Open letter to Mr Sisa Ntshoana, Ceo SA Tourism

Dear Sisa Ntshona,

I would like to start by extending my belated congratulations on your appointment as CEO of South African Tourism, a function that requires a multitude of skills, expertise and courage. I am so heartened by the fact that you are actively seeking engagement with the South African tourism trade and take time out of your busy schedule for webinars and the subsequent written responses to further questions from the trade.

As an environmentalist and keen supporter of sustainable tourism practices, I was even more excited (and many others in the industry with me) with the way you answered the question by Paul Tully from Captured in Africa in a recent webinar organised by Tourism Update. Paul asked your thoughts on the current exploitation of lions and other wildlife in captivity, including activities such as cub petting, activities that are not only unethical, but also reflect badly on Brand SA.

You responded by saying:

Hi Paul. Thanks for raising this point – it is extremely relevant and topical at the moment, and gives us an opportunity to unequivocally state our position. South African Tourism does not promote or endorse any interaction with wild animals such as the petting of wild cats, interacting with elephants and walking with lions, cheetahs and so on.

Our marketing efforts promote an authentic and credible tourism experience to all our tourists, and this includes an authentic wildlife experience to keep it as “wild” and natural as possible.

But we take these concerns extremely seriously and are talking to the Sustainable Tourism Partnership Programme to see how we can work more closely with them to eradicate such practices.

For those who missed the webinar and subsequent publication, you will find a complete transcript HERE.

Statements such as yours are music to the ears of many people who work tirelessly on behalf of the voiceless. Eradication of unethical wildlife interactions, including petting, riding, and walking with big cats, elephants, ostriches and other wildlife, is what many in our diverse industry would like to see happen.

You can hopefully imagine the disappointment when we were faced with this image from OR Tambo Airport only shortly after your statement was released. What a negative message to send to our visitors on arrival in SA. However, I am happy to hear that you are working with ACSA to resolve this embarrassment.

Looking into SA Tourism’s marketing efforts through your own website gave me a real shock though when faced with the promotion of Ostrich farms, including ostrich riding – listed as number nine of your Top 10 activities in South Africa! A little more digging uncovered the promotion of tourism businesses actively involved in captive breeding of Cheetahs, walking with Cheetahs, breeding of lions and tigerselephant interactions and elephant back riding, and the training of marine mammals for our entertainment. The list seems to be endless and this is unfortunately only the tip of the SA Tourism iceberg.

Tourism businesses involved with activities that you claim in your statement SA Tourism neither promotes nor endorses, such as elephant interactions and/or riding, and walking with and/or petting of big cats, are still part of many of your overseas Road Shows.

I think we all agree with the Blood Lions statement below: “If South Africa wants to market itself as a destination offering ethical and responsible tourism, there cannot be any place for predator breeding, canned hunting and the use of lions and other species as our ‘play things’.”

With the global shift towards a more responsible tourism industry, tourism associations across the globe are encouraging their members to stop promoting unethical wildlife attractions, such as elephant back rides. Even our neighbours are actively putting policies into place to make tourism more responsible, like the recent ban on elephant back riding by Botswana. In our own country, Fair Trade Tourism has taken a stand against captive wildlife interactions. It’s South Africa’s turn to stop talking the responsible tourism talk and start walking the walk.

Hence, my questions to you:

  • How will you ensure that SA Tourism will no longer promote unethical wildlife activities through your own marketing channels?
  • What are your short term objectives for SA Tourism to eradicate unethical wildlife practices from our industry?
  • How will you encourage the wider industry to stop promoting these kind of activities?
  • What are SA Tourism’s criteria to differentiate between those wildlife activities that are ethical/responsible and will therefore be promoted and endorsed by SA Tourism, and those that are not?

I look forward to hearing from you shortly and would be more than willing to discuss any of the above issues with you in more detail.

With warm regards,

Dr Louise de Waal
Sustainable Tourism consultant

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