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A nail in the coffin of the captive lion breeding industry?

There was an overwhelming consensus for the need to bring an end to the controversial captive lion breeding industry in South Africa at a two-day Parliamentary Colloquium of the Portfolio Committee of Environmental Affairs.

However, in an article in this morning’s Cape Times “SA’s lion conservation policies rooted in science” is a carefully scripted piece by Minister Molewa trying to justify an industry the majority of attendants at the colloquium agree has passed its sell-by date.

Mr MP Mapulane (chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs) summed up the sentiment around the room by saying “South Africa is allowing a practice that everybody is turning their backs to, we need to find a solution as a country to improve the situation”.

The consensus is that the captive lion breeding industry has little to no conservation value, raises serious animal welfare issues, and doing serious damage to Brand SA. As Dr Ali Kaka (CIC Ambassador for Africa) says “the bad publicity has to be noted” and “South Africa’s conservation success rightly or wrongly will be questioned and smeared”.

This was confirmed in a new report by South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) claiming South Africa’s tourism brand value could potentially be negatively affected by as much as R54 billion loss in revenue over the next decade, if the lion breeding industry is allowed to continue.

Questions were raised around the increase of the lion bone quota from 800 in 2017 to 1500 for 2018, which the Minister claims is also based on science. However, on closer inspection, an interim report of a three-year-long research project was used to underpin the new quota.

Furthermore, it appeared that the economic principle of supply and demand was a key aspect in the decision-making process, as our lion breeders can produce more skeletons than the initial set quota and have skeleton stockpiles.

Smaragda Louw (Ban Animal Trading) pointed out the irregularities in for example the lion bones quota and the number of CITES permits issued, the latter exceeding the actual quota.

Pippa Hankinson (Blood Lions) says “after attending the Parliamentary debate today, it is blatantly clear that the lack of regulations, enforcement and governance around the predator breeding industry and lion bone trade quota in South Africa are hugely problematic”.

Dr Mark Jones (Born Free Foundation) pointed to the fact that the captive lion breeding industry is associated with wildlife trafficking and directly linked to the increasing demand for and trade in donkey meat and skins, as well as rhino horn and derivatives.

“Although the CITES trade database doesn’t yet contain export data for lion skeletons for 2016, airway bills suggest more than 1,700 skeletons may have been exported, including 153 skeletons from Gauteng Province to a company called Vinasakhone Trading in Laos. The company has been closely associated with wildlife trafficking and other illegal activities, and has close links with the notorious Bach brothers, who have been operating wildlife trafficking activities across parts of SE Asia for years”, Jones states.

South Africa’s lion breeding industry has been the subject of substantial international criticism, including government Ministers in Namibia, Botswana, and within South Africa, national and international NGOs and scientists, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, but most significantly from within the trophy hunting sector itself.

Professional Hunters Association South Africa (PHASA) and South African Predator Association (SAPA) are among the few professional hunting associations, who consistently remain on the side of DEA in support of the captive lion breeding industry and canned hunting.

Many of the organisations present are heartened by the outcome of this first day. Audrey Delsink (HSI Africa) says “we are encouraged by the first robust inquiry into the captive lion breeding industry facilitated by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee, who now have the baton and have given their commitment to run with it”.

Campaign Milestones




Since the film premiered in July 2015, the Blood Lions® Campaign team – together with the support of key partners around the world – have made great strides in their efforts to raise global awareness around captive lion breeding and “canned” (captive) hunting, as well as the associated tourism activities.

Digital Media

  • The Website: 165 000 visitors
  • Facebook: almost 50 000 followers; reach over 86 000 000 per year
  • Twitter: over 6700 followers; reach over 2 200 000.
  • Five international tweet storms with millions involved worldwide
  • Online support from top international influencers and celebrities: Ellen de Generes (48m followers), Miley Cyrus (19.4m), Ian Somerhalder, (6.21m), Nikki Reed (.8m), Shannon Elizabeth (.6m), Emily VanCamp (.5m), Ricky Gervais (12 m)

Media Coverage:

  • Over R40 000 000 in pro bono media coverage globally and climbing daily.


  • International Distributors
    • PBS International, USA
    • IFD, South Africa
  • Blood Lions® DVD and VOD
    • DVD: in the USA, in South Africa,  iTunes in the United Kingdom;
    • VOD:  available globally on;; and
    • Blood Lions® TV airings (54min TV edits): ongoing in 180 countries/territories around the world through the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, MSNBC, TV Ontario, RTK, N-Tv, Planéte.
    • Blood Lions® “curated” global screenings: Over 120 screenings in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Finland, Germany, Holland, India, Indonesia, Israel, Kenya, Namibia, Nepal, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States of America, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
    • Blood Lions® produced 9 video clips: 9 short info clips were produced after the film’s release, featuring different aspects of the captive lion breeding and canned hunting industry:
    • Woolworths Bags4Good: leading SA retailer distributed 30,000 Blood Lions® DVD’s throughout South Africa through their Bags4Good “Born to Live Wild” campaign in 2016 

2017 “Milestones”

  • International Subtitles: Hebrew and Portuguese.
  • Blood Lions® (84min feature film): People’s Weather premiered full length version of the film on television in South Africa to commemorate World Lion Day in August, and twice weekly during World Tourism Month in September.
  • Government/Parliamentary Screenings:
    • International Parliaments: Sweden
  • Safari Company, Israel:    Blood Lions® invited to screen film in Tel Aviv at Safari Company’s “Responsible Tourism Campaign” gala event
  • Projects supported through Blood Lions® fundraising:
    • NSPCA’s Wildlife Unit
    • Somkhanda Community Game Reserve’s wild lion reintroduction program aimed to improve the tourism product offering and ecological status of the reserve in KZN.

2016 “Milestones”

  • Film Festival Blood Lions® Screening Selections:
    • USA: Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital, Washington D.C.
    • USA: Telluride Mountain Film, Colorado
    • USA: Joshua Tree International FF, California
    • USA: Chagrin Documentary Film Festival Ohio
    • USA: Awareness Film Festival, LA
    • USA: Friday Harbor Film Festival, San Juan Islands
    • UK: Wildscreen Film Festival
    • Spain: Barcelona International Environmental Film Festival
    • Dominican Republic: Environmental Film Festival

2015 “Milestones”

  • Premier and global release of Blood Lions® :   July 2015
  • International Subtitles: German
  • Government/Parliamentary Screenings:   
    • National: Department of Environmental Affairs and Department of Tourism
    • International: Australian and EU Parliaments
    • Royal Geographic Society screening, London
  • Film Festivals Blood Lions® Screening Selections:
    • South Africa: Durban International Film Festival, Durban
    • Colombia: Planet on Film Festival, Bogotá
    • Holland: Wildlife Film Festival, Rotterdam
    • Finland: Lens Politica Film Festival, Helsinki




#ShockWildlifeTruths: Will SA’s estimated 7 000 canned lions all end up this way?

Cape Town – The issue of canned lion hunting has never received as much attention than before the death of Cecil the lion or the controversial SA based-documentary Blood Lions.

And while many strides have been made over the last two years against the unethical practices of canned lion hunting – questions have remained around what the future would be for SA’s estimated 7 000 lion in captivity if the practice was banned outright.

The recent announcement by the department of home affairs of an approved 2017 quota of 800 lion skeletons, unfortunately seems to indicated exactly what that future might be.

The DEA says the export will only be from captive-bred lions as per the specific parameters approved by Convention in the Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).

But it’s a case of dammed if you do, with the DEA reiterating its concern that “if the trade in bones originating from captive bred lion is prohibited, lion bones may be sourced illegally from wild lion populations.”

Lions in South Africa are listed under Appendix II which means their products can be traded internationally but only “if the trade will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild.” The numbers of African free-range lions have declined alarmingly over the last few decades with only 20 000 remaining today, down from 30 000 just two decades ago.

Criticism has been leveraged against the sale, saying it would imperil wild lions as it is feeding demand within the market – as well as raising ethical concerns around the canned lion industry and the perpetuation of other industries associated with it.

Lion bone trade promotes canned lion hunting

According to a Conservation Action Trust report, in 2016, according to Panthera, 90% of lion carcasses found in the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique all had their skulls, teeth, and claws removed while rates of poisoning lions specifically for bones increased dramatically in Niassa National Reserve in northern Mozambique. In Namibia, 42% of lions killed in the Caprivi had their skeletons removed.

According to wildlife investigator, Karl Amann, the trade is fueling the demand in Asia. The south-east Asian country now dominates the lion-bone market.

Amann says the CITES trade data base shows that  between 2009 and 2015 Laos has bought over 2000 complete lion skeletons from South Africa. This excludes the 2 300 bones and 40 skulls sold separately as incomplete skeletons”

Lion bones arrive in Laos but are then illegally exported to Vietnam without the requisite CITES export permits. Here they are boiled down, compacted into a cake bar and sold at a price of around US$1000 (currently R12 830 – R12.83/$) to consumers who add it to rice wine.

“The DEA’s move is widely regarded as open support for the controversial practice of canned lion hunting. A captive lion breeder – one of 300 in South Africa – can be paid anywhere from US$5000 (R64 150) to US$25 000 (R320 750) for each lion permitted to be shot. Now they can add an additional $1500 (R19 245) per skeleton permitted to be sold to Laotian buyers.”

So how is the quota determined and what impact assessments were done? 

A zero quota on the export of bones derived from wild lion specimens was taken at the Parties to CITES at COP17 in Johannesburg in 2016, says the DEA.

Further to this the DEA put a stop to lion bone and other derivative exports at the beginning of 2017, until a quota had been set and the management process thereof had been determined, which it now has. It says the quota will be managed at a national level, with applications still dealt with and assessed via the provincial nature conservation authorities level.

“The South African population of Panthera leo (African lion) is included in Appendix II of CITES. In terms of Article IV of the Convention, an export permit shall only be granted for an Appendix II species when a Scientific Authority of the State of export has advised that such export will not be detrimental to the survival of that species, says Molewa.

During COP17 the CITES listing for lion was amended to include the following annotation, which SA agreed to as a risk-averse intervention.

“For Panthera leo (African populations): a zero annual export quota is established for specimens of bones, bone pieces, bone products, claws, skeletons, skulls and teeth removed from the wild and traded for commercial purposes. Annual export quotas for trade in bones, bone pieces, bone products, claws, skeletons, skulls and teeth for commercial purposes, derived from captive breeding operations in South Africa, will be established and communicated annually to the CITES Secretariat.”

Added to this, the DEA says a 2015 study commissioned by TRAFFIC raised concerns around the shift in lion and tiger bone trade; namely that when the trade in tiger bone was banned; the trade shifted and bones were sourced from South Africa, available as a by-product of the hunting of captive bred lions.

“A well-regulated trade will enable the department to monitor a number of issues relating to the trade, including the possible impact on the wild populations,” says Molewa.

Quota allocations going forward?

The DEA says the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) will conduct a 3-year-long study aimed at increasing the understanding of the lion bone trade in South Africa and the captive lion breeding industry – as well as inform the Scientific Authority on a sustainable annual quota.

“It will investigate how the trade in captive produced lion bone under a quota system affects wild lion populations, and will further strengthen the evidence base for the annual review of the quota in order to ensure it is sustainable and not detrimental to wild populations.

“The decision on the annual export quota was reached following an extensive stakeholder consultation process during which the Department considered all variables, including scientific best practice. It cannot be said, therefore that this determination was made arbitrarily or in a non-transparent manner,” says Molewa.

The decision continues to spark international condemnation from conservationists and local stakeholders alike.

“It is irresponsible to establish policy that could further imperil wild lions,” says Dr Paul Funston, Senior Director of Panthera’s Lion Programme earlier this year when the DEA first proposed its plans.

Those who included their voice of concern include Singita together with other prominent safari operators &Beyond and Great Plains Conservation, warning how it was damaging the safari industry.

Panthera also called it “irresponsible to establish policy that could further imperil wild lions—already in precipitous decline throughout much of Africa—when the facts are clear; South Africa’s lion breeding industry makes absolutely no positive contribution to conserving lions and, indeed, further imperils them.”

But the DEA insists they are acting within the environmental law, and says a “well-regulated trade will enable the Department to monitor a number of issues relating to the trade, including the possible impact on the wild populations”.

Panthera has warned legalisation of a trade in lion bones will stimulate the market and endanger both captive and wild lion populations.

“There is significant evidence that South Africa’s legal trade in captive-bred lion trophies is accelerating the slaughter of wild lions for their parts in neighbouring countries and is, in fact, increasing demand for wild lion parts in Asia — a market that did not exist before South Africa started exporting lion bones in 2007.”

2017 African Responsible Tourism Awards longlist revealed

The competition for the 2017 African Responsible Tourism Awards has moved into the second round, with over 30 tourism organisations competing for top spots at the awards ceremony at WTM Africa in April.

Sponsored by WESGRO and organised by Better Tourism Africa, the awards recognise African organisations that offer a shining example of how tourism can benefit the local people, the environment, and destinations. The awards are part of a family of regional Responsible Tourism Awards which culminate each year with World Responsible Tourism Day at WTM in London. This year, the longlist names tourism organisations from Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. Longlisted organisations compete in seven categories, among them habitat and species conservation, engaging people and culture, poverty reduction and a new category in 2017 – the best responsible event.

“The quality of entries which have made it through to the longlist this year confirms the power of responsible tourism as a force for good in Africa. Each and every one of these organisations is playing an important role in championing responsible tourism. We’ve reviewed the information from the first round entry forms, and are excited about the possibilities,” says Heidi van der Watt, founder of the African awards and director of Better Tourism Africa. The longlisted organisations will now be rigorously questioned and their submissions reviewed by the judging team. Chair of Judges, Professor Harold Goodwin says:

“The field for the 2017 African Responsible Tourism Awards (ARTA) is even stronger than previous years – and that takes some doing! Those longlisted have been invited to complete a detailed questionnaire, we’ll take up references and make some inquiries. On judging day we’ll identify those that demonstrate the difference that taking responsibility can make, and have the capacity to educate and inspire others to be more responsible.” The general public can also offer support or otherwise for longlisted organisations by emailing Based on all the evidence, the independent judging team, made up of industry experts, will debate the entries and select the shortlist and winners. The shortlist will be announced on 7 April 2017.

The 2017 African Responsible Tourism Awards winners will be announced at a ceremony that will be held on Thursday 20 April 2017 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. The ceremony is part of the responsible tourism programme at WTM Africa, which takes place from 19 to 21 April 2017. Carol Weaving, Managing Director for Reed Exhibitions, organiser of WTM Africa, says:

“WTM Africa is now firmly established on the African travel and tourism event calendar. Responsible Tourism is a cornerstone of WTM Africa and integral to the success of tourism on the continent. All stakeholders have a duty to ensure education, sustainability, and authenticity when promoting the unique experiences that Africa has to offer. We look forward to an exciting third edition of the African Responsible Tourism Awards, here in Cape Town at the CTICC at WTM Africa.”

The 2017 ARTA longlist

@BushCampsAfrica African Bush Camps
@African_Impact African Impact
@alloutafrica All Out Africa
@basecampexplore Basecamp Explorer
@Blood_Lions Blood Lions™
@bushfirefest Bushfire
@CoffeeShackBP Coffee Shack Backpackers
@WeAreWilderness Damaraland Camp & the Torra Conservancy
@porinisafaris Gamewatchers Safaris
@GreatPlainsCons Great Plains Conservation
@GreenGirlAfrica Green Girls in Africa
@ilhablue.islandsafaris Ilha Blue Island Safaris
@influencetours Influence Tours
@IsibindiAfrica Isibindi Africa Lodges
@Khayavolunteers Khaya Volunteer Projects
@KwandweReserve Kwandwe Private Game Reserve
@LEO.Africa LEO Africa
@MaasaiOlympic Maasai Olympics
@MabonengArts Maboneng Township Arts Experience
@MabonengArts Maboneng Township Arts Experience Festival
Mashujaa Peace Walk
@PantheraAfrica Panthera Africa
@SaltyCrax_SAVE Save Foundation
@serenahotels Serena Hotels
@simiens.lodgeSimien Lodge
Sterkspruit Community Art Centre Tele Bridge Race
@Thanda_ Thanda Safari
@thebackpackcpt The Backpack
@WeAreWilderness Tour de Tuli
@TzaneenLodge Tzaneen Country Lodge
@LetsGoTravelKE Uniglobe Lets Go Travel
@UthandoSouthAfr Uthando
@WarriorOnWheels Warrior On Wheels Foundation
@WeAreWilderness Wilderness Safaris
@wildlifeact Wildlife ACT

US imposes canned lion trophies ban

They just want another cheque, say critics

THE US will no longer allow lion trophies to be imported from captive lion populations in South Africa, describing this as a “major step” for the conservation of the species across Africa.

Writing in the Huffington Post yesterday Dan Ashe, the director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFW), said it “cannot and will not allow trophies into the US from any nation whose lion conservation programme fails to meet key criteria for transparency scientific management and effectiveness”.

Last year, the US announced it had changed the rules relating to the import of lion trophies into the country, now requiring US hunters to obtain an import permit for their lion trophies before the hunt takes place.

“To permit the import of lion trophies, exporting nations like South Africa must provide clear evidence showing a demonstrable conservation benefit to the longterm 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,” Ashe wrote in the publication this week.

But Chris Mercer, of the Campaign Against Canned Hunting, suggested this was “at the very least, a clever public relations coup. USFW can claim to be protecting lions, which it is not, it can claim to be supporting weak African conservation structures, which it is not, and can claim to be controlling the hunting industry, which it is not”.

Other than “adding a layer of bureaucracy” to the paperwork of foreign hunters and “infuriating hunting thugs, nothing will change on the ground. Canned lion hunting will continue unabated,” he remarked.

“Foreign lion hunters have already found a way around this restriction US imposes canned lion trophies ban it is not a ban by employing ‘pay to play’ tactics.

“Each hunter will donate, say $5 000 (R70 000), to a lion research organisation in return for a permit to import his tame lion trophy.

“In that way, he proves the ‘hunt’ will ‘enhance the survival of wild lions’ as required by the new rule. Just another layer of bureaucracy and another cheque to write,” said Mercer.

Blood Lions, a campaign to outlaw captive and canned hunting, applauded the US move, “which in many ways is even more significant than the earlier bans introduced by Australia, France and the Netherlands”.

“So many people have become part of the campaign to end these unethical practices. It is now incumbent upon the breeders and hunters as well as the South African authorities to respond accordingly” it stated.

Safari Club International, a hunting outfit, has described the US restriction as “blocking US hunters from participating in sustainable use conservation”.

Pieter Potgieter, the chairman of the SA Predator Breeders Association, says they have their own plans to demonstrate the conservation value of captive bred lions.

“This does not include money paid to organisations in exchange for a permit. We’re in the process of negotiating with the USFW to convince it that captive lion breeding makes a very important contribution to the conservation of wild lions, but they are still considering that.”

Ashe stressed that lions “are not in trouble because of responsible sport hunting” and writes how the USFW has also received applications from US hunters that hunted or will be hunting in Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe for permits to import sport-hunted lion trophies.

The NSPCA has huge animal welfare concerns for the animals exploited in the captive predator and canned hunting industry in South Africa. This industry is unregulated, uncontrolled and is responsible for untold cruelty. It is a tragedy that our wild animals are reduced to profit making machines. Coupled with this members of public are unwittingly encouraging and supporting this cruelty, so it is vital that the public are aware of the truth behind the industry so they can make informed decisions and hopefully choose not to support such an unethical industry.

Sr.Ainsley Hay, Manager, NSPCA Wildlife Protection Unit

Breeding magnificent wild creatures like lions in camps so that they can be slaughtered for ego and money is unconscionable and should be outlawed.  Lions have the right to live in the wild and to continue playing their unique role within the ecological communities of Africa.  The continued existence of the canned hunting industry is a moral outrage that diminishes us all.  This important film shines a light into the dark corners of this ugly business.

Cormac Cullinan, Cullinan & Associates Incorporated

Cruel, barbaric, macabre – all words used by Australian MPs about lion farming and the canned lion hunting industry in SA.  Our campaign was glad to be able to assist and participate in a full length documentary that aims to expose a brutal industry whose whole business model is routine, egregious cruelty to helpless animals – for fun.

Chris Mercer, Founder, CACH (Campaign Against Canned Hunting)

Captive lions have long been a blemish on South Africa’s wildlife and tourism landscape and their tragic story needed to be exposed before these practices negatively impacted on Brand South Africa. Congratulations to all involved in taking the time and making this happen.

Colin Bell, Tourism consultant and author of “Africa’s Finest”

“As a travel and conservation based organization, we find the “Blood Lions” documentary deeply disturbing. Despite being hard to watch, we urge people to get out there and see it. It is important to shed light on the dark and corrupt business of rearing lions for the purposes of hunting, in hopes of making a positive change. As we polled our membership, we found that individually each of our companies have chosen to stop booking all activities that contribute to this industry.”

The Safari Professionals – 30 Tour Operators based in the US and Canada

South Africa’s failure to address the canned hunting industry has emboldened those who make a living out of the death of lions bred, raised and slaughtered on a ‘no kill, no fee’ basis. The canned hunting industry is unnatural, unethical and unacceptable. It delivers compromised animal welfare and zero education. It undermines conservation and creates a moral vacuum now inhabited by the greed and grotesque self-importance of those who derive pleasure in the taking of life.

Blood Lions lays bare the truth behind the canned hunting industry that, far from contributing to the future survival of the species, may, in fact, accelerate extinction in the wild, leaving behind a trail  littered with rotting corpses of its helpless and hopeless victims.

Will Travers OBE, President Born Free Foundation

The Marchig Animal Welfare Trust, in providing support for the making of this Documentary, does so in the firm belief that it is important that the true facts behind captive lion breeding and canned lion hunting in South Africa, is brought to the attention of a global audience in order to create awareness which in turn will lead to much needed change.

Les Ward MBE, Chairman, The Marchig Animal Welfare Trust

This is a timely, courageous as well as a deeply disturbing documentary. It is at the same time, a voice for the wild and the voiceless … of saying “NO MORE!” to that terrible triad of financial opportunism, deceit and indifference to the non-human animal by those claiming to be conservationists.

Ian McCallum – Author, poet, psychiatrist and naturalist

With the constant pressure on wildlife, every effort must be made to keep our last vestiges of natural fauna and flora protected.    Canned hunting of any kind, along with the related consequences, must be condemned by humanity as not only a travesty of nature but also an utterly inhumane practise.   Taming lion cubs only to later hunt them is an utterly inhumane practice.   It is pseudo-hunting, a complete sham and does not even qualify as hunting on a sustainable use basis.   Wildlife conservation has to evolve into practices that are ethical, humanitarian and sustainable. This will not be achieved if there is not real and fair community involvement which has not been part of the hunting fraternity’s evolution.

Yvette Taylor, Executive Director, The Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation

“Canned lion ‘hunting’ is nothing less than a bargain basement opportunity for foreign hunters to engage in one of South Africa’s most sordid practices. Hunting of captive bred lions entirely dependent on human fingerprints from cub to trophy is immoral, unethical and against all animal welfare concerns. The fact that it still continues as profitable commerce is a damning statement against all of us who have not properly engaged to snuff it out. Blood Lions is a good start to bring change.”

Dr Pieter Kat – Director: LionAid

Canned Lion