#ShockWildlifeTruths: Pressure mounts to ban wild animal interactions in SA

#ShockWildlifeTruths: Pressure mounts to ban wild animal interactions in SA

Cape Town – The walls are closing in on animal interaction operators in South Africa as international tourism role-players distance themselves from unethical wildlife experiences.

International travellers are looking for ethical, responsible experiences and circuses and petting zoos where animals are kept solely for human entertainment are no longer generally accepted.

Responding to the changing sentiments of tourists, tourism authorities and operators have taken an active stand against animal interactions, scrapping them from their itineraries.

Following international movements, SA’s major tourism representatives are catching up with international trends in order to protect South Africa’s status as a responsible and ethical tourism destination – and it’s no easy feat.

No place for mere compliance 

One of the main topics at the annual Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) conference, on 17 and 18 August, was a panel discussion titled ‘Animal interactions – how to craft a compliance process’.

But dealing with compliance only is not enough says Ian Michler, Consultant and Campaign Co-leader to Blood Lions. “This will allow many to continue with cruel and irresponsible practices under the veil of conservation or education,” Michler says.

He commends SATSA’s boldness, saying “it’s admirable that SATSA has decided to address an issue as intricate and multi-facetted as that of animal interactions, but they should go further and support the lobby to end all exploitative practices using wild animals.”

To this end, Humane Society International (HSI) Africa, along with Blood Lions and Wildlands have issued an open letter to SATSA and the Minister of Tourism Tokozile Xasa, urging them “to take a strong stance against animal interactions, such as the use of captive-bred predators in cub petting, lion walks and the voluntourism sector.”

The letter also states that by ending the breeding of wild animals to live – and be killed – in captivity, “there will be no need to deal with the compliance issues” surrounding the industry and marring SA’s natural heritage. These ‘compliance issues’ are essentially only symptoms of the main concern – the breeding of wild animals while claiming conservation credentials.

In the SATSA discussion, South African Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona says his ultimate aim was to protect Brand South Africa. He reiterated that he would work with sustainable tourism authorities to eradicate the animal interaction industry in SA.

“As South African Tourism,” Ntshona claims, “we are fully cognisant of the global anti-petting lobby and back it unreservedly.” He stated in December 2016 that “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”.

What will it take to end animal interaction?

Without a total ban on all animal interactions, the practice will continue due to its financial rewards. An “ethical, legal approach” is the only answer as the panel moderator, Colin Bell pointed out.

Should SA Tourism and SATSA respond to the global call to stop interactions with wild animals , they will join ninety-eight leading tour operators and safari companies from across Africa and the world, who have signed  the “Born to Live Wild” pledge which works to end exploitative tourism practices and promote Africa as an authentic, wild and ethical tourism destination.

“Blood Lions and the coalition of responsible ethical operators will continue to lobby SA’s tourism bodies to live up to their marketing claims. Brand South Africa may well continue to be at risk should the international opprobrium over wild animals be ignored,” Michler warns.

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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