Promised bill to ban breeding lions for cub-petting, trophy shoots, & bone commerce awaits introduction––and action
BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa––Five months after South African minister of forestry, fisheries & the environment Barbara Creecy announced that she would pursue legislation to ban breeding captive lions for cub-petting, trophy shoots, and exports of lion bones for use in traditional Chinese medicine, the fate of 30 captive lions caught in the path of a wildfire may put political momentum behind the proposal.
The wildfire swept through a privately owned lion breeding compound in the Glen/Brandford area, 40 miles north of Bloemfontein, capital of the Free State province in central South Africa.
“The Bloemfontein SPCA was at the forefront during the recent wildfires to assist farmers with relieving horrifically injured animals from any further suffering,” explained an October 3, 2021 media release from the National SPCA of South Africa, parent organization for the Bloemfontein SPCA.
“For days after the fires, the SPCA searched the area for injured animals,” the National SPCA of South Africa recounted.
Game farmer barred National SPCA inspectors
In the Glen district, however, one farmer “refused to allow [the Bloemfontein team] to enter his land, even though flames had destroyed most of the farmland,” including the lion enclosures.
“The owner knew the lions were injured by the fires. For five days they didn’t administer any medical treatment,” the National SPCA charged.
“We had no option but to obtain a warrant to enter the property,” the National SPCA said.
At the scene, the National SPCA reported, “We arrived at the lion enclosures and our hearts broke and our souls wept. We saw that the lions couldn’t escape the fires,” and were visibly suffering from having inhaled smoke and hot ashes.
“The lions didn’t move. They all lay in one spot with their paws turned upwards. Their fragile bodies were burnt, and their faces carried the devastating scars of the flames just days ago. Three male lions, supposed to be Kings of the Jungle, in one of the camps, couldn’t stand at all. As they attempted to get up, they simply collapsed. One cannot begin to comprehend the pain these lions were in,” the National SPCA media release continued.
“Too broken, too weak” to escape
The burned lions “could easily escape,” the National SPCA team observed, since the wildfire had razed the poles holding up the fencing, and had destroyed the wires that had electrified the fence, “but not even one escaped,” the National SPCA said.
“They were too broken, too weak,” not only from burns but from prolonged starvation before the wildfire hit, the National SPCA assessed.
The owner, the National SPCA charged, “was no longer spending money on feeding the lions. If any cattle or wildlife died in the area, the farmworkers would collect their bodies as food for the lions. They would also get dead chickens from a nearby poultry farm. The SPCA believes these lions went for days on end without food, and even when the odd cow was brought over, it would not have sufficed for 59 lions and three tigers.”
In one enclosure three lions had killed and eaten another, the National SPCA found.
Before the fire, the National SPCA alleged, “Lions had been left to live in their own filth without anyone entering the enclosures to clean them.”
Owner allegedly laughed when issued warning
“While the Bloemfontein SPCA team worked with broken hearts and shattered souls in the pouring rain, the owner wasn’t bothered to be present at any time during the inspection of the injuries, nor during the euthanasia,” the National SPCA media release added. “He was laughing when he was issued a warning, and we didn’t see him again.
“We issued multiple warnings for lack of water and shelter as we [now] conduct daily inspections at the farm,” the National SPCA said, concluding that “The SPCA has opened a case of animal cruelty against the owners.”
But, concluding on a note of illogic, the National SPCA alleged that the owner had kept the lions alive because of the market value of their bones––which could be collected only after their deaths.
Captive lion breeding ban promised in May 2021
Forestry, fisheries, & environment minister Creecy in October 2019 commissioned a “High-Level Panel Report on Lions, Rhinos, Elephants & Leopards” in October 2019.
Completed in December 2020, the nearly 600-page “High-Level Panel Report” was not released to media until May 2021.
The report recommended an end to breeding captive lions for cub-petting, trophy shoots of captive-bred and raised lions, and exports of lion bones, all long established practices of the South African game farming industry..
The paper also recommends that South Africa should stop lobbying the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species for permission to sell ivory from elephant tusks.
Creecy told media when the “High-Level Panel Report” was published that her ministry would recommend that all suggestions in the “High-Level Report” that were ratified by the majority of the 26 report authors be adopted into national policy.
But money talks
Not much has happened, however, toward that end, against the lobbying clout of affluent and influential game farmers and wildlife exhibitors.
According to Humane Society International, 104 of the 306 exhibitors selling trophy hunts at the 2021 Dallas Safari Club annual convention, held online, were selling hunts in South Africa.
Most of those hunts are believed to be of captive-bred and reared animals, especially lion hunts.
More than 75,000 animals are believed to have been bred in South Africa specifically to be hunted over the past decade, including as many as 12,000 lions, compared to about 10,000 left in the wild.
“What started in Parliament must now end in Parliament as law, and that still lies ahead,” warned Don Pinnock, author of Our Rhino War (2012) and The Last Elephants (2019) in a guest column for the South African newspaper The Daily Maverick soon after Creecy spoke.
Rock python rescue
The National SPCA Wildlife Protection Unit has also recently “been conducting inspections and following up on warnings issued to a predator park in the North West Province,” a second SPCA media release said.
“Our inspectors were gravely concerned about the condition of pythons who were being kept at the park. The pythons were all crammed into a tiny room where they were unable to stretch out fully. They did not have any access to clean drinking water, and were found severely dehydrated and emaciated,” the National SPCA media release detailed.
“When the owner of the park failed to adhere to our warnings, our inspectors contacted officials from the North West Department of Economic Development, Environment, Conservation and Tourism, as well as a snake specialist, and under a warrant removed all ten pythons kept on the premises.”
One python “died en route to the veterinarian,” the National SPCA said, but “after weeks of rehabilitation, seven of the nine remaining snakes were released into a natural and free habitat where we are sure they will thrive.
“South African pythons are a classified as internationally threatened” by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species,” the National SPCA mentioned, “and are a Threatened or Protected Species under the National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act of South Africa.
“A case of animal cruelty has been opened against the owner of the park,” the National SPCA media release concluded.
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