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The fight against canned lion hunting continues

One of the South African hunting industry’s particularly despicable “dirty secrets” has been much in the news again recently – with the airing of the CBS News60 Minutes” special report on SA’s own remarkable “lion whisperer”, Kevin Richardson.

Aired in the US on 30 November, 2014 to an audience numbering in the hundreds of millions, the hard-hitting report was both heart-warming and shocking by turns. The report shows not only some of the truly remarkable work done by Richardson in the conservation and protection of some 26 captive-bred lions in South Africa, but also portrays Richardson’s unique and special bond with his lions in that he is able to freely and safely interact with them. The dark side is that the special report also exposed a number of disturbing facts about the widespread and prolific “canned hunting” of lions in SA.

Richardson’s remarkable story began some time ago when he was employed by Rodney Fuhr, boss of the well-known Lion Park, just north of Johannesburg, in Gauteng. He was integral in raising the 26 lions he now owns from the time of their captive births and also facilitated the very popular “petting” of lion cubs by tourists. It soon became apparent to Richardson, however, that, once the cubs reached maturity and were no longer considered “safe” to be with tourists, many were being sold to unscrupulous hunting concerns across the country to be shot by high-paying overseas “trophy hunters” in canned lion hunts. So he resigned - begged, borrowed and wangled the funds needed to buy all 26 of his charges and relocated them all to his private sanctuary a few hours north of Pretoria. Since that time, he has used his growing fame and unique relationships with his fierce charges in the conservation arena to publicise the brutality of what goes on as far as lions are concerned in the South African hunting industry.

Here are some of the hard facts about the vicious practice of canned lion hunting in SA:

  • Definition of canned hunting: Any hunt where the animal is unfairly prevented from escaping the hunter, either by physical constraints (fencing) or by mental constraints (hand-reared, habituated to humans) By this definition, all hunts of captive-bred lions are canned hunts
  • There are estimated to be less than 3 000 lions left in the wild in SA compared to nearly 8 000 lions currently in captivity
  • Lion farming is not regulated by either the Dept. of Agriculture and the Supreme Court has ruled that the practice does not fall under the jurisdiction of conservation bodies either. That means that captive-bred lions enjoy absolutely no protection under SA law at present.
  • Largely foreign hunters pay as much as US $140 000 (± R1.58 million) to hunt a wild lion as opposed to as little as US $10 000 (± R112 000) for a canned hunt. Accordingly, ± 1 000 captive-bred lions are slaughtered in canned hunts in SA annually – about 3 per day.
  • Lion bones are sold to known Asian crime syndicates who pay lion farmers US $1 000 for a lion carcass, which is processed in Asia and then fraudulently sold as tiger bone cake for US $1 000 per 100 grams.

*THG readers interested in viewing some of the remarkable 60 Minutes Special Report footage should follow the following link: http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/the-lion-whisperer/ or visit the official Youtube site for the "Lion Whisperer" at: https://www.youtube.com/user/LionWhispererTV

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