By now, I think we have all heard of the horrendous market of canned hunts in South Africa, if not – visit http://www.bloodlions.org/. Essentially, there are facilities that breed and confine captive lions within areas that are optimized for hunters (mostly coming from the US) to pay a handsome fee and kill for leisure. There are currently 8,000 of these beautiful captive Lions imprisoned within these facilities – a number that experts are saying will most likely sky rocket within the next few years if nothing is done to mitigate the situation.
Between 2010 and 2014, CITES recorded US hunters importing 2, 582 lion trophies from South Africa. This accounted for 55% of all South African trophy exports, making the US the largest world market for canned lion lions in South Africa.
All of this has finally hit a wall. On October 21st, the the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a complete ban on the import of all trophies taken from captive-bred lions in South Africa. Many conservationists and wildlife experts are praising this decision.
According to Blood Lions conservationist, Ian Micher, “This is huge, if we can start seriously clamping down on the demand side, then it will impact things here in south Africa.”
Many of these canned lion facilities seem to claim that their market actually enhances the conservation of lions, while many conservationists beg to differ.
“Captive-bred lions serve no conservation purpose because hand-reared lions cannot be released into the wild, according to wildlife experts. They also often suffer in captivity. Many hunters say canned hunting violates the principle of “fair chase,” in which every animal has a reasonable chance to get away. It’s what separates hunting from killing, says the Boone and Crockett Club, a U.S.-based hunting organization.
Lions have declined precipitously in the wild, down from an estimated 200,000 continent-wide a century ago to about 20,000 today. Habitat loss, prey depletion, and greater conflict with humans account for most of this loss, but conservationists argue that trophy hunting of wild lions contributes to the decline.” – NatGeo
Dan Ashe, The Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has said that “In order to permit the import of lion trophies under the [US Endangered Species Act], exporting nations like South Africa must provide clear evidence showing a demonstrable conservation benefit to the long-term survival of the species in the wild. In the case of lions taken from captive populations in South Africa, that burden of proof has not been met.”
South Africa’s canned hunting facilities have acknowledged in court that their breeding activities have nothing to do with wild lion conservation. So no wonder the burden of proof failed. – LionAid
This new decision will indeed bring a significant decrease in income for the South African lion breeders, and they will inevitably look to other countries still interested in the market such as China, Russia etc. The new protections also mean wild lions can still be hunted, but it is illegal to buy and sell their bones, teeth, and claws.
There is definitely more that can be and should be done to mitigate this situation but this is a leap forward that other countries should take into account for their own policies to follow.
Watch the Blood Lions Trailer below.