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Bones of contention – fate of thousands of captive lions in SA depends on implementation of government report findings

This is an excerpt from a special report written by Don Pinnock and published online by Daily Maverick on 17 January, 2023

From 2008 to 2018, South Africa permitted the export of captive-bred lion skeletons. The well-being of a lion in captivity is irrelevant when all you want is its bones. This has led to enormous cruelty involving thousands of Africa’s most iconic animals.

Jabula was born at Predators Pride safari park in Hartbeespoort, North West.

When he was just a few weeks old, he was taken from his mother and moved to Chameleon Village, where he was monetised for cub petting. The story given to tourists and volunteers was that his mother had died and he needed to be hand-reared until he was ready to be returned to the wild. 

This was a lie.

Eight months later, too big for petting, he returned to his birthplace to be used for tourist walks. There, a special bond formed between Jabula and his keeper, Armand Gerber. They would hug, and the lion would roll over for a tummy scratch. 

But young lions grow into big, strong predators which become too dangerous to entertain tourists. At 18 months, Gerber discovered that Jabula was to be sent away. He began negotiations to buy the lion. 

On 22 April, 2018, with the purchase still pending, a team from Wag ’n Bietjie farm near Bloemfontein arrived to collect Jabula despite Gerber’s protests. The men had shown no permits and no vet was present. Jabula was inexpertly darted and hauled away.