The diseased animals were being raised, surprisingly, by a member of an organization that espouses responsible lion care.
SOUTH AFRICANS ARE calling it one of the most shocking cases of animal neglect they’ve ever seen—more than 100 lions and other animals found diseased, overcrowded, and, in some cases, near death in a captive-breeding facility in South Africa’s North West province.
The situation came to light after an anonymous tipster reached out to a journalist who contacted the National Council for Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA), which is responsible for enforcing South Africa’s animal welfare legislation.
When NSPCA inspectors visited the facility, at Pienika Farm, they saw 27 lions afflicted with mange, a skin disease caused by parasitic mites. It was so severe that they’d lost almost all their fur. The inspectors reported that the animals were held in filthy, overcrowded enclosures, with more than 30 held in spaces meant for two. At least three cubs were suffering from a neurological condition called meningoencephalitis, an inflammation of the brain, that left them unable to walk. One was subsequently euthanized by a veterinarian at the facility.
“It’s hard to describe because it leaves you feeling hollow, knowing that you’ve got the king of the jungle in conditions like that,” says Douglas Wolhuter, manager of the NSPCA wildlife protection unit that inspected the farm. “It’s soul-destroying.”
Multiple reports about South Africa’s captive lion industry have revealed that the animals are often kept in unsatisfactory living conditions.