PRESS RELEASE: Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) rejects Portfolio Committee’s Resolution to end the Captive Breeding of Lions

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) proposed that the Captive Lion Breeding (CLB) industry should continue as long as it is properly regulated and appropriate legislation introduced, at the Portfolio Committee of Environmental Affairs (PCEA) briefing on 12th March on the implementation of the Committee’s Report in respect of CLB.

This ignores the PCEA resolutions from the two-day Parliamentary Colloquium on CLB in August 2018, which included the resolution (9.1) specifying  that the “DEA should as a matter of urgency initiate a policy and legislative review of CBL for hunting and lion bone trade with a view of putting an end to this practice.” This Resolution was subsequently adopted by parliament making it a Parliamentary Resolution.

Currently, South Africa is holding between 9,000-12,000 lions in captivity, in approximately 300  facilities for a number of commercial purposes, including canned hunting, breeding and the lion bone trade.

In a shocking reversal of the overwhelming condemnation of CLB expressed during the August Colloquium by a wide range of conservation and welfare experts and forcefully endorsed in the PCEA report thereon, DEA merely reiterated the same tired justifications for CLB as if the Colloquium had never taken place.

During last week’s meeting, DEA reported that of the 227 breeding facilities inspected in the Free State, Limpopo, North West and Eastern Cape, nearly 40% (88 facilities) were non-compliant with, among others, the Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) Regulations.

In the Free State of the 111 facilities inspected, 62 were found to be in non-compliance with TOPS Regulations. Most facilities were also found to be operating with expired permits. All permits were however renewed without providing reasons for renewal.

DEA further reported (incorrectly) that activities involving petting and walking with big cats are not allowed in the Free State and Western Cape, and therefore no permits were issued to facilities to conduct such activities. However, there are many facilities in both provinces that offer these exploitative activities to thousands of tourists and volunteers.

The committee appeared unconcerned that these activities are taking place without or with inadequate regulation in the North West, Limpopo and Gauteng. DEA has only four inspectors to cover the entire country and admitted they were under resourced.

DEA inspections are only TOPS compliance checks in conjunction with provincial authorities and DEA inspectors are not trained to carry out welfare inspections. The NSPCA is the sole organisation mandated to carry out welfare inspections however neither the NSPCA nor PCEA has been able to obtain a full list of CLB facilities from DEA.

On 25 February 2019, the Minister announced the formation of a High Level Panel to review the existing policies, legislation and practices related to the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling of Elephant, Lion, Leopard and Rhinoceros. There has however been no public consultation on the Terms of Reference of the panel and membership is restricted to those with experience of Sustainable Utilisation. From the PCEA chair’s closing remarks, it seems certain that this panel will review the Resolutions of the PCEA Colloquium  Report.

Blood Lions, a leading organisation that works to end the captive lion breeding, canned hunting and lion bone trade industries in South Africa, is deeply concerned by the outcome of the recent briefing. “DEA’s recommendation to regulate an industry which has been thriving for over 20 years already, under so called ‘governance’, is proof of ineffective legislation and poor regulation. Leading global conservation and scientific authorities state that the captive predator breeding industry has no conservation value whatsoever, and in fact flouts internationally accepted ethical and welfare protocols.”

Blood Lions urges DEA to follow the sound resolutions made in the PCEA Colloquium report, which included this vital statement advising DEA to “urgently initiate a policy and legislative review of the Captive Breeding of lions for hunting and the lion bone trade with a view to putting an end to this practice”.



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DEA now only plans to introduce legislation to restrict permits to CLB facilities “that can demonstrate how the breeding in captivity of such specimens will contribute to the conservation of the particular species…..”. This legislation was already promised by Mrs Thea Caroll of DEA to the PCEA in 2017.  This flies in the face of the PCEA observation in August (8.1) that “there is generally no conservation value in CLB in South Africa”.

The welfare of wild animals falls between the mandates of DEA and DAFF with neither willing to assume responsibility, so the PCEA resolved (9.3) in August that “DEA and DAFF should present a clear program of work on how they intend to address animal welfare and health issues”.

In response DEA proposed to amend NEMBA to ”provide a mandate to regulate the well-being of Faunal Biological Resources …with power to prohibit an activity that may negatively impact on the well-being of a biological resource …as well as make regulations in respect thereof…”.

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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