The hard-hitting expose, Blood Lions — Bred for the bullet, will be screened at the Masque Theatre at the end of the month to raise funds for the Zandvlei Trust. Marina da Gama resident, environmental activist and poet, Ian McCallum is interviewed in the documentary, which he describes as a brutal expose of layers of deceit.

The documentary is informed by more than 15 years of work by Ian Michler, the main producer, and it lifts the lid on the canned hunting industry.

The story is told by producers Mr. Michler, Pippa Hankinson and film-maker Nick Chevallier.

Mr. McCallum said that within months of its first screening in September last year in Durban, the documentary caused the Professional Hunting Association of South Africa to make a colossal shift, to distance themselves completely from captive breeding programmes. The vote against this industry by the association was 60 to 40 in favour of a move away from canned hunting.

In addition, the documentary’s impact has caused the Australian government to ban the import of any lion parts, including trophies, into their country.

Dr Simon Morgan of conservation organisation, Wildlife ACT, says there are estimated to be between 6 000 to 8 000 predators living in captivity, “mostly living in appalling conditions with inadequate breeding and welfare protocols in place to protect them”.

He says, however, that lion ecologists have “expressly stated that captive breeding plays no role in the conservation of this species, and that to date no captive bred, hand reared lions have successfully been rehabilitated into the wild”.

Mr. McCallum says that Blood Lions reveals layers of deceit, from the idea that the lion cub you pet in captivity was abandoned, all the way through to the international trophy hunters whose kill is guaranteed within two days.

“What is doubly deceptive is that volunteers believe they are supporting bona fide conservation projects and that the cubs will one day be re-wilded, as do supporters of these projects,” he said.

“Although the wild lion population of Africa is in decline, it is important to note that the captive breeding of lions plays no role in the conservation of this species, in any way, and this is scientific fact,” Dr Morgan says.

The organisers of ITB — a major international tourism trade fair in Berlin, Germany — asked for the documentary to be shown at the World Youth Travel Conference, as well as for panel discussions and a workshop to take place, to figure out how tourism and travel activities can play a part in ensuring that the exploitation of predators is no longer an acceptable practice.

Mr. McCallum says he readily agreed to speak in the documentary and emphasises that he speaks only about that which he feels he is qualified to, and in relation to the documentary, his focus is on the psychological relevance of wild animals in our lives, what we learn about ourselves through that, and he asks who will be a voice for the voiceless.

Mr. Michler and Mr. McCallum undertook the Tracks of Giants trans-Africa trek in 2012, crossing five southern African countries and travelling 5 000km on kayak, foot and bicycle.

“We must ask if we cannot protect the flagship species such as elephants and lion, then how can we do any better with the others, the littler ones, or ourselves for that matter,” Mr. McCallum said.

He said the documentary is also a subtle invitation to examine our inner selves and our own propensity for human cruelty, and deception. “There are times when there is a need for rage and outrage, from these spaces we can effect constructive change,” he says.

He will be on hand on Thursday, March 31, at 6.30pm at the Masque Theatre screening, to introduce the documentary and to answer questions from the audience. The tickets cost R150 a person. Contact: signet@webafrica.org.za

  • Ian Michler is a safari operator, specialist wilderness guide, consultant and environmental photo-journalist. He is an ecotourism consultant and currently channels his conservation work through The Conservation Action Trust. He is also director of Eden to Addo , a successful regional corridor conservation initiative.

Producer Pippa Hankinson was the driving force behind the documentary’s financing. Pippa’s career in high-end eco-tourism across southern Africa spanned more than 20 years. In 2013 Pippa founded the production company Regulus Vision to produce the feature documentary, Blood Lions.

Cape Town based film-maker Nick Chevallier is a director and cameraman with 30 years of experience in filming socio-environmental documentaries around Africa.