Read more about the Interactive Tourism part of this brutal industry by clicking the tabs below.
Exploitative Interactive Activities with Captive Wild Animals
Cubs born in captivity in South Africa are often ripped away from their mothers within a few days of birth. The breeders do this to bring the mothers back into oestrus (to become fertile) much quicker, leading to intense breeding cycles where they can give birth to up to four times more litters than a lioness in the wild. Many of the cubs are introduced into petting enclosures at 3-4 weeks of age, to provide paying tourists with selfie opportunities, while international paying volunteers hand-rear and bottle-feed the so-called “orphaned and abandoned” cubs.
As the animals grow, they are often sold to facilities to be used for other interactive tourist activities, such as ‘walking with lions’. Many may also be abused in the advertising and film industry.
Most of these activities are offered under the guise of conservation with emotional stories that the cubs were abandoned, orphaned, or the mother didn’t have enough milk. Visitors and volunteers are also told that these lions are destined to be returned to the wild as part of various conservation programmes.
Thousands of unsuspecting tourists and volunteers visiting South Africa are unaware that their money contributes to the fraudulent and exploitative use of these animals.
If you want to visit a place that keeps wild animals in captivity, there are some Red Flags that you need to look for before deciding if you want to visit that place or not:
A true sanctuary does not breed, trade (buy or sell) or allow any humans to touch, hold or feed their animals and they offer animals a home for their entire lives.
If any of these Red Flags are raised for you, we recommend not visiting that facility because it is not a true sanctuary. We recommend rather visiting lions in the wild in a game reserve.
This lucrative chain of exploitative tourism activities also poses significant risks to the safety of workers and visitors, through their physical interactions with habituated lions and other big cats.
These kinds of interactions have resulted in at least 52 reported incidents affecting no less than 58 victims since 1996, including 18 deaths. Blood Lions believes that many more unreported incidents have occurred over time.
Captive wildlife populations are at risk of a host of diseases, especially when these animals are kept in small and overcrowded enclosures. This increases the risk of zoonosis, where an infection or disease is transmissible from animals to humans, like the SARS-CoV-2 virus that created the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2021, Blood Lions released a peer-reviewed study with World Animal Protection highlighting key issues regarding zoonotic diseases and their links to the captive lion breeding industry in South Africa.
Did you know that there are 63 pathogens known to affect lions, of which 23 can potentially be harmful to humans?