Blood Lions campaign urges farmers to stop captive breeding of lions

South Africa has for years drawn global criticism for allowing these practices to continue and this has affected the country’s brand in the ecotourism sector.

FILE: A high-level government panel has recommended that South Africa begins the process of banning breeding lions, leopards, and rhinos among others in captivity for hunting. Picture: 123rf.com

JOHANNESBURG - The Blood Lions campaign on Monday said private farmers keeping lions in captivity should stop using conservation as an excuse for breeding these animals.

South Africa has for years drawn global criticism for allowing these practices to continue and this has affected the country’s brand in the ecotourism sector.

The campaign, which has been pushing for an end to canned lion hunting, estimated that at least 10,000 lions are being kept in deplorable conditions in about 300 facilities across the country.

A high-level government panel has recommended that South Africa begins the process of banning breeding lions, leopards, and rhinos among others in captivity for hunting.

The Blood Lions campaign has welcomed recommendations to halt and reverse the domestication of lions through captive breeding and keeping as a step in the right direction.

The campaign’s manager Dr Louise de Waal said there was no outright justification that captive breeding practices resulted in the conservation of wild animals.

“We don't need to captive-breed lions, to conserve them in the wild, we just need to make sure they have safe habitats and plenty of prey species and little conflict with humans.”

De Waal said breeding big cats and other animals posed health risks for humans.

"There is a potential for zoonotic diseases to be transferred from captive lions to people and this is an industry where we have lots of people in close contact with these lions.”

Cabinet has approved the report presented by the panel and South Africans will now have an opportunity to comment before it can be passed into law.

The Department of Environmental Affairs said penalties could be imposed on private farmers involved in the captive breeding of wild animals.

Department spokesperson Albie Modise said: “Once you outlaw a particular practice, you begin to put in place certain penalties. When we get into that phase of having to effectively legislate policies that are going to align our work with what the recommendations are saying, there will be penalties.”

Download the Eyewitness News app to your iOS or Android device.