Lion lovers say artificially breeding ‘large felids’ not what big cats need

LOCAL conservation groups were not overjoyed at the news that the first two African lion cubs conceived via non surgical artificial insemination were born at Ukutula Conservation Centre and Biobank in North West Province.

The University of Pretoria said this was achieved as part of a research study by a team of scientists from the university “on the reproductive physiology of the female African lion and development of artificial insemination protocols for this species which could be used as a baseline for other endangered large wild fends”.

University of Pretoria said the cubs were conceived via non surgical AT using fresh semen collected “from an adult male lion at the same facility”.

But conservation organisations have questioned why such research is even necessary. Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Dr Kelly Marnewick said lions are “declining mainly due to conflict with people, lack of suitable prey, lack of safe spaces and trade in their body parts”.

“In South Africa lions are doing well with a stable population and have recently been classified as ‘Least Concern’ on the Red Data List, but they are conservation dependent.

“Artificial insemination does not address any of the threats that lions face. It does not make sense to focus on breeding when the threats to lions are not addressed. Wild lions are able to breed well and interact socially if they are provided with the appropriate space to do so.

“Captive breeding does not contribute to conservation and the links between captive facilities and ‘canned hunting’ and the bone trade are damaging to conservation of wild lions,” Marnewick said.

Wildlands chairperson Dr Andrew Venter also said the main issues for African lions are habitat loss and dealing with human animal conflict. “Instead of the breeding, the recognised conservation community is focused on these two principal issues,” Venter said.

The Blood Lions Campaign said that given “there are no conservation concerns about the breeding behaviour of lions in the wild, we would ask the question; why is this necessary?

“We would also ask the University of Pretoria if they condone the exploitation of lion cubs for commercial tourism?”

The university said the purpose of the research was not to help lions breed better in the wild, but rather to have methods established to reproduce endangered cats when their numbers and genetic diversity are getting low.

“We are storing sperm of different males for future purposes. Rather than transporting animals, we can then just transfer semen and get pregnant lions or other cats and breed them back.”

The university said though African lions breed well in captivity “the wild population is highly fragmented and suffers progressively from isolation and inbreeding”.

Their population is estimated to have dropped from just over one million in 1800, to 18 000 in 2018.

The African lion is listed as Vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The university said the Ukutula Centre “has a long history and great experience of housing and breeding lion and other African carnivores”.

The university said the animals are used for research and education, within strict rules and their research partners and have contracts in place that guarantee an immediate end of the collaboration, if any criteria are not met.

The university said the cubs and the mother will remain in captivity as they were raised in captivity and are used to humans.

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