Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Canned Hunting

Canned hunting, the hunting of wild animals (mainly lions) in a confined area from which they cannot escape, is not only legal in South Africa, it is flourishing . More than 6,000 captive-bred lions languish in over 200 predator breeding facilities across South Africa, double the number of wild lions in the country.  Hunters from all over the world, but notably from the United States, Germany, Spain and France, flock to South Africa in their thousands and send home lion body parts, such as the head and skin, preserved by taxidermists, to show off their supposed prowess.

The animals involved are habituated to human contact, often hand-reared and bottle fed, so are no longer naturally fearful of people. Such animals will approach people expecting to get fed-but instead receive a bullet, or even an arrow from a hunting bow.  This makes it easier for clients to be guaranteed a trophy and thus the industry is lucrative and popular.

Canned hunt
This little lion cub was reared to be shot by hunters (c) WAG

Canned hunting in action – not for the faint of heart!

There is a notorious piece of footage of a lioness shot by an arrow from a hunting bow in June 2012. 

It makes disturbing viewing.  The lioness is clearly not scared of people, but is probably unnerved at the strangers in the vehicle staring at her.  She dashes past the vehicle on a few occasion, and returns to the small tree she has been sitting beside, in an enclosure with very little cover.  She is seen rolling on her back, obviously comfortable enough around people to put herself in this vulnerable position.  Then, from the safety of his vehicle, the hunter releases his arrow.  The lioness writhes on the ground, roaring, for several seconds.  She tries to run off and falls over.  Then, she appears to be still.  The film ends before we see if that single shot killed her.

These captive bred animals are commercially exploited throughout their lives; unwitting volunteers pay to help hand-rear cubs, unsuspecting tourists are encouraged to participate in photographic and ‘walking with lions’ opportunities, and ultimately the trophy hunters pay for the privilege of killing them in their canned hunting enclosures. Even after they have been killed, the exploitation continues through the sale of bones and other body parts into international trade, which feeds a growing demand that threatens to incentivise wild lion poaching.

We are appealing to the South African authorities to ban this cruel practice, and to authorities in countris from which the hunters emanate to ban the import of canned hunting trophies. In 2015 we hosted the launch of ‘Blood Lions’, a disturbing but compelling film exposing the industry, at both the European Parliament in Brussels and at London’s Royal Geographic Society.Contact the South African government

Attempts to get the canned hunting of lions banned in South Africa have so far failed.  However, it is still important to let the South African government know the public’s anger and distress at the continuation of canned hunting, the damage this can cause to South Africa’s international reputation, and the impact it could have on tourism.

Blood Lions

“As if the brutal hunting of wild lions for ‘fun’ were not enough, there is a further tragedy playing out in South Africa – the hunting of captive-bred lions in enclosures with no chance of escape – canned hunting. Universally condemned – including by most hunters – the South African government has recently normalised this despicable practice by approving the legal sale up to 800 canned lion carcases to South East Asia for use in the traditional medicine business. This will perpetuate the whole bloody business and, in my view, incentivise the poaching of wild lions across the Continent putting yet more pressure on a species that has fallen from 100,000 animals fifty years ago to a precarious 20,000 today. Blood Lions – Bred For The Bullet, exposes the rotten heart of a form of wild animal exploitation that should have been outlawed long ago”.

Will Travers OBE

President The Born Free Foundation

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906


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