#ShockWildlifeTruths: Pressure mounts to ban wild animal interactions in SA

#ShockWildlifeTruths: Pressure mounts to ban wild animal interactions in SA

Cape Town – The walls are closing in on animal interaction operators in South Africa as international tourism role-players distance themselves from unethical wildlife experiences.

International travellers are looking for ethical, responsible experiences and circuses and petting zoos where animals are kept solely for human entertainment are no longer generally accepted.

Responding to the changing sentiments of tourists, tourism authorities and operators have taken an active stand against animal interactions, scrapping them from their itineraries.

Following international movements, SA’s major tourism representatives are catching up with international trends in order to protect South Africa’s status as a responsible and ethical tourism destination – and it’s no easy feat.

No place for mere compliance 

One of the main topics at the annual Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) conference, on 17 and 18 August, was a panel discussion titled ‘Animal interactions – how to craft a compliance process’.

But dealing with compliance only is not enough says Ian Michler, Consultant and Campaign Co-leader to Blood Lions. “This will allow many to continue with cruel and irresponsible practices under the veil of conservation or education,” Michler says.

He commends SATSA’s boldness, saying “it’s admirable that SATSA has decided to address an issue as intricate and multi-facetted as that of animal interactions, but they should go further and support the lobby to end all exploitative practices using wild animals.”

To this end, Humane Society International (HSI) Africa, along with Blood Lions and Wildlands have issued an open letter to SATSA and the Minister of Tourism Tokozile Xasa, urging them “to take a strong stance against animal interactions, such as the use of captive-bred predators in cub petting, lion walks and the voluntourism sector.”

The letter also states that by ending the breeding of wild animals to live – and be killed – in captivity, “there will be no need to deal with the compliance issues” surrounding the industry and marring SA’s natural heritage. These ‘compliance issues’ are essentially only symptoms of the main concern – the breeding of wild animals while claiming conservation credentials.

In the SATSA discussion, South African Tourism CEO Sisa Ntshona says his ultimate aim was to protect Brand South Africa. He reiterated that he would work with sustainable tourism authorities to eradicate the animal interaction industry in SA.

“As South African Tourism,” Ntshona claims, “we are fully cognisant of the global anti-petting lobby and back it unreservedly.” He stated in December 2016 that “South African Tourism does not promote or endorse any interaction with wild animals such as the petting of wild cats, interacting with elephants and walking with lions”.

What will it take to end animal interaction?

Without a total ban on all animal interactions, the practice will continue due to its financial rewards. An “ethical, legal approach” is the only answer as the panel moderator, Colin Bell pointed out.

Should SA Tourism and SATSA respond to the global call to stop interactions with wild animals , they will join ninety-eight leading tour operators and safari companies from across Africa and the world, who have signed  the “Born to Live Wild” pledge which works to end exploitative tourism practices and promote Africa as an authentic, wild and ethical tourism destination.

“Blood Lions and the coalition of responsible ethical operators will continue to lobby SA’s tourism bodies to live up to their marketing claims. Brand South Africa may well continue to be at risk should the international opprobrium over wild animals be ignored,” Michler warns.

#ShockWildlifeTruths: SA tourism industry urged to commit to help curb ‘exploitative wildlife practices’

#ShockWildlifeTruths: SA tourism industry urged to commit to help curb ‘exploitative wildlife practices’

Cape Town – South Africa is going to be celebrating Heritage month in September – with our wildlife being an integral part of SA’s natural heritage,  it stands to reason that our tourism practices should advocate ethical, wildlife protection.

This has seen Blood Lions and Humane Society International  asking the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) to join its international petition, with over 110 000 signatures and directed at the South African tourism industry,  with the aim of curbing exploitative wildlife practices.

Blood Lions together with Humane Society International presented the formal request and call to action at the SATSA conference taking place in Stellenbosch on Thursday 17 August, asking its members to” help end exploitative wildlife practices and calling then to join the global Born to Live Wild Pledge”.

‘Urge the tourism industry to end lion exploitation!’

Speaking on the animal interaction panel discussion at SATSA. Blood Lions documentary filmmaker and environmental journalist, Ian Michler says “it is clear that a lot of work needs to be done in order to define ecological education and highlight the difference between it and the use of wildlife for entertainment”, especially when it comes to responsible tourism.

“Blood Lions wishes to congratulate SATSA on tackling what is clearly a thorny issue around wildlife interactions in South Africa. A special thanks must also go to the SATSA members of which a majority have signed the ‘Born to Live Wild’ pledge,” says Michler.

He has called on SATSA to “distinguish between legitimate wildlife facilities versus those that are businesses looking to justify the use of animals for financial gain.”

In the pledge HSI reiterates that unknown to tourists and volunteers, “captive-bred lion cubs they are led to believe are orphaned, pay to feed, pet and walk with are raised to be a trophy hunter’s next victim.”

“The documentary film Blood Lions reveals that between 6 000 and 8000 captive-bred lions are confined to cruel conditions on farms throughout South Africa, raised purely for profit and exploitation.

It also states that SA’s move to approve the sale and export of 800 captive-bred lion skeletons for 2017, ignoring widespread public opposition – will potentially fuel the demand in Asia where lion bones are used in tonics.”

The DEA says the export will only be from captive-bred lions as per the specific parameters approved by Convention in the Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).

Lions in South Africa are listed under Appendix II which means their products can be traded internationally but only “if the trade will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild.” The numbers of African free-range lions have declined alarmingly over the last few decades with only 20 000 remaining today, down from 30 000 just two decades ago.