Written by Cath Jakins
Published 10 December, 2018

Welcome to the new YouthForLions Blog, and welcome to our very first blog post. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Cath, the new Blood Lions ‘YouthForLions’ Coordinator. My role at ‘YouthForLions’ is to raise awareness and educate the youth of South Africa (and the world) about the captive breeding of lions in South Africa and the importance of not interacting with these majestic animals.

When I joined the Blood Lions team in June, I was a little bit nervous about speaking in front a big group of people. But less than a month into my new job, my first presentation was a 15 minute talk to a hall of over 400 school children and their teachers. And it was fantastic!

One of my favourite parts of these presentations is when I ask who has touched a lion or another wild animal. Seeing majority of the hands in the room (including mine) go up will always take my breath away. The sheer number of people, both young and old, who have been duped by the con that is cub petting, is shocking.

I usually follow on from this with a video clip about why we shouldn’t be petting lion cubs. During the clip I like to look around the room to gauge the audience’s reactions. Some look sad, some seem indifferent but almost always, most are shocked. Interacting with wild animals is a popular holiday activity around the world. From elephant back rides in India to lion cub petting in South Africa, wildlife interactions are what many people crave when going on holiday. What majority of holiday makers don’t realise though is the massive negative impact they are having on the lives of these animals.

Generally, lion cubs that are born in captivity are taken away from their mothers when they are between 3 and 10 days old. The reason for this is so that the mothers go straight back into oestrus when their cubs are removed from them. This practice is done to ensure that they will breed again immediately. In captivity, lionesses often breed up to four or five times faster than they would in the wild.

Cubs that are hand raised, bottle fed and used for cub petting attractions grow up to be used in lion walking attractions. These sub-adult lions are trained, pretty much the same way that circus animals are trained, to climb trees and pose on rocks for “selfies”.

Once fully grown, these now tame lions are often sold to captive hunting establishments where they are added to a catalogue, and given a price to be shot and killed by “canned” or captive lion hunters from around the world. Because they have been so used to people feeding and handling them, they are not afraid of humans and seldom run away or try to defend themselves. This is just one of the ways in which hand reared and bottle fed lion cubs end up. Others are kept in their small enclosures and killed so that their bones can be exported to South East Asia to supplement the tiger bone trade.

My focus at YouthForLions is to educate young people about the captive lion breeding industry and related activities, and to create change in the future. We believe that awareness of the horrific conditions in which many of these animals live, and the fate that awaits them, will discourage most people from visiting or supporting facilities that contribute to these industries.

Our wildlife is our heritage, and it is the youth of today who will be the custodians of tomorrow!

To get involved and spread the word, visit our website and follow us on social media where you can like and share all our posts.

If you would like me to visit your school or university and host a screening or presentation, email me on youth@bloodlions.org. Keep an eye on our social media pages for blog updates from now on.