Imbalance in South Africa’s lion policy

Conservationist Richard Peirce believes South Africa is in a “ridiculous situation” with more lions bred in captivity for tourism and hunting than in the wild.

Almost all wild species are available to hunt, including protected animals like elephants, but lions hunted in captivity, known as “canned hunting” and walk-with-lions tourism, have become pervasive.

Peirce tallied between 200 and 300 breeders in South Africa, with official figures placing the number of lions in captivity at between 6 000 and 8 000. The Department of Environmental Affairs official figure is 200 as outlined in its Lion Biodiversity Management Plan.

“This can’t be true. If we look at the breeders who, on average have 20 lionesses and each are breeding six cubs a year, you get 120, and with the average mortality rate, bringing that down to 90 cubs. That’s around 24 000 cubs a year. When you add those to the adult populations it must be much more,” said Peirce.

He said it was possible more lions were in captivity in South Africa in than in the rest of the continent.

“In Africa, we have between 20000 and 30000 lions. South Africa is the only country where this is happening at these levels.”

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