Canned hunting in South Africa

Carte Blanche, an actuality and current affairs television programme, has returned to the issue of canned lion hunting about eight years after it first exposed this frightening industry in 1997. 

John Webb (Carte Blanche presenter): “In 1997, Carte Blanche broadcast
“The Cook Report??. It blew the lid on canned lion hunting. The public
was outraged and a moratorium was put in place to try and stamp out the
practice across the country. But what most people don’t realise is that
the moratorium was voluntary and, far from ending canned hunting, the
practice of shooting captive bred lions has in fact flourished.??

What shocked the South African public were these images and the story
they told about a lioness that was shot by a German hunter on a
lion-breeding farm.


Bruce Hamilton (witness of canned lion hunt): “The lioness had three
cubs. We took her out of the camp that morning into a hundred hectare
enclosure, which was not legal. And she was still running up and down
the fence. She wouldn’t leave her cubs, even though bait was used to
try and lure her away from the fences so that the hunter wouldn’t see
the fences and be caught up in the illusion. Even though she wouldn’t
leave the fences, he still shot her. He could see the cubs on the other
side of the fence, but that didn’t bother [them]. Even when the lioness
was skinned and the milk was pouring out of her teats, it didn’t bother
the hunter or the professional hunter that she was still producing milk
for those cubs, and now they didn’t have a mother.??

Eight years later the practice that horrified a nation has exploded
into a massive industry that today finds more than two-and-a- half
thousand lions in breeding facilities countrywide; by far the majority
of these in three provinces – Free State, North West and Limpopo.

This growth has prompted the Department of Environmental Affairs and
Tourism to publish draft norms and standards to try and regulate this
notorious industry that now kills 400 lions a year – more than one a

The complete story is here.  Basically what happens is farmers breed lions, particularly male lions, in as great a number as they can and sell them to the owners of game farms who then arrange hunts for overseas visitors.  The hunts are little more than elaborate hoaxes designed to lead the overseas hunter to believe that he (or she, I guess) is tracking the animal (which has actually been lured to a specific spot prior to the hunt commencing, typically using a carcass).  The hunters then ‘find’ the lion and the hunter shoots him.

The reality Piet Warren sketches, of hunting’s market forces at work,
is a harsh but extremely profitable one. And the hunting doesn’t end
with lions. There are numerous other trophy species involved.

Piet: “Because we suit the American need of one week, ten animals – and
he wants them in a small area, wants to go find them – we have guys who
have 800 hectares. He only buys male animals off the sale and on his
farm. He picks up the clients; he takes them there, so the guy has a
choice of all these male animals on the farm. So he has happy, happy
clients leaving his farm. Within four days they’ve shot seven, nine
different trophy animals.??

The government’s latest effort to address canned hunting has animal conservationists very worried about the future of animals bred to be hunted.  The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has commented on the draft regulations which were published recently by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism.  These regulations are intended to regulate an industry which kills roughly 400 lions a year (more than one a day).

So does this mean the end of canned lion hunting in South Africa? Well
yes and no, because at the core of the 10-page proposal is the
controversial concept of breeders turning their captive bred lions into
wild lion for a period of six months, then it will be legal to hunt

This is one of the problems with these draft regulations and why they are such a disappointment to nature conservationists who have waited for so long for the government to take action.  The Department has said that it takes a "hard stance" against canned hunting.  One question that occurs to me is whether, in this particular case, being a government department in charge of both environmental affairs and tourism creates a conflict of interest?  It seems to me that it does and the government has unfortunately given precedence to tourism over the welfare of these lions.  We saw a tape of a hunt and you could see the surprise and virtual betrayal in the eyes of the lion as the hunter fired several shots at it, hitting it almost everytime.

I visited the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa and didn’t see anything about canned hunting on its site.  I would have expected some form of disapproval of the practice somewhere near where the PHASA sets out the ethical considerations for professional hunters.  To their credit, they some wildlife conservation information and relevant contact details on their site.  I ran a search for related materials on the Web and found a post on African Conservation Forums warning delegates to a conference last year that the South African government had not taken adequate steps to address canned hunting.

There is a quote attributed to Chief Seattle and while there is a dispute as to exactly what he said when he gave his famous speech of 1854 on the occasion of his treaty with the then United States government, this quote is apt:

"Man did not weave the web of life – he is merely a strand in

Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."

Chief Seattle, 1854.






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