As safari planning experts we have clients ask our opinions on all sorts of safari activities. Some, such as elephant back safaris where you get to meet with orphaned elephants, learn about the trade in ivory, and interact with these amazing giants, are a bit touristy but still a bucketlist experience… whilst others sound good but have a darker side…
Over the years we have been asked numerous times to book “Walk with the Lions” and a copycat operation – both at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe – a tourist mecca in Southern Africa. There is another that has sprung up in Livingstone, Zambia (the Zambian side of Victoria Falls). It looks fantastic to be able to interact with lion cubs and such however we have always refused to book it.
It all starts when cubs are removed from their mothers at breeding centers and hand-reared for use in ‘lion walks’ with tourists. The cubs born in a breeding center are taken from their mother at 3 weeks old… removing the cubs at this young age allows the lions to be trained to the point that they are safe to take out on walks from 6 weeks to 18 months old. ‘Cub petting’ experiences are also offered by many captive lion breeding facilities in South Africa.
Most experts agree that hand-rearing and human habituation condemns the animals involved to lives in captivity. These animals are imprinted to humans, and they thereafter lack the instinctive human avoidance behaviour of wild lions. These lions are therefore unsuitable for release into the wild and after they have finished being exploited in lion walks (at the age of 18 months) they will forever need to be managed, in fenced enclosures. These captive-bred lions are often conveniently sold to middlemen who then sell them to be used in ‘canned hunts’. “Walk with the Lions” has admitted this.
There is a large demand for captive bred lions in South Africa, with many concerns over animal welfare standards and their use in hunting safaris – so called ‘canned hunts’ – and without doubt these lions would have ended up either in breeding programmes to supply this demand, or being shot themselves in canned hunts.
Now famous safari guide and conservationist extraordinaire, Ian Michler, has put together an amazing documentary – Blood Lions which will air in the USA on Msnbc on October 7, 2015 at 10:oo PM Eastern time.
This is a must see exposé on the rapidly expanding canned lion hunting industry (including its by-product, the lion cub petting and walking-with-lions tourist facilities).
We have to stop the canned lion hunting business in its tracks (and the related lion cub petting and walking-with-lions tourism facilities) that have grown in popularity and size largely through the support of tourists.
Here is the press release for the movie:
Wednesday, October 7 at 10pm ET MSNBC will present the world television premiere of “Blood Lions,” a compelling documentary that takes audiences inside the seldom seen world of the so called “canned hunting” industry in South Africa and the Americans who fuel the burgeoning industry.
The death of a beloved lion named Cecil at the hands of an American hunter and the questions surrounding that hunt in Zimbabwe touched a nerve around the globe. The debate about the ethics of hunting still provokes strong emotions.
“There are about 10,000 lions in South Africa. However, the majority, about 7,000 or so live in captivity on private farms, many in small, crowded enclosures where their social structure has been destroyed. For most, it will be a brutal life as they have been bred for a variety of exploitative revenue streams; first as cubs to be petted and cuddled by tourists, and then later as adults to be killed in canned hunts or slaughtered for the lion bone trade. Despite the fact that none of this has anything to do with conserving lions, it’s all legal in South Africa.” says environmental journalist and safari operator, Ian Michler.
Michler and American hunter, Rick Swazey, capture video inside the breeding farms where lions are bred and raised in confined areas for trophy hunting.
“Our film is an exposé,” says “Blood Lions” director Bruce Young, “most of the lions exist in appalling conditions, exploited at every stage of their lives. Even the people in South Africa do not know that lions are being bred for the bullet – and that it is totally legal. We want to show the world what is going on, who is involved, the impact on the animals and how much money is being generated by this industry”.
Also known as captive bred lion hunting, canned hunts allow hunters to select their lion ahead of time and complete a hunt in a matter of just three days. Canned hunts provide a cheaper, faster, and a surefire way of hunting predatory animals, compare this to wild lion hunts which can last weeks and a hunter might not even see a lion.
Americans are in large part the ones fueling the industry, making up an estimated 60% of the trophy hunters. In the wake of the hunting and death of Cecil the lion, the film reveals a dark dimension to the controversial issue of American trophy hunting in Africa.
The documentary includes the perspective of both proponents of this practice who say that hunting helps preserve Africa’s lion population and conservationists who are quick to dispute that claim.
To learn more please visit Blood Lion online at http://www.bloodlions.org/
Ultimate Africa founder and president