Today, when a wealthy American travels back and forth to South Africa for “hunt lion” and come back with a beautiful trophy that he will display in his living room, he does not kill a wild beast but a farm animal that has been released just for him in an enclosure. We call it the “box hunt” : it was born in the 80s, when wildlife was becoming increasingly rare and the lode of hunting more and more lucrative. “The tourism industry is sensitive to negative perceptions (…). We want to make sure that tourists do not go and kill animals out of cages.” said Barbara Creecy, South African Minister for the Environment.
No need to run around the savannah for three weeks to find a lion: shooting a beast that has grown up in captivity (and that is sometimes drugged to be sure that the hunter does not miss it) it allows to keep the customers. The film Mia and the white lion has also introduced this practice to the general public.
South Africa is the only country to allow livestock farms. The practice is controversial. Campaigns to ban the import of trophies from captive-bred lions have garnered growing support in recent years. Five years ago the United States and the European Union banned the importation of trophies but this time… it’s over. The government has asked experts to work on the issue. After two years of reflection, they have just made their conclusions, without appeal: we stop everything!
The Minister of the Environment announced it this Sunday, May 2 during a press conference. It is a question of ethics.
“The tourism industry is sensitive to negative perceptions. We must, she says, make sure that tourists interested in ‘authentic hunting’ do not go and kill caged animals. “ The hunting of wild animals in the wild remains of course authorized under certain conditions.
South Africa will ban the breeding of lions in captivity for hunting, the cuddles that allow tourists to pet lion cubs, to improve the image of the country! It was high time you would tell me.
8,000 to 12,000 lions are raised on some 350 farms pic.twitter.com/l569CUrpQU
– Our Animals seen from SIEL (@VusNos) May 3, 2021
If animal protection associations welcome the initiative, professionals in the sector are enraged. There are more than 300 breeding farms in South Africa or between 8,000 and 12,000 lions bred in captivity, three times more than in the wild according to the South African association Endangered Wildlife Trust.
Of course these structures say that they participate in the conservation of the species. Except that their practice is mainly in the tourist and commercial sector.
Holidaymakers pay to be accommodated in lodges, they pay to pet the cubs and bottle-feed them (that too, this must stop, says the expert commission), they pay to do jeep tours in the enclosures; and if they want thrills they pay to kill. A lion is between 15,000 and 30,000 dollars each (it depends on the size and color of the mane). Much less sometimes when there is promos.
Once the animals are killed, breeders can also resell their carcasses for a few thousand more euros: their bones are in great demand in Southeast Asia for traditional medicine (especially since tiger bones are made. rare). Export quotas were raised in 2018 to 1,500 units per year. In Vietnam in particular, the bones of the body are boiled in large pots to produce cake bars. Not sure that the sector appreciates having to cease all these activities. The decision has yet to be translated into law, and it is not going to be fun for the South African government.
But the species is in danger. There are approximately 20,000 lions in the wild across the African continent. Numbers have halved over the past two decades and the species is likely to become extinct by 2050.
To curb the phenomenon, it would be necessary to ban hunting, restrict cultivation and deforestation, fight against poaching: a titanic challenge that South Africa alone will have a hard time meeting.