Durban – An NGO, Youth for Lions, is on a mission to save the felines from canned hunting.

It is creating awareness among youngsters globally that cub petting and lion walking supports this industry, in which lions are bred to be shot.

Amy Webster is visiting schools, offering screenings of the award-winning film, Blood Lions, a local production that exposes the cub- petting, predator-breeding and canned-hunting industries in South Africa.

Michaelhouse pupil Emanuel Zaloumis called it “an eye-opening experience. Something I was totally unaware of”. “To quote the movie, the Department of Environmental Affairs still view it as a sustainable practice,” Webster said.

Canned hunting – or officially “the hunting of captive bred lions” – remains legal in South Africa.

Recently, at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress, a motion was adopted to terminate captive-bred hunting of lions and other predators, as well as breeding them in captivity for commercial, non-conservation purposes, said Blood Lions producer Pippa Hankinson.

“South Africa has shown little regard for this overwhelming response by the key global conservation leaders who voted 82% in favour of Motion 009.”

Captive-bred predators fell through the “legislative cracks” in South Africa, and there was little doubt that the legalisation of trade in domestic lion body parts would grow the demand for wild lion bones.

“It is also impossible for authorities to differentiate between captive and wild lion skeletons, and already we have been told that the poaching of wild lions has escalated dramatically,” Hankinson said.

At a meeting in Pretoria on January 18, the Department of Environmental Affairs and the Scientific Authority convened a stakeholder consultation where they proposed that this quota be set at 800 skeletons (with or without the skull) per year for the international trade in lion bones, and that no trade will be allowed in bone products, fragments, teeth, etc.

Skeletons

These skeletons can be sourced from captive animals that were hunted, put down or died naturally. This proposal is open to public comment until Thursday.

“I understand the decision to open a two-week window for public comment regarding the quota was due to pressure from many of the delegates attending the meeting last week. They felt the Department of Environment and Agriculture’s proposed quota of 800 skeletons was arrived at without the requisite scientific basis, or consideration of proper welfare and conservation protocols,” said Hankinson.

“The proposal has been widely challenged by growing numbers of local and international environmental and conservation organisations, and we join them in calling for an end to the captive lion breeding industry which promotes cub petting and lion walking, and supports canned hunting and the supply of lion body parts.”

Meanwhile, the campaign to promote awareness continued after schools closed for the December holidays.

Webster travelled from Cape Town to Durban, staying in backpackers’ lodges and showing Blood Lions to those staying there to explain to them why they should not be petting cubs or walking with lions.

“Many were foreigners. Their first question was ‘how can this be legal?’ They couldn’t believe it is still legal,” she said.

Funding to show the film to schools has come from the Marching Animal Welfare Trust, in Scotland. Other KwaZulu-Natal schools that have seen the presentation are Kearsney College, Hilton College, the Wykeham-Collegiate and Pietermaritzburg’s Russell High School, Epworth, St Anne’s, Highbury Primary School and Crawford College Umhlanga.

Interested schools can contact Webster on 0333436380, 0812504640, or email her at youth@bloodlions.org

Youth for Lions’s campaign to schools was launched last year by the Blood Lions Campaign.