No matter how outrageous you mind find it, the canned hunting industry flourishes in South Africa.
While the state of the African lion is undergoing increased scrutiny by the global community, lion farming advocates, trophy hunt sympathizers, and pro-trade lobbyists continue their monstrous practice while inventing petty excuses.
Game breeders make huge amounts of money by tourists who want to shoot game as trophies in their enclosures.
A farm, Ingogo Safaris, located in the Limpopo province, Cape Town, and owned by Walter Slippers, is the place of insane cruelty.
In 2016, photos of 250 starved and neglected lions bred on the farm surfaced online and shocked the world. The photos were taken by a neighbor, who sent them to Drew Abrahamson, CEO of Captured in Africa Foundation.
“Some images surfaced about two years back when he used to have volunteers on his property. There were two lions in the images drinking water; they were also incredibly underweight, so I think it’s a case of neglect as a whole. You wouldn’t expect captive lions to be [so] thin that their hip bones protrude.”
Yet, Slippers later defended himself by saying that he had been in the hospital after a heart attack since November 2015 and got out of rehab in January. He claimed that he couldn’t properly take care of the animals as nobody helped him on the farm.
“While I was in the hospital the community helped me; I don’t have brothers or a father who could help me while I was in the hospital.”
“Regardless of how old [the photos] are, lions should not look like that. It’s clear neglect.”
South Africa’s NSPCA (National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Wildlife Protection Unit investigated the matter.
It did find several underweight and malnourished lions on his farm, but as not all of them were underweight, he was released with an official warning to be followed up with regular inspections.
The manager of the unit, Isabel Wentzel, explained that the owner of the property claimed that he had fallen ill and his staff weren’t trained properly, but “that is no excuse, he should make sure his staff are trained to handle lions.”
“What we’ve done is we’ve worked with local SPCA in Louis Trichardt, Makhado — who has visited the farm. We’ve been to all the facilities and although not all the lions are underweight, we have issued an official warning.
When you look at these lions, you can see scars on their faces, meaning it is most likely an issue of fighting for food. It is not a case of feeding them and they will recover straight away; it is going to be a recovery process.”
While canned hunting is illegal in South Africa, if practiced with lions bred in captivity, it is permitted. According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, there are between 6,000 to 8,000 lions kept in captivity in about 200 ranches.
Supporters of canned hunting maintain that it contributes to bringing in money that is then used for wildlife conservation.
However, Masha Kalinina, an international trade policy specialist with Humane Society International, explains that trophy hunters wrongly defend the practice of canned hunting and lion breeding, as it is not linked to their conservation. Lions cannot return to their natural habitat, and cannot develop the needed skills to survive in the wild.
“The lion is released for one day of their life, and then lose it to a trophy hunter. They’re purely bred for financial means.
There’s this attitude you can do whatever you want with your property. All of the animals are owned by whoever owns the property unless it’s a national park.”
Carla van der Vyver, chief executive of the South African Predator Association (SAPA), says:
“All the lion hunting in South Africa is supposed to be with permits, and those are regulated hunts that have to be done to certain criteria. If such activity has happened and it was not done according to permit regulations, it is definitely not a thing that SAPA will support.”
Yet, it might be legal, but the practice is undoubtedly immoral and unfair.
The population of wild lions is steadily on the decline, while the number of lions bred in captivity to be subjected to canned hunting is on the rise.
The Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA), put the issue to a vote and the majority agreed not to take part in canned hunting of captivity-bred lions in case the conditions are not according to the SAPA’s regulations. Moreover, members are not allowed to engage in canned hunting of wild lions.
Abrahamson pointed out the importance of speaking up. He provided contact information to South Africa’s Limpopo Nature Conservation department on Facebook, and advised people to contact officials and ask them to stop giving permits to captive breeding facilities:
“It is time for attention to be brought to the breeders and hunters individually, so they cannot hide behind the industry as a whole. It’s time they face the music with regards to their exploitation.”