Escape Nature: Three lions are exploring their new home in KZN

ESCAPE NATURE As you read this, three lions are exploring their new home in KZN. Here’s why this is great news These cats got the creamSomkhanda Game Reserve is situated in the far northern wilds of KZN, between Pongola and Mkuze. ___4711111 Youth For Lions is the latest global awareness initiative. Find out why it’s not cool to pet cubs, and how kids can spread the word, on bloodlions.org infrastructure and train local people in hospitality and reserve management. ‘There is no way captivebred lions could ever have been used in an exercise like this as they have no conservation value,’ says Ian Michler, who was also involved in Blood Lions. ‘This is about expanding habitat using wild lions, and the project being managed by the recognised conservation community.’ Somkhanda’s credentials are golden it has also been involved in the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, so doing the same for lions is just part of a day’s work. The reserve’s ecotourism approach is also laudable here visitors are encouraged to learn and contribute. Guests are involved in gathering data on game drives and bush walks, they Howard Clelland, Teaga n Cunniffe, supplied

In May this year, a male and two female lions were transferred asleep, on the back of vet Dr Mike Toft’s special trailer from Phinda to Somkhanda Game Reserve in northern KZN, which is owned and run by the local Gumbi community. The trio have spent the past two months acclimatising in a boma, and are ready to stretch their legs.

‘We feel privileged that the reserve is going to be a Big Five reserve our dream is now a reality,’ says Nathi Gumbi, a key player in this community that, after successful process of land claims in 1998, turned what were cattle and game farms into a conservation success.

The lions are the first in the area in 100 years. This means that biodiversity and ecological balance in the reserve is now restored. But the transfer is also part of a lion conservation strategy that aims to expand their range and genetic pool.

Lions were reintroduced at Phinda in 1992, and they’ve thrived to the extent that the numbers often exceed the capacity of the reserve. Finding a place to translocate them to is the tricky part, as habitat loss is one of the greatest perils facing our planet’s wildlife. It’s no surprise that one of the people behind this initiative was also a producer on Blood Lions, the recent documentary that exposed the canned-hunting and captive-breeding industry. Dr Andrew Venter, CEO of Wildlands, has been involved with Somkhanda since 2013, helping to upgrade infrastructure and train local people in hospitality and reserve management. ‘There is no way captive-bred lions could ever have been used in an exercise like this as they have no conservation value; says Ian Michler who was also involved in Blood Lions. ” This is about expanding habitat using wild lions, and the project being managed by the recognised conservation community. Somkhanda’s  credentials are golden –  it has been involved in the Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, so doing the same for lions is just part of a day’s work.

The reserve’s ecotourism approach is also laudable – here visitors are encouraged to learn and contribute. Guests are involved in gathering data on game drives and bush walks, they can help with cattle dipping in neighbouring villages, or sign up for a wildlife conservation experience that includes helping to dehorn rhinos and replace their tracking collars. Back to the lions: ‘They’re bonding nicely and have been feeding well,’ David Gilroy, Wildlands Strategic Manager, told us at the end of June. ‘We anticipate a smooth release into the reserve at the end of July.

Back to Media

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