An estimated 7,000 to 14,000 lions are held in captivity and bred in South Africa. Increasingly, the animals are slaughtered for their bones and other body parts, many of which are sold in Asia for their purported — and scientifically discredited — health benefits.
Reinet Meyer is the senior inspector at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in the provincial city of Bloemfontein, located in the central grasslands of South Africa. In April, she received a tip: Two adult lions had been held for two days without food or water in tiny transport crates on a farm called Wag ‘n Bietjie (“Wait a While” in Afrikaans) about 20 miles outside the city. She went to the farm, found the lions, and discovered that they’d been trucked about 250 miles in the crates from Predators Pride, a “safari park” near Johannesburg that keeps big cats in small enclosures so tourists can get close to them and, for an extra fee, hold lion cubs or cuddle adult cheetahs while having their photos taken.