Written by the Blood Lions team
Published on 5 March, 2019

The Blood Lions ‘YouthForLions’ team hosted a youth workshop for over 120 high school and university students at the UKZN Howard College Theatre on Saturday, 2 March 2019.

The one day event highlighted and discussed activities associated with the captive lion breeding industry in South Africa, and other pressing conservation and tourism topics, such as Responsible Tourism, ethical volunteering programmes, and the harm that interacting with wild animals causes.

This was followed by a screening of the award winning Blood Lions® film, which follows acclaimed environmental journalist and safari operator Ian Michler, and Rick Swazey, an American hunter, on their journey to uncover the realities about the multimillion-dollar lion breeding and canned hunting industry in South Africa.

The Blood Lions ‘YouthForLions’ campaign is a global movement aimed at informing and engaging the worlds youth around the realities of tourist activities that exploit lion, such as cub petting and walking with lions; and the contribution these activities have on the canned hunting industry in South Africa.

Students who attended the Workshop were inspired by presentations from YouthForLions Coordinator Cath JakinsWildlife ACT’s Mark Gerrard and Zama NcubeThompsons Africa’s Janine SouthwoodYouth 4 African Wildlife’s Fortunate PhakaProject Rhino and Rhino Art’s Grant Fowlds; as well as Nunu Jobe(Trails Guide and Youth Mentor), Melumsi Matiwane (Rhino Art Educator), and Ben Wallace(Videographer).

The students left the Howard College Theatre with a much deeper understanding of the captive breeding industry, as well as the terms “Responsible Tourism” and “Ethical wildlife volunteering”. They were also exposed to possible career paths and opportunities in the conservation field.

“It is vital to see such a huge group of youth here posing such relevant questions to the speakers. This event is a great initiative to work towards developing our future leaders in the conservation space” – Mark Gerrard, Wildlife ACT Director.

Following the presentations and the Blood Lions® film, students were broken into groups and were given the task of creating a unique #YouthForLions campaign to create awareness on the critical conservation issues they had learnt about during the Workshop. The Blood Lions ‘YouthForLions’ team were thoroughly impressed by the wide variety of campaign ideas brought forward by the 11 groups of students and had an extremely difficult decision to make. The group with the most captivating and original campaign idea won themselves a 2-day trip to the iconic Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve where they will have the opportunity to track and monitor wild lions and other priority species with conservation NGO, Wildlife ACT.

Here is what some of the students had to say about their time at the LIVE WILD Workshop:

“On Saturday 2 March I was privileged to be invited to the YouthForLions LIVE WILD workshop held at UKZN Howard College. Every single person took atleast one thing away from this workshop. Personally, I learnt how these wild cats are portrayed as these cute, touchable animals and how much money people pay to volunteer to help them. I also learnt how that money is just used to breed more lions and increase the breeding centres to uncontrollable sizes with inhumane conditions. I would just like to thank the YouthForLions team for everything that they do for the conversation of this amazing species and I just hope that the breeders wake up to the fact that what they are doing is wrong.” – Makaira Kerkhoff: Grade 11, Glenwood Boys’ High School.

“My brother and I attended the YouthForLions workshop at UKZN Howard College. It was a day full of fun, with interesting and interactive talks given by a number of big organisations that catered for everyone’s interests and potential career opportunities. The Blood Lions® movie gave everyone emotions revolving around anger, sadness and even guilt to those that have petted or walked with lions. Personally, I was angry and disappointed that people could be so heartless towards nature and its animals. It showed how lions are affected by inbreeding and how the owners became so defensive when asked questions relating to their lions lives and how they are treated.” – Odin Kerkhoff: Grade 9, Glenwood Boys’ High School.

“YouthForLions was an incredible experience for me and I could not be happier that I attended such an amazing workshop. I have a strong passion for animals and the environment and YouthForLions brought those two things together. Not only did they educate me on multiple issues, but they also gave me the confidence to do what I want to achieve later in my life. #YouthForLions is a great way to make younger people and communities more conscious of the reality of the industry and how this issue is growing which later could lead to disastrous results. I hope this workshop continues to grow in size and numbers, and that we’ll soon start seeing it on a bigger scale for everyone to experience.” – Kyra Foster: Grade 12, Northlands Girls’ High School.

“The Blood Lions workshop was an amazing experience and all the presentations were excellent and a very effective way to educate and involve people about conservation issues. I learnt that daily interactions between lions and people must be avoided because these lions are supposed to be released back to the wild. The information about this issue was unknown to me and many of the youth at the Workshop. YouthForLions plays an important role in wildlife conservation. I learnt a lot about canned hunting and I’m looking forward to attend the next workshops.” – Siboniso Mthiyane: UNISA Graduate.