… about the Captive Breeding of Big Cats

South Africa currently has approximately three times more lions in captivity than in the wild. It is estimated that there are anywhere between 8 000 and 12 000 predators, possibly more, being held in small enclosures on what is estimated to be well over 250 captive predator breeding facilitiesacross the country. These animals are exploited at every phase of their life cycle and despite the claims being made by the breeders, this industry has nothing to do with conservation. Thousands of unsuspecting tourists and volunteers visit our country to touch or ‘rehabilitate’ these predators and are unaware that their money contributes to the fraudulent and exploitative use of these animals.

In most instances, these predator facilities are nothing more than commercial operations breeding and exploiting animals for a range of activities, from canned hunting and the bone trade to the extremely lucrative cub petting, ‘walking with lions’ and volunteer activities.

Captive bred lions and other predators in South Africa lead a heart breaking life and the cycle is never ending. This can often be applied to cheetah, leopard and tiger.


The Life Cycle of Captive Bred Lions

  1. STOLEN: Generally lion cubs born in captivity are removed from their mothers when they are between 3 and 10 days old and are misleadingly passed off as ‘orphans’ or ‘rescues’. This practice forces the females back into intense breeding cycles where they can give birth up to 4 times faster than lionesses in the wild. Watch “The Life Cycle of a Captive Bred Lion”
  2. CUB PETTING: These cubs are often hand reared, bottle fed and petted by paying volunteers and tourists who are made to believe that they are helping these ‘orphaned’ lion cubs in order to be released back into the wild. Nothing could be further from the truth. These cubs grow up without a fear of humans, are unable to hunt on their own in the wild and are often severely genetically compromised due to inbreeding. Because of this, the entire conservation community has made it clear that hand-reared, tame lions have no conservation value as they cannot be reintroduced back into the wild. Watch “Wildlife Volunteers – Conservation or con?”
  3. LION WALKS: When the cubs grow bigger and become too dangerous for intense handling, they are moved or sold to facilities that offer ‘walking with lion’ activities. These sub adult lions are trained, often in the same way as circus animals, to climb trees and pose for ‘selfies’ with paying tourists. Watch “Should we be petting cubs and walking with lions?”
  4. CANNED HUNTING: Once the lions become too old and boisterous to be in contact with humans, many are sold to canned hunting facilities where the lions are shot and killed in confined enclosures by trophy hunters. Others may be sold to traders as breeding stock for new facilities or into private collections around the world. Watch “What is Canned Hunting?”
  5. LION BONE TRADE: The cycle of exploitation is completed with the lion bone trade. Lions in captivity will often be euthanized or slaughtered in order for their bones to be exported to Asia. The bones are used to supplement the tiger bone trade and are used as a substitute for Tiger Bone Wine or to be made into Tiger Bone ‘Cakes’. Watch “What is the Lion Bone Trade?”

The Conservation Facts

  • ‘Canned hunting’ refers to the shooting of captive bred and/or tame animals in confined areas. It also covers other definitions such as captive hunting, high-fence hunting and ranch hunting. Ethical hunting organizations around the world have condemned the practices of canned or captive hunting.
  • Very few, if any of the private lion farms and predator breeding facilities in South Africa can be regarded as genuine conservation operations. Few work in conjunction with recognized lion ecologists and scientists, or any of the internationally recognized predator conservation agencies and none of them are members of the African Lion Working Group.
  • According to lion ecologists, there have not been any successful lion reintroduction programmes using captive bred and hand reared lions in South Africa, as lion conservationists warn that captive bred lions are not suitable for ‘re-wilding’.   Furthermore, they say that there is no need as South African wild lion populations are stable.
  • There are only a handful of authentic wildlife sanctuaries in South Africa and they do not breed or trade, nor do they allow any human interactions with the animals in any way. Genuine sanctuaries build their facilities for the benefit of the animals, not to maximise commercial exploitation.
  • The lion bone trade is a relatively new revenue stream for South African breeders. It has come about as lion bones are now being used as an alternative for tiger bones in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). We are concerned that the lion bone trade may well become the primary revenue stream for the breeders and that this will promote the breeding of lions on an industrial scale.
  • As has been the case with various other wildlife species, a legal trade often stimulates demand and promotes a parallel illegal market. This will in turn put pressure on wild lion populations.
We urge everyone to Support the CampaignTake Action and Join the Movement.

YOU have the power to stop lions being Bred for the Bullet™.


A documentary feature film that blows the lid off claims made by the predator breeding and canned hunting industries.


The NSPCA has huge animal welfare concerns for the animals exploited in the captive predator and canned hunting industry in South Africa. This industry is unregulated, uncontrolled and is responsible for untold cruelty. It is a tragedy that our wild animals are reduced to profit making machines. Coupled with this members of public are unwittingly encouraging and supporting this cruelty, so it is vital that the public are aware of the truth behind the industry so they can make informed decisions and hopefully choose not to support such an unethical industry.

Sr.Ainsley Hay, Manager, NSPCA Wildlife Protection Unit

Breeding magnificent wild creatures like lions in camps so that they can be slaughtered for ego and money is unconscionable and should be outlawed.  Lions have the right to live in the wild and to continue playing their unique role within the ecological communities of Africa.  The continued existence of the canned hunting industry is a moral outrage that diminishes us all.  This important film shines a light into the dark corners of this ugly business.


Cormac Cullinan, Cullinan & Associates Incorporated

Cruel, barbaric, macabre – all words used by Australian MPs about lion farming and the canned lion hunting industry in SA.  Our campaign was glad to be able to assist and participate in a full length documentary that aims to expose a brutal industry whose whole business model is routine, egregious cruelty to helpless animals – for fun.


Chris Mercer, Founder, CACH (Campaign Against Canned Hunting)

Captive lions have long been a blemish on South Africa’s wildlife and tourism landscape and their tragic story needed to be exposed before these practices negatively impacted on Brand South Africa. Congratulations to all involved in taking the time and making this happen.


Colin Bell, Tourism consultant and author of “Africa’s Finest”

“As a travel and conservation based organization, we find the “Blood Lions” documentary deeply disturbing. Despite being hard to watch, we urge people to get out there and see it. It is important to shed light on the dark and corrupt business of rearing lions for the purposes of hunting, in hopes of making a positive change. As we polled our membership, we found that individually each of our companies have chosen to stop booking all activities that contribute to this industry.”


The Safari Professionals – 30 Tour Operators based in the US and Canada

South Africa’s failure to address the canned hunting industry has emboldened those who make a living out of the death of lions bred, raised and slaughtered on a ‘no kill, no fee’ basis. The canned hunting industry is unnatural, unethical and unacceptable. It delivers compromised animal welfare and zero education. It undermines conservation and creates a moral vacuum now inhabited by the greed and grotesque self-importance of those who derive pleasure in the taking of life.

Blood Lions lays bare the truth behind the canned hunting industry that, far from contributing to the future survival of the species, may, in fact, accelerate extinction in the wild, leaving behind a trail  littered with rotting corpses of its helpless and hopeless victims.


Will Travers OBE, President Born Free Foundation

The Marchig Animal Welfare Trust, in providing support for the making of this Documentary, does so in the firm belief that it is important that the true facts behind captive lion breeding and canned lion hunting in South Africa, is brought to the attention of a global audience in order to create awareness which in turn will lead to much needed change.


Les Ward MBE, Chairman, The Marchig Animal Welfare Trust

This is a timely, courageous as well as a deeply disturbing documentary. It is at the same time, a voice for the wild and the voiceless … of saying “NO MORE!” to that terrible triad of financial opportunism, deceit and indifference to the non-human animal by those claiming to be conservationists.


Ian McCallum – Author, poet, psychiatrist and naturalist

With the constant pressure on wildlife, every effort must be made to keep our last vestiges of natural fauna and flora protected.    Canned hunting of any kind, along with the related consequences, must be condemned by humanity as not only a travesty of nature but also an utterly inhumane practise.   Taming lion cubs only to later hunt them is an utterly inhumane practice.   It is pseudo-hunting, a complete sham and does not even qualify as hunting on a sustainable use basis.   Wildlife conservation has to evolve into practices that are ethical, humanitarian and sustainable. This will not be achieved if there is not real and fair community involvement which has not been part of the hunting fraternity’s evolution.


Yvette Taylor, Executive Director, The Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation

“Canned lion ‘hunting’ is nothing less than a bargain basement opportunity for foreign hunters to engage in one of South Africa’s most sordid practices. Hunting of captive bred lions entirely dependent on human fingerprints from cub to trophy is immoral, unethical and against all animal welfare concerns. The fact that it still continues as profitable commerce is a damning statement against all of us who have not properly engaged to snuff it out. Blood Lions is a good start to bring change.”


Dr Pieter Kat – Director: LionAid

Canned Lion