with captive lions,” noted Creecy.
The practice of hunting captive-bred lions has long been controversial in South Africa, where large numbers of animals are confined to enclosures surrounded by electric fences.
In recent years, campaigns banning the import of trophies from captive-bred lions have increased in the United States, Australia and several European countries.
The minister said the tourism industry is sensitive to negative perceptions.
“The intent here is to ensure that those interested in … authentic game hunting” have such an experience and “don’t hunt animals that have been taken out of the cage,” she said.
In South Africa, animal groups estimate that between 8,000 and 12,000 lions live on around 350 farms where they are bred for hunting, tourism and academic research.
They are also bred for their bones, which are used in medicine and jewelry, according to wildlife charities in Southeast Asia.
According to the Endangered Wildlife Trust based in South Africa, around 3,500 lions live in the wild.
World Animal Charity World Animal Protection hailed the government’s decision as “brave”.
“Thousands of lions bred each year in a life of misery in South Africa are born in cruel commercial breeding facilities,” said Edith Kabesiime, manager of the World Animal Protection Campaign for Africa.
“This is a win for wildlife” and will ensure that “the lions stay in their place – in the wild,” she said.
Louise de Waal, director of the award-winning documentary “Blood Lions,” which reveals the deal, said she was “extremely pleased” with the government’s decision.
The group also recommended that captive rhinos be stopped breeding and future use of rhino populations should be reviewed.
Home to around 80 percent of the world’s rhino population, South Africa has long attracted poachers, but it also has more than 300 private rhino herders.
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