Farmed to Extinction (Part 1) Lions

Updated: Apr 4

Since the age of cave men, we have been hunting animals for food, clothing and to protect ourselves from being eaten, which would either be done with a spear or a bow and arrow. Since then man has become more intelligent and modernised and so have his weapons. From the humble bow and arrow which took accuracy and skill to hit the target or at least wound the beast, we now have powerful rifles with powerful scopes on them which can enable you to see a flea dangling from the springbucks eye lash. Let’s not go down the wrong road though, I don’t have a problem with hunting as long as it’s done ethically, sustainably, the hunter tracks the animal by himself or with a tracker and the animal you are hunting has a way to escape. The animal you are hunting should not be an endangered species either.

Firearm technology has come along way since the humble bow and arrow.

What I and many other conservationists have a problem with is the breeding of lions where the single purpose in life is to be shot. Canned lion hunting is a practice where lions are bred in captivity until they are adults or sub adults. The lions are then put into small enclosures and a “hunter” stands outside the fence and shoots the lion which doesn’t have any means to escape of defend itself. I don’t know about you but that seems a bit unfair. The continental African lion (Panthera leo) population has decreased by some 30% in the last couple of decades, while the species ‘geographic range has diminished by as much as 82%. Key causes for the decline include conflict with farmers over livestock depredation, habitat destruction and fragmentation, along with less wild prey being available.

No man No man No man

Some hunting activities, conducted by a minority of operators, undermine the public’s perception of trophy hunting as a conservation tool and have prompted legal restrictions in several countries. Many of these activities have little relevance for nature conservation and attract negative press and foster support for hunting bans. These include shooting from vehicles; shooting young or uncommon animals; luring animals from parks; use of bait, spotlights, and dogs and canned hunting. It is suggested that 90% of lions shot in South Africa are canned, although the practice is probably rare or non-existent elsewhere. It is estimated that over 7000 lions are held in captivity and approximately 260 breeding farms are scattered around South Africa but could be more.

Lions were meant to be kings of the savannah, not bred behind electric fences and shot for sport.

Approximately 18,500 hunting clients from abroad now visit sub-Saharan Africa every year, compared with 8,000 in 1990, and bring in approximately US$201 million per year (without considering economic add ones). Trophy hunting operators are custodians of at least 1.4 million km² in sub-Saharan Africa, exceeding the area occupied by national parks in the countries where hunting is permitted by 22%. The majority of hunting clients come from North America and Europe with the average cost of the trophy alone being between US$8,500 - US$50,000 that’s (R623,438 and £36,891).

The primary issue regarding canned lion hunting appears to be welfare concerns associated with raising lions specifically to be killed by hunters. The potential impact of captive bred lion hunting on the wider conservation of lions has been largely overlooked, with the exception of attempts to justify the practice on the grounds that it may reduce pressure from hunters on hunts for wild lions. A counter-argument is that reduced demand could potentially undermine the price of wild lion hunts, thereby reducing incentives for the conservation of wild lions in other African countries. Another potential conservation impact of canned lion hunting is through undermining the credibility of trophy hunting as a conservation-tool in general, at a time when so much contention surrounds the issue.

Shockingly brutal and cowardly.

The operators involved with canned hunting also separate the cubs from their mothers very early in their life. They sometimes use the cubs to promote conservation by letting the public play with them and pet them at different locations. This is not true and the money gained does not go into conservation but rather goes back into the canned lion owner’s pocket. I think I’ve mentioned this before but the lions that are being bred solely for hunting whether they are adults or cubs have no conservation value what so ever. The only time conservationists would possibly become interested in the captive bred lions is if the wild lion population was on the brink of extinction, and this would lead to its own set of problems such as inbreeding within the captive bred lion populations.

Possible Solutions

There is a significant market among U.S. clients for conservation-friendly hunting. In a survey of prospective clients 45–99% were unwilling to hunt under various scenarios if conservation objectives would be compromised, and 86% were more willing to purchase a hunt if local communities would benefit. Certification would enable clients to select operators on the basis of their commitment to conservation and community development and could create economic incentives for hunting operators to conduct their activities more in line with conservation objectives.

Certification would involve rating of operators based on their fulfilment of the following: (1) conservation criteria adherence to quotas and requirements for sex, age, and minimum size of trophies, contributions to anti-poaching efforts, stocking land only with indigenous, wild-caught animals, and tolerance of predators; (2) governance and landowner benefit criteria, provision of benefits to and empowerment of local communities, and cooperation with neighboring land owners/communities to form conservancies, where relevant; and (3) adherence to national legislation, registration with national hunting associations, and adherence to agree upon ethical standards The development of a certification program should be a gradual learning process. Implementation of certification for hunting would be most effective if it were conducted by a single independent body working locally in Africa in liaison with all stakeholders. Cooperation from the organizers of international hunting conventions, where most African hunts are booked, would be vital. They could ban uncertified operators, bar their trophies from record books, and provide incentives such as price reductions or optimal booth placement for certified operators.

Bred for the bullet

A certification system has been suggested in the past, but has not yet been accepted by the hunting industry. Cooperation with the development of such a system would be a major step toward convincing conservationists, African governments, and a skeptical public of the legitimacy of trophy hunting as a conservation tool.

I think, if you want to hunt an animal it has to be on even ground. This would mean having a large conservation area where the animals roam freely and all you have to defend yourself is a Longmans bow and arrow and a knife with no fence between you or the animal. If you’re successful in killing the animal it should be compulsory for that you use or eat the entire carcass. If you’re not willing to do that then you will not be allowed to hunt the animal. That’s fair.

Standing behind a fence far away, a "hunter" takes aim

Only 20,000 wild lions are left in the world. The king of the beasts and the ruler over the savannah is being threatened, not only with extinction but also selfish human beings who think it’s fun to shoot an innocent animal with no means to defend itself. Once the lion has been shot the hunter feels like “THE MAN” as if they are the ruler of all animals because they shot a lion. They should instead feel ashamed of themselves. Real men shoot animals with their cameras not with guns.

A picture I took in a game reserve a couple of years ago of a lion wild and free


Lindsey, P.A., Frank, L.G., Alexander, R., Mathieson, A. & Nach, S.S.R. 2006. Diversity Trophy Hunting and Conservation in Africa : Problems. , 21(3): 880–883.

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