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Breeding cruelty – how tourism is killing Africa’s lions

Breeding cruelty – how tourism is killing Africa’s lions

International animal charity exposes the cruelty of lion parks

Cecil was just one of thousands of lions whose welfare and existence is under threat from unethical tourism practices throughout Africa, reveals World Animal Protection in a report launching today (Monday, 10 August).

Many tourists are unwittingly creating a demand that, beyond the horrors of hunting, subjects lions to a lifetime of misery from the moment they are born.

Lion parks are increasingly popular attractions where tourists can get up close and personal for a ‘once in a life-time’ encounter with wild lions in captivity. Lion cubs are intensively bred, especially for lion parks. They are taken from their mothers, sometimes at just a few weeks old, to be used as photo props for tourist ‘selfies’ and sometimes ‘lion walks’ – all in the name of entertainment. This is big business and the number of captive-bred lions in South Africa has almost doubled since 2005 to at least 5,800 animals.

World Animal Protection has major concerns about the welfare of cubs in lion parks:

Lion cubs are separated from their mothers, sometimes only a week after they are born, to begin their ‘training’ to be safe for tourist handling.
Young cubs are presented to tourists, constantly viewed and mishandled hundreds of times a day, which can lead to stress and injury.
Lion cubs are typically punished using pain and fear in order to stop aggressive, unwanted behaviour.
Lions are often kept in small concrete enclosures and can be fed an inadequate diet – which doesn’t even meet their basic welfare needs.
These conditions can cause chronic stress making them more susceptible to disease.
World Animal Protection also fears for the fate of adult lions which are no longer of use to lion parks as they become too large and dangerous for direct contact with tourists. Unlike other captive conservation programmes, commercial lion parks do not help to boost wild population numbers as their lions can never be safely released into the wild.

Instead, adult lions are either euthanised, kept in increasingly crowded captive conditions, or may be sold to zoos, lion farms or even a private collector for profit. Lion parks deny supplying captive bred lions for ‘Canned’ or ‘Put and Take’ lion hunting, however most possess little knowledge of what happens to lions after they have been sold.

Bridget Veroce, New Zealand Country Director at World Animal Protection says: “It is entirely credible that the lion cubs from your holiday ‘selfie’ may become the same animals that are later shot by trophy hunters.

From the moment they are born, lions in parks are destined for a lifetime of misery. Many tourists are currently unaware that they are unwittingly fueling an industry that cares little for animals.

By refusing to visit lion parks and instead paying to see animals in the wild, you can help to end the demand that keeps this cruelty alive.”

Bridget Vercoe continues:

“We want tour operators to be fully accountable for where they send their customers. Over 20 tour operators have already agreed to stop selling elephant rides or shows. We are calling on all operators to make the tourism industry part of the solution rather than the problem.

We must make these changes now, to truly protect Africa’s lions. If Cecil’s death does one thing we hope that it is to give a greater urgency to the tourism industry and governments to urgently act to protect our wildlife.”


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