PRESS RELEASE: World Lion Day 2019


10 August 2019

World Lion Day is an annual celebration of the magnificent king of the African bushveld and is dedicated to raising awareness for lion conservation worldwide.

Currently, over 8 000 predators are being held in cages or confined areas in South Africa to be used in commercial operations such as cub petting and ‘walking with lion’ activities, canned hunting and the lion bone industry – all under the guise of conservation. Blood Lions exposes the exploitation related to unethical and insidious practices associated with wildlife interactive tourism. The Blood Lions story is a compelling call to action to have these practices stopped and encourages viewers of the film, visitors to Africa and followers on social media to make responsible choices about visiting or supporting wildlife interactive tourism facilities and activities. Through awareness and by reducing demand for exploitative products, the campaign aims to bring an end to the exploitation of captive-bred wild animals.

You can help the Blood Lions campaign and stand up against captive predator breeding – see below for a variety of ways you can help:

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The Lion King: the circle of death [exploited to the bone]

Between the release of Disney’s The Lion King 25 years ago until its new photo-realistic computer-animated version of 2019 our planet has lost half of its wild lion population. Half…! If the main reason is habitat loss, it is not the only one why lions are in an alarming state. Other causes are ego for the hunters, greed for the farming, canned lion, and bone trade industries and maybe even worse, a lack of critical sense for some of us often with the best intentions.

A blockbuster about nature is often inspiring, and most take their children to these movies to make them dream. We leave the theatre amazed by the beauty of the wilderness. We want to explore more of it and to enjoy it. In the best cases we realize it is precious and we want it to be preserved for the next generations. However this does not really turn out this way… Remember the excellent Pixar’s Finding Nemo? Did you know that this movie led to the setup of captive breeding programs in Australia to keep up with clown fish demand? Did you know that 90% of clown fish found in aquariums were taken from the wild? Did you know that in South East Asia and more specifically Thailand, Indonesia and The Philippines, clownfish are collected using cyanide poisoning? The already threatened species was propelled to the brink of extinction thanks to a movie which theme was to respect and preserve wildlife…

So what can we expect form the reaction of the public after crying in theatres for little Simba losing his father? Luckily nor the fish tank neither the pet is an option (mind me, lion pets are actually a growing business…)! One can most likely expect the best intentions. For instance how many viewers will do some research and read about the worrying situation of lions after centuries of extensive hunting? How many moved spectators will want to help save lions in Africa looking for volunteering programs? How many of these will be heartbroken hearing the story about how little cubs abandoned by their mothers in the wild were rescued by amazing organizations where they can volunteer to help bottle-feed them (in order to release them in the wild once they are strong and old enough)? And how many will save up to be part of one of these exciting programs? Except this is all BULLSHIT (mind me, big and smelly LIONSHIT)!

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Landmark ruling cuts to the (lion) bone

Karen Trendler first realised the horrific welfare implications of South Africa’s captive lion industry 15 years ago when two critically ill lion cubs were dumped on her.

At the time, she was running a wildlife rehabilitation centre, Wildcare which started in the 1980s from her kitchen. It was largely devoted to healing injured small mammals and birds.

“We were wet behind the ears (with lions),” laughs Trendler, gently. “The two cubs had been taken away from their mother. It was the start of the lion petting industry in South Africa.

“They had the most horrific nutritional deficiencies, were suffering from convulsions and had weak bones. I just remember looking at the cubs thinking: ‘This is unbelievable’.”

In the intervening years, Trendler and her team would tend to more sickly lions from captive facilities and would form part of an NGO coalition that petitioned the government to tackle the welfare crisis facing lions in captivity.

“We put together a welfare report with recommendations and costing for sanctuaries,” she recalls.

“We met the Department of Environmental Affairs and raised our concerns about the lion bone trade, which was starting and warning how it could open the floodgates. We offered to euthanise lions that couldn’t go into sanctuaries and that we’d take all the flack for it. The government laughed off our concerns about welfare and the lion bone industry.”

But this week, the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA), where Trendler heads the wildlife trade and trafficking portfolio, won a landmark court case against the Minister of Environmental Affairs and the South African Predators Association (SAPA), over controversial lion bone quotas for 2017 and last year, which the NSPCA argued ignored welfare considerations.

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