UPDATE! Criminal Charges Being Brought Against South African Lion Breeder After Severely Neglected Lions Were Found On His Property

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Horrific conditions of captive bred lions on a captive lion breeding farm in South Africa. Photos provided to Humane Society International by an anonymous source.

Update! Born Free Foundation notified WAN this afternoon with news that criminal charges are being brought against the South African Lion breeder, responsible for the tragic neglect and mistreatment of 27 lions on his property. Among their many ailments, the lions were found to be suffering from severe mange. Two of the cubs were unable to walk, and all were being held in overcrowded and filthy enclosures.

Shocking photos from an anonymous source recently surfaced revealing the deplorable conditions that the animals were forced to endure at the captive lion breeding facility in the North West Province of South Africa. The shocking images provided heart-breaking insight into an industry that breeds an estimated 12,000 lions on approximately 200 farms across the country.

Captive lion breeding farms in South Africa are a part of what Humane Society International/Africa calls the “snuggle scam,” because they supply lion cub petting attractions where visitors from around the world take selfies, oblivious to the suffering behind their holiday photos.

Upon investigation of the facility at Pienika Farm, officers at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals entered the property on the April 11th and discovered 108 neglected lions, as well as caracal, tigers, and leopards living in horrendous conditions. Humane Society International/Africa, which calls for an end to the captive lion breeding industry, praised NSPCA inspectors for their swift action.

The NSPCA’s senior inspector Douglas Wolhuter detailed how two lion cubs appeared to be suffering from a neurological condition and were found unable to walk. The cubs were confiscated for assessment and veterinary treatment by a specialist carnivore veterinarian. Wolhuter said in a statement, “Other issues such as small enclosures and inadequate shelter, no provision of water, overcrowding, and filthy and parasitic conditions were noted in the camps.”

Horrific conditions of captive bred lions on a captive lion breeding farm in South Africa. Photos provided to Humane Society International by an anonymous source.

“South Africa’s captive lion breeding industry is a vicious cycle of exploitation. Lion cubs are ripped from their mothers at just a few days old, to be hand-reared by paying volunteers from countries around the world, such as the United Kingdom, who are misled into believing the cubs are orphans. The cubs are exploited their whole lives, first as props by paying tourists looking for selfie shots whilst petting or bottle-feeding the animals, then later as part of “walking with lion” safaris,” said Audrey Delsink, Wildlife Director of HSI/Africa. “Once too big and dangerous for these activities, these lions are then killed for their bones which are exported to Asia for so-called traditional medicines, or sold to be killed by trophy hunters largely from the United States in “canned” hunts in which hand-reared lions are shot in a fenced area from which they cannot escape.

The Lion Colloquium (parliamentary conference) in August last year revealed that the captive breeding of lions is poorly regulated and fraught with welfare and ethical concerns. There is no better evidence of that than the atrocities discovered at the Pienika Farm.

According to an article released on May 4th, Pienika Farm is allegedly owned by South African Predator Association (SAPA) member and councilman, Mr. Jan Steinman. SAPA has for years strongly supported South Africa’s captive lion breeding industry.

The NSPCA laid charges of contravention to the Animal Protections Act 71 of 1962 against Mr. Steinman on May 2nd.

The South African government sanctions the captive lion breeding industry and has established a quota for the international lion bone trade, despite growing global outrage. A recent exposé by former Conservative Peer Lord Ashcroft of the United Kingdom revealed serious non-compliance issues regarding permitting and restricted activities (activities prohibited by provincial and national law) at South African lion breeding facilities, including alleged illegal “green-hunts” (where animals are darted with an immobilizing agent as opposed to live ammunition). Cross breeding of lions and tigers to produce larger offspring (ligers and tigons), and even plots to illegally export lion skins hidden in deer skin hides.

“In the face of so much evidence supporting the significant welfare atrocities and illegal activities, including the bogus standards presented by the industry, the South African government cannot stand idle,” said Audrey Delsink, HSI/Wildlife Director. “We demand that the government shut down this industry once and for all; that is the only way South Africa can recover from this significant scourge.”

The eventual fate of the lions is uncertain and will depend on the outcome of the legal process. Even if the NSPCA is able to prove that the neglect was so severe as to justify confiscation of all the lions, there are no reputable facilities in South Africa able to immediately take in such a large number of lions.

Take action by signing HSI’s petition and request that the South African government’s conservation authority shut down captive breeding of predators once and for all. SIGN HERE!

Key facts:

  • With fewer than 3,000 wild lions, South Africa has more lions languishing in captivity than in the wild.

  • Between 6,000 and 8,000 lions are bred in captivity in some 260 facilities across South Africa, marketed to tourists as lion interaction experiences.

  • In its 2015 Biodiversity Management Plan, the government of South Africa stated “captive lions are bred exclusively to generate money.”

  • In the wild, lion cubs remain with their mothers for 18 months, and females rest for at least 15-24 months between litters. Cubs born on breeding farms are taken from their mothers when they are just a few days, or even just hours old to be used as living photo props. The removal of cubs forces the mothers into an exhausting and continuous breeding cycle while incarcerated in enclosures, sometimes without adequate food, hygiene, or the ability to express their natural behaviours.

  • Lions are a threatened species, listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). While the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) prohibits the trade of bones from wild lions, it does allow South Africa to export bones from captive ones. Ridiculous! 

  • It is impossible to differentiate body parts from wild vs. captive lions, so the legal export of captive lion bones facilitates the illegal export of wild lion bones.

  • Learn more about HSI’s lion exploitation campaign HERE!

  • Take the Don’t Buy Wild Pledge to avoid buying items or experiences that compromise the welfare of wild animals. Leave souvenirs like ivory trinkets and exotic leathers, attractions that keep animals’ captive in inhumane conditions, or exotic pets for sale off your travel itinerary.

  • You can help all animals by leaving them off of your plate. #GoVegg

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