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Cecil the Lion: Hunting of lions has many dark sides

FOUR PAWS is campaigning for a ban on canned hunting and import of lion trophies



BOSTON - JULY 29 2015. The case of Zimbabwe lion Cecil has outraged animal lovers and others worldwide. The famous 13year old lion was killed early this month after being illegally lured out of the Hwange National park by a hunting outfitter. Only yesterday it was revealed that Cecil was killed by an American trophy hunter. The safari operator and the outfitter are now wanted by Zimbabwean police for poaching and illegal hunting. Also the American hunter could face charges.  The case shows another grim side of trophy hunting in African countries.  An especially perfidious form of it is the Canned Hunting of captive animals from breeding farms which about 1000 lions in South Africa fall victim to per year.


Fiona Miles, Country Manager of FOUR PAWS South Africa: “On the surface this case may appear to support captive breeding of lions to alleviate the pressure on wild populations but this is not the case. There is mounting evidence and belief that numerous lions are being lured out of conservation areas to be hunted or trapped to improve captive bloodlines.”


Today, around 6,000 captive animals in about 200 farms in Zimbabwe’s neighbouring country South Africa are threatened with this gruesome fate. There is no evidence that the finances raised by hunting captive lions supports conservation nor that canned hunting prevents fewer wild lions being hunted – as the case of Cecil shows. Canned Hunting needs to be prohibited and the entire situation of wild lion hunting in Africa needs to be reviewed. The commercial hunting of animals offers a lot of potential for abuse as Cecil death shows. Besides a hunt is always an intervention in the population structure and makes natural mechanism ineffective.  The number of wild lions has been shrinking for years, the populations remain distributed in a number of protected areas as their ranges are gradually diminished. Recently the IUCN Red List stated that they have greater confidence in the estimate of fewer than 20,000 Lions in Africa than in a number over 30,000.


FOUR PAWS has been campaigning for a ban on canned hunting and commercial lion breeding farms in South Africa for years. “FOUR PAWS aims to improve the situation for big cats on an international level: The unique Big Cat Sanctuary LIONSROCK in South Africa offers a species-appropriate home to over a hundred lions and tigers – some animals have also been rescued from the canned hunting industry” says Ioana Dungler, Director of the Wild Animals Department of FOUR PAWS to CNN yesterday at LIONSROCK. In addition the organisation is pleading for a general ban on the import of lion body parts to the US or the EU. Australia is forerunner on that and implemented such a ban this year.  This prevent hunters – like the American dentist that shot Cecil – from bringing home lion hunting trophies.


Just in the past few days the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa (PHASA) has expressed a necessity to review its current policies and definitions regarding canned hunting and lion breeding. This is in light of mounting public opinion that this despicable practice be outlawed in South Africa. Equally South African Outfitters, another professional hunting body, have expressed their opposition to the practice of captive breeding and canned hunting of lions in a press release dated 26 July 2015.


Around the world, countless numbers of big cats are forced to live and suffer in circuses, badly-run zoos, or in private keeping. Many are kept in extremely cramped conditions, are incorrectly or insufficiently fed, suffer from illness, or exhibit behavioral disorders. FOUR PAWS aims to improve the situation for these fascinating wild animals that are not only beautiful, but also dangerous, making it even more important that they are not kept in unsuitable conditions or handled incorrectly. One of the facilities run by FOUR PAWS is the unique big cat sanctuary LIONSROCK in South Africa, which now offers a species-appropriate home to over a hundred lions and tigers, rescued from poor keeping conditions. FOUR PAWS also runs far-reaching campaigns for big cats in human care, including campaigning for a ban on wild animals in circuses, and the closure of zoos with unsuitable facilities. With its new initiative, #FOURPAWSgowild, FOUR PAWS is raising awareness internationally about both the suffering of big cats in captivity, and the positive solutions that can end this suffering. Under the guise of entertainment (circuses), education (zoos), medicine/tradition (healing substances made from tiger bones), and sport (trophy hunting in Africa) thousands of big cats around the world lead miserable lives in appalling conditions. The international #FOURPAWSgowild campaign gives them a voice.