World – People from 44 cities around the world, from Sao Paolo to Stockholm, will be marching against the burgeoning industry of captive lion hunting. The march, to be held on the 15th March, is initiated by a South African wildlife advocacy group, Campaign Against Canned Hunting (CACH).
Canned hunting is where the target animal is unfairly prevented from escaping the hunter, either by physical constraints like a fence in or by being tamed or habituated to humans. The word ‘canned’ as in ‘the animal is in the can’ is hunting jargon for a guaranteed kill. There is no ‘hunt’ or chase.
Despite arguments from hunters and governments that the industry practices sustainable use, CACH’s website states ‘There are fewer 4000 lions left in the ’wild’ in South Africa, but more than 8,000 in captivity, being bred solely for the bullet or the arrow. Lion farming, they say, is a real threat to wild lion prides, for many reasons. One of the reasons is that the capture of wild lions has increased in order to to introduce fresh blood into captive breeding programs. Another is the practice creates and generates a market for lion parts for the Asian market – putting all lions at risk, with the poaching of wild lions increasing with the demand for lion bones as medicine in Asia.
Director of CACH Chris Mercer, a South African, says he is now an angry man. He is angry at being told that the cruelty against captive-bred lions is sustainable use when all he can see that it’s sustained abuse.
He is angry about the pampered trophy hunters who come to South Africa for no other reason than to torture and kill hand reared lions.
He is angry about lion farmers who breed lions for no other reason than to provide tame targets to be executed by sadistic killers.
He is angry about tourists who are being duped into feeding the canned hunting industry through cub petting.
And he is angry that volunteers are being misled to work at lion farms that pose as wildlife sanctuaries.
Mercer states that it’s time to fight for change, and he’s getting heard. Apart from cities across the globe conducting a march against the practice, global celebrities including the Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter, Reverend Mpho Tutu, have pledged to give full support to South Africa’s lion heritage. Both will open the march with a prayer in Cape Town.
The gesture by Desmond Tutu, perhaps Africa’s finest figurehead after Nelson Mandela, contradicts the sentiments of South Africa’s President, Jacob Zuma, who has publicly stated that compassion for animals in un-African.
It is hoped, therefore, that the march will raise enough condemnation across the globe to force the government of South Africa to take action and ban the practice, as well as to persuade US and European Union governments to ban the import of lion/predator trophies.
Both the US and the EU represent the biggest number of hunters to South Africa with 55% of all trophy hunters coming from the US with 40% from the EU. Mercer hopes if both are persuaded to act against canned hunting 95% of the industry’s revenue will be frozen.
Most trophy hunters are wealthy upper-middle class citizens who claim they bring valuable revenue into some of the poorest African communities. Mercer rejects this claim outright. ‘I’m tired of being told that hunters only want to kill lions to help the impoverished masses in Africa. Let them donate money if that is a real concern.’
Mercer says the industry is a business model based on cruelty. The cycle of cruelty starts with poaching lions from the wild then breeding them in captivity where cubs are taken away at birth so that their mothers can go into estrus again so as to have another litter in 6 months. In the wild lions would naturally only breed every 2-3 years. The cubs are hand reared and become part of the popular cub petting industry until they are too big to be cuddled by humans. These sub-adults are put into a breeding program and then shot in a captive situation, with the owners of the lions getting paid up to 50 000 US dollars for lion. Little if any of the proceeds goes back into conservation or even to the local communities.
The march on the 15th is crucial for the survival of wild lions in South Africa. ‘If you are not involved in the march’, asks Mercer with his characteristic candidness, ‘I would like to know why?’ If there is a city near you that is organizing a march and you are not going, he reasons, ‘would you be happy then to allow lions to go extinct in the knowledge you have done nothing?’ And if there isn’t a march near you, he prompts you to organize one yourself. He is more than willing to assist you to set it up.
For information on the march or to contact CACH go directly to: http://www.globalmarch4lions.org/ or for a city near you: http://www.cannedlion.org/list-of-cities-in-global-march.html.