Youth sign Open Letter to South African Government

An open letter signed by over 300 South African youths was sent to the Presidency as well as the Departments of Environment, Forest and Fisheries; Basic Education and Higher Education calling for an end to the captive breeding and commercial exploitation of wildlife across South Africa.

The 16th of June in South Africa serves to commemorate a day in 1979 when South African youth banded together and changed the course of our history. This Youth Day, the Blood Lions ‘YouthForLions’ team called upon the youth of South African to stand together once more and speak up against the injustices of captive predator breeding.

South Africa currently has approximately 3 times more lions in captivity than in the wild, and these animals are exploited at every phase of their lives despite claims made by the breeders. Young people from around the world travel to our country to visit these facilities believing that they are contributing to conservation when, in fact, their money is simply contributing to what is most often unethical breeding and fraudulent use of the animals.

©Blood Lions

This Youth Day initiative follows a decision made by the Department of Environmental Affairs in March 2019 to allow the captive lion breeding industry to continue with regulations in place, despite the recommendations and resolutions made by the Portfolio Committee of Environmental Affairs (PCEA) towards the end of 2018 to put an end to the practice. The PCEA confirmed that “there was an overwhelming consensus to the need to bring an end to the controversial aspects of the captive lion breeding industry in South Africa” and that the industry is, in fact, a blemish on South Africa’s conservation reputation and tourism image. Leading global conservation and scientific authorities have stated time and time again that the captive predator breeding industry has no conservation value, and goes against internationally accepted ethical and welfare protocols.

The 324 youth who signed the open letter agree that trying to regulate an industry that has been thriving for over a decade under ineffective governance is unfortunately not the answer.

“I truly believe that we are vastly more powerful and influential as a collective. I have been completely blown away by the support for this Open Letter and am immensely proud to have been a part of it. I implore the President and his Ministers to listen to the voices of the youth and hear their message” – Cath Jakins, Blood Lions ‘YouthForLions’ Coordinator.

In the week leading up to Youth Day, YouthForLions Coordinator, Cath, visited three schools in Eshowe, northern KwaZulu-Natal, where she presented on the captive lion breeding industry and the exploitative wildlife interactive tourism industry.

Cath presented to Grade 4 to 7 students at John Wesley School and Holy Childhood School and Grade 4 to 12 students at Gratton School. The reception at all 3 schools was fantastic with approximately 150 students volunteering to sign the YouthForLions pledge and add their names to the Open Letter.

Grade 7 class of 2019 at Holy Childhood Convent School, Eshowe added their voices to the Letter

THANK YOU to John Wesley School, Gratton School and Holy Childhood Convent School in Eshowe for hosting YouthForLions and for all your support for the Youth Day Open Letter initiative. We will definitely see you next year!

Read the Open Letter with all 324 signatures HERE.

For more information or if you have any questions, contact the Blood Lions ‘YouthForLions’ team on

Interactive Wildlife Tourism

Written by Cath Jakins
Published on 20 June, 2019

During the months of April and May, I had the privilege of attending two internationally recognised travel and trade shows in South Africa with the Blood Lions team: World Travel Market (WTM) Africa in Cape Town and Africa’s Travel Indaba in Durban. Neither of these travel shows are open to the public like normal exhibitions, instead attendees are international buyers, travel operators and media personnel from around the world

Our aim at these shows was to engage with the tourism industry and garner support for our Blood Lions ‘Born To Live Wild’ tourism campaign. The campaign is based on a pledge which has been signed by over 160 tourism operators around the world who do not support the captive breeding, canned hunting and commercial exploitation of wild animal species.

By signing the pledge, tourism operators are committing to “not knowingly book or support any breeder or operator that contributes to the cycle of breeding, exploitation and senseless killing of predators. This includes all petting and ‘walking with lion’ facilities.” Those who sign the pledge also commit to securing the survival of Africa’s predators in the wild by supporting and promoting “Africa as an authentic, wild and ethical tourism destination.”

My colleagues and I met with over 50 international and local buyers and tourism operators at both WTM and Indaba. Only about 30% of those we met with knew about Blood Lions or the interactive wildlife tourism industry. I was, and still am, shocked by this level of ignorance and naivety from the tourism industry.

I normally start my discussions with people by asking if they know anything about Blood Lions and the negative effects of interactive wildlife activities, like cub petting and ‘walking with lion’ attractions. Almost every person I spoke to at these travel shows knew what I meant when I said ‘interactive tourism’ or ‘cub petting’, and they could even name a few places that offered these activities; but majority of those I spoke to were shocked at the information I was giving them. I showed people our animated Life Cycle of a Captive Bred Lion clip and watched their faces turn from shock to dismay as the realisation kicked in.

With the term ‘Responsible Tourism’ becoming a buzz-word in the global tourism industry, it amazed me how few tourism operators knew the truth behind what is really going on in South Africa.

What is ‘interactive tourism’ you ask?

Well, when you Google the term ‘interactive tourism’, the top search result conveniently is an article off the Blood Lions website from 2017 titled “Interactive tourism and voluntourism”. Although this is great for Blood Lions exposure, that particular article doesn’t give a concise definition of what ‘interactive tourism’ actually is.

The ‘interactive wildlife tourism’ that I am referring to is any tourist attraction that allows you (the tourist) to encounter and physically interact with a ‘wild’ animal being held in captivity. The interactive wildlife tourism industry includes everything from lion cub petting to elephant-back riding and ‘walking with lion’ activities. In May of this year, National Geographic released an article titled “Suffering unseen: The dark truth behind wildlife tourism” reporting the results of an investigation into the ‘dismal lives’ lead by captive animals used for wildlife tourism encounters. According to the article by Natasha Daly and Kirsten Luce, “Wildlife tourism isn’t new, but social media is setting the industry ablaze, turning encounters with exotic animals into photo-driven bucket-list toppers”.

©Pippa Hankinson

With tell-all articles like this out there and ‘responsible tourism’ becoming more common, it really surprises me how few people in the tourism industry are fully aware of the impact that these interactive activities have on the animals involved. The reality is that, by interacting with ‘wild’ animals in captivity, tourists and volunteers are contributing to the never-ending cycle of cruelty and abuse. The same animals that are used for interactions may well have been bred under intensive agricultural conditions and, if they are not shot in a hunt, could end up as part of the lion bone trade.

But there are good places to visit, right?

Well, yes, you do get bona vide sanctuaries that offer their (normally rescued) animals a home for life and DO NOT breed, trade or allow human interaction with their animals. We simply urge people to educate themselves and to ask the right questions before considering visiting a facility:

  • Do they offer any activities based on animal and human interaction?
  • If it claims to be a sanctuary, do they offer life-long care for their animals?
  • Are they trading in animals?
  • Where did all the animals come from and where do some of them go?
  • Who is their recognised predator ecologist or scientist?
  • Have any of their animals been released into the wild? And if so, where and when?

Our suggestion to tourists coming to Africa is to rather visit one of our many incredible National Parks and true wilderness areas to see wild lions in their natural habitat.

In addition to asking the right questions and being a responsible tourist, we call on the travel and tourism industry to join the Blood Lions ‘Born to Live Wild’ campaign by signing the Born to Live Wild pledge. By signing the pledge and adding their logos to the webpage, travel operators pledge against the exploitation of our wildlife and commit to supporting and promoting the formal conservation community in their endeavours to secure the survival of Africa’s predators in the wild.

©Pippa Hankinson

Visit the Blood Lions ‘Born to Live Wild’ webpage:

‘Sign’ the Born to Live Wild pledge by emailing your tourism company logo to

Blood Lions® Campaign: 2018 in review

Since the film premiered in July 2015, the Blood Lions® Campaign team – together with the wonderful support of key partners around the world – have made great strides in their efforts to raise global awareness around captive lion breeding and “canned” (captive) hunting, as well as the associated tourism activities.

Below is a brief outline of our key milestones for 2018 – another significant year for change and awareness with the help of many partners and organisations in tourism, conservation and welfare.

Digital Media 2018

  • The Website: over 200 000 visitors
  • Blood Lions Facebook: over 54 000 followers; reach over 3.3 million in 2018
  • Blood Lions Twitter: over 7 300 followers; reach over 1.9 million in 2018
  • YouthForLions Facebook: over 4800 followers, reach over 366 000 in 2018
  • YouthForLions Twitter: over 710 followers, reach over 707 000 in 2018
  • Five international tweet storms with involving millions of supporters worldwide
  • Online support since 2015 from top international influencers and celebrities: Ellen de Generes (48m followers), Miley Cyrus (19.4m), Ian Somerhalder, (6.21m), Nikki Reed (.8m), Shannon Elizabeth (.6m), Emily VanCamp (.5m), Ricky Gervais (12 m), Marc Abraham (46.8k)

Media Coverage:

  • R53 673 762.16 pro bono media coverage globally to date and climbing daily.


  • International Distributors
    • PBS International, USA and IFD, South Africa
  • Blood Lions®DVD and VOD
  • Blood Lions® TV airings (54min TV edits): still ongoing in 180 countries/territories around the world through the Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, MSNBC, TV Ontario, RTK, N-Tv, Planéte.
  • Blood Lions® “curated” screenings:Over 150 screenings in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Finland, Germany, Holland, India, Indonesia, Israel, Kenya, Namibia, Nepal, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States of America, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
  • Blood Lions® promotional clips: 9 short info clips produced for the campaign, featuring different aspects of the captive lion breeding and canned hunting industry.
  • Blood Lions® short promotional “teasers”: 9 info teasers produced this year for social media events
  • 30,000 Blood Lions® DVDs distributed throughout South Africa:leading retailer Woolworths distributed largest number of DVD’s ever ordered in SA through their Bags4Good “Born to Live Wild” campaign.

2018 “Milestones”

  • 2018 total media coverage for the year: Over R13 673 000.00 in pro bono media
  • TV Airings: In addition to ongoing international airings of the TV edit of Blood Lions®, South African station SABC3 aired the full version of the film to coincide with World Lion Day on 10th
  • VOD: Contracts were signed with Ecostreamz in the USA for global viewing (excl. SA), and Showmax for viewing in South Africa.
  • Promotional videos: Nine short clips were produced for release to coincide with key campaign initiatives
  • TV interviews:Blood Lions presented on Kyknet TV on the captive breeding industry
  • Radio interviews:Cape Talk Radio, RGS, Algoa FM on various topics in the industry.
  • Thirteen school/university Blood Lions® Screenings and “Youth For Lions” presentations
  • Fourteen curated Blood Lions® Screenings, presentations and talks were hosted over the year. Various TV, radio, magazine and newspaper interviews and articles were also conducted during the year
  • Partnership activations and events:
    • British Illustrator and author Patrick George created effective graphics for “YouthForLions”
    • Richard Peirce’s “Cuddle Me, Kill Me” Book included Blood Lions contributions
    • Humane Society International (HSI) Tourism alert and Poll
    • Humane Society International (HSI) / Blood Lions airline magazine advertisements:
  • South African Media Launch of Born Free Foundation’s ‘Cash before Conservation’ Report: An Overview of the Breeding of Lions for Hunting and Bone Trade.
  • Blood Lions broke the news on the slaughter of over 100 lions in the Freestate province which gained international attention and national action. Read Article Here
  • EWT Joint open letter to Department of Environmental Affairs on predator attacks.
  • Membership of a newly formed coalition of conservation leaders created to “stop the captive breeding and keeping of lions and other big cats for commercial purposes”.
  • Bellevue Café, Kloof, KZN: Coffee campaign and fundraiser to raise awareness around captive lion breeding industry.
  • Thompsons Africa: multiple screening of Blood Lions to Thompsons Africa staff, followed by signing of the Blood Lions “Born To Live Wild” Tourism Pledge committing not to endorse or sell exploitative wildlife interactions: Read Here
  • SA Institute of International Affairs: contribution towards report by Dr. Ross Harvey “The Economics of Captive Predator Breeding in SA
  • SPOTS in the Netherlands, in partnership with TUI and ANVR, held multiple screenings of the Blood Lions® at Stenden University, Saxion University and Wageningen University, which formed part of an extended “Responsible Tourism and Voluntourism” initiative
  • WESSA : Envirokidz Magazine insert on cub petting
  • Participated in the “Cape Town Unites For Animals” March
  • Trek for Big Cats “Everest Base Camp” raising awareness around the plight of big cats
  • Jackson Hole Wild, USA: Mobile film Library partnering with African Parks to hold screenings of films in rural areas across Africa
  • Live Facebook feeds / videos
    • Karl Ammann, Swiss filmmaker and environmental journalist: speaking about the tiger bone trade in South East Asia and his upcoming film. Watch it here.
    • Pippa Hankinson, Blood Lions: speaking about the Portfolio Committee for the Environment’s Report as adopted by Parliament, which followed the colloquium on captive lion breeding in South Africa. Watch it here.
    • Andrew Venter, CEO WildTrust: discussing the lion bone trade. Watch it here.
  • Trade Fairs and Conferences attended
    • Indaba, Durban South Africa
    • We Are Africa: Conservation Lab, Cape Town South Africa
    • South African Youth Travel Conference (SAYTC), Western Cape
    • Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment, Cape Town: two day colloquium entitled “Captive Lion Breeding For Hunting In South Africa: Harming Or Promoting The Conservation Image Of The Country?”
    • Symposium of Contemporary Conservation Practice
  • Youth For Lions Online Campaign:
    • YFL Blog: launched December 2018 as a way to share educational content regarding the captive lion breeding industry, as well as to keep our followers up to date with news from the campaign and activities that the YouthForLions team are involved in.
    • 2018 #YouthForLions On-Line Campaigns (Initiatives):
      • #AprilAwareness– Campaign looking at the six questions you should be asking before visiting wildlife facilities.
      • #JumpIntoActionInJune– Raised awareness around the actions our followers could take against the cub petting industry, canned lion hunting and lion bone trade. Each week an action was highlighted that enabled our followers to help make a difference in the conservation and protection of lions.
      • #SeptemberSchoolsChallenge– We challenged our followers, their friends and schools to sign our PLEDGE and SAY NO to animal interaction and facilities involved in the captive breeding and canned hunting industry.  We asked them to send in their pictures and join the global movement against the canned hunting industry in South Africa.

Youth For Lions Blog: The Power of Educating our Youth

Written by Stephanie Emmy Klarmann
Published on 15 March, 2019

© Stephanie Emmy Klarmann

I believe that educating adolescents and youth is fundamental in changing attitudes and behaviours in any conservation effort. Education not only provides knowledge but also creates a sense of empathy and understanding on a much deeper level. It can also promote activism and justice, particularly in young people who are finding their voices and are so willing to act in ways which may often defy social norms (we often think of these young people as being rebellious; but I like to see them as challenging oppressive existing norms). This is becoming especially true of the captive breeding and hunting industry, which has for many years been covered in a cloak of conservation and good will. Yet, emerging evidence continues to expose an industry characterised by greed, neglect and cruelty.

I must be honest, when I first decided to approach this topic with the students I teach, I was hesitant. I felt they were too young to comprehend the inherent cruelty and I wanted to avoid shattering the commonly held beliefs about something seemingly innocent. And yet the opposite occurred. Whilst the Blood Lions® documentary remains an immense shock to watch, the students took it on with maturity, moving almost immediately towards action with questions like “what can be done to stop it? Why is this allowed in the first place? Surely this is illegal?” These were the hardest questions to answer because such cruelty seems so far-fetched to many of us. The hard-hitting visual elements of the Blood Lions® documentary and its ongoing campaigns illustrate something else I strongly believe in – that video and photography is a powerful means of conveying information and emotion in ways that move people towards change and action.

When it comes to what can be done, I encouraged individual actions – we all have a voice and should not feel that alone we do not have an impact. Being educated also allows students to educate others, like their own friends and family. In fact, I have since heard stories of students who have turned down invitations to lion parks and will speak up in class when cub petting is mentioned by fellow classmates. This is one of the most promising signs that we can make progress through education! My experience has been that the impact is  lasting, with the latest conversation occurring a year after watching the documentary. How incredible to know that we can have a long-term impact on attitudes and behaviour!

Teaching students to think critically is also a vital component of educating them about conservation issues. Providing evidence and solid facts is so necessary in a time when false information abounds and can be shared at the click of a button. Such skills ensure that students are able to think about situations from a variety of perspectives: local, international, economical, and ethical. Through open-minded discussions about welfare, ethical travel and conservation, I sincerely hope to encourage students to be curious and willing to learn, and even more so to empower them to be responsible and ethical citizens who choose to use their voices and challenge deeply unethical activities.

I gathered some quotations from students expressing their thoughts about the following quote describing the South African captive breeding and canned hunting industry:

“Every single day captive bred or tame lions continue to be killed in canned hunts and hundreds more slaughtered.”

“When I read this I stop and think why people find pleasure in seeing these beautiful animals go through torture and pain. If people would just stop and think, what happens if they were in that situation, they wouldn’t want to be forced to breed and neither would you. I just find heartache and sadness, I hate the way society has become by torturing these animals for wealth, where they could easily get a job that has much fewer risks and a job that can give love and happiness around the world. Most people don’t even realise that lions and other cats were not meant to be held or petted, they were meant to lie on the savannah grass maybe enjoy a meal or two, not be locked up in a cage and forced to breed their whole life.” (Katie, 12 years old)

“Blood Lions was very interesting and eye-opening. Lion cub petting and breeding is very upsetting and wrong. It makes me very sad to know that there are many people out there who are okay with this. Lion cubs aren’t trophies and shouldn’t be used as a means of attraction at game lodges and animal parks.” (Kaitlyn, 15)

“Blood Lions is a fascinating documentary that sheds truth on the blood money of captive-bred lions. It is unnerving to see the pure greed and entitlement of canned lion hunters.” (Jordyn, 17)

“Before I watched Blood Lions, to me cub petting was not a bad thing, but after watching the documentary my thoughts changed as I realised that it was actually extremely wrong. All my life I have been against hunting and animals being captive. I am shocked to discover what is really going on. The places we once thought were good are most guilty for killing our wildlife.” (Emma, 16)

© Stephanie Emmy Klarmann

It is clear that educating students has the power to change attitudes and behaviour as these students demonstrated that they were not proud of our government’s decision to allow the proliferation of captive-bred lions whilst wild populations remain significantly lower. Whilst this was not an easy topic to approach, I am so proud of the maturity and advocacy expressed by all the students who have watched the documentary and engaged in discussions with me.

YouthForLions LIVE WILD Workshop a Roaring Success

Written by the Blood Lions team
Published on 5 March, 2019

The Blood Lions ‘YouthForLions’ team hosted a youth workshop for over 120 high school and university students at the UKZN Howard College Theatre on Saturday, 2 March 2019.

The one day event highlighted and discussed activities associated with the captive lion breeding industry in South Africa, and other pressing conservation and tourism topics, such as Responsible Tourism, ethical volunteering programmes, and the harm that interacting with wild animals causes.

This was followed by a screening of the award winning Blood Lions® film, which follows acclaimed environmental journalist and safari operator Ian Michler, and Rick Swazey, an American hunter, on their journey to uncover the realities about the multimillion-dollar lion breeding and canned hunting industry in South Africa.

The Blood Lions ‘YouthForLions’ campaign is a global movement aimed at informing and engaging the worlds youth around the realities of tourist activities that exploit lion, such as cub petting and walking with lions; and the contribution these activities have on the canned hunting industry in South Africa.

Students who attended the Workshop were inspired by presentations from YouthForLions Coordinator Cath JakinsWildlife ACT’s Mark Gerrard and Zama NcubeThompsons Africa’s Janine SouthwoodYouth 4 African Wildlife’s Fortunate PhakaProject Rhino and Rhino Art’s Grant Fowlds; as well as Nunu Jobe(Trails Guide and Youth Mentor), Melumsi Matiwane (Rhino Art Educator), and Ben Wallace(Videographer).

The students left the Howard College Theatre with a much deeper understanding of the captive breeding industry, as well as the terms “Responsible Tourism” and “Ethical wildlife volunteering”. They were also exposed to possible career paths and opportunities in the conservation field.

“It is vital to see such a huge group of youth here posing such relevant questions to the speakers. This event is a great initiative to work towards developing our future leaders in the conservation space” – Mark Gerrard, Wildlife ACT Director.

Following the presentations and the Blood Lions® film, students were broken into groups and were given the task of creating a unique #YouthForLions campaign to create awareness on the critical conservation issues they had learnt about during the Workshop. The Blood Lions ‘YouthForLions’ team were thoroughly impressed by the wide variety of campaign ideas brought forward by the 11 groups of students and had an extremely difficult decision to make. The group with the most captivating and original campaign idea won themselves a 2-day trip to the iconic Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Game Reserve where they will have the opportunity to track and monitor wild lions and other priority species with conservation NGO, Wildlife ACT.

Here is what some of the students had to say about their time at the LIVE WILD Workshop:

“On Saturday 2 March I was privileged to be invited to the YouthForLions LIVE WILD workshop held at UKZN Howard College. Every single person took atleast one thing away from this workshop. Personally, I learnt how these wild cats are portrayed as these cute, touchable animals and how much money people pay to volunteer to help them. I also learnt how that money is just used to breed more lions and increase the breeding centres to uncontrollable sizes with inhumane conditions. I would just like to thank the YouthForLions team for everything that they do for the conversation of this amazing species and I just hope that the breeders wake up to the fact that what they are doing is wrong.” – Makaira Kerkhoff: Grade 11, Glenwood Boys’ High School.

“My brother and I attended the YouthForLions workshop at UKZN Howard College. It was a day full of fun, with interesting and interactive talks given by a number of big organisations that catered for everyone’s interests and potential career opportunities. The Blood Lions® movie gave everyone emotions revolving around anger, sadness and even guilt to those that have petted or walked with lions. Personally, I was angry and disappointed that people could be so heartless towards nature and its animals. It showed how lions are affected by inbreeding and how the owners became so defensive when asked questions relating to their lions lives and how they are treated.” – Odin Kerkhoff: Grade 9, Glenwood Boys’ High School.

“YouthForLions was an incredible experience for me and I could not be happier that I attended such an amazing workshop. I have a strong passion for animals and the environment and YouthForLions brought those two things together. Not only did they educate me on multiple issues, but they also gave me the confidence to do what I want to achieve later in my life. #YouthForLions is a great way to make younger people and communities more conscious of the reality of the industry and how this issue is growing which later could lead to disastrous results. I hope this workshop continues to grow in size and numbers, and that we’ll soon start seeing it on a bigger scale for everyone to experience.” – Kyra Foster: Grade 12, Northlands Girls’ High School.

“The Blood Lions workshop was an amazing experience and all the presentations were excellent and a very effective way to educate and involve people about conservation issues. I learnt that daily interactions between lions and people must be avoided because these lions are supposed to be released back to the wild. The information about this issue was unknown to me and many of the youth at the Workshop. YouthForLions plays an important role in wildlife conservation. I learnt a lot about canned hunting and I’m looking forward to attend the next workshops.” – Siboniso Mthiyane: UNISA Graduate.

Pet a Cub, Kill a Lion

Written by the YouthForLions team
Published 29 January, 2019

The Blood Lions ‘YouthForLions’ team have officially launched a brand new animated clip showing the life cycle of a captive bred lion in South Africa, to create awareness across the globe.

The ‘YouthForLions’ campaign was launched on the heels of the international award winning Blood Lions® feature film documentary in 2015. It is a youth-based campaign, focused on educating the youth about wildlife interactive activities and how these activities negatively impact the lives of the animals. It aims to spread awareness across the globe about the captive lion breeding industry and the exploitative activities that go hand-in-hand with it, such as cub petting, lion walking, the lion bone trade and canned hunting.

The cycle: 

The campaign’s new release is a simplified and animated look at how lion cubs, born in captivity in South Africa, are often taken away from their mothers when they are younger than 10 days old. The removal of the cubs forces the mothers straight back into an intense breeding cycle. In captivity, lionesses often breed up to four or five times faster than they would in the wild.

The tiny lion cubs are then hand raised, bottle fed and used for cub petting attractions where members of the public pay to pet and hold them. When they grow older, the sub-adult lions are trained to climb trees and pose on rocks for “selfies” during lion walking attractions. Once fully grown, the now tame lions are often sold to captive hunting establishments where they can be shot and killed in “canned” or captive lion hunts. This is just one of the ways in which hand reared and bottle fed lion cubs end up. Others are kept in small enclosures and killed for their bones to be exported to South East Asia to supplement the tiger bone trade.

“If you knew the facts, would you still pet a cub or walk with a lion? We don’t think so. The clip was created to have a simple message using video as a popular tool to spread awareness about the life cycle of a captive bred lion. Understanding the different stages of exploitation that these cubs go through, and the fact that they are merely money making machines for their owners is the key to putting an end to this practice” – Tamryn Stephenson, YouthForLions Digital Marketing Manager.

When travelling in South Africa, THINK before you VISIT, CUDDLE, WALK or VOLUNTEER with predators including lions, tigers, leopard and cheetah.

Don’t be part of the problem; help be part of the change.

Share the clip and sign the pledge:

Share the clip across your platforms, view the #YouthForLions pledge here and commit to not supporting breeders or operators that contribute to the cycle of unethical exploitation of predators. By signing the pledge, you are adding your voice to the global call to stop the captive breeding and associated commercialisation of Africa’s predators. You will also pledge your support to the conservation community in their efforts to secure the survival of Africa’s predators in the wild while promoting the responsible interaction with, and respect for, Africa’s wilderness.

View the clip on Facebook:

For more information, visit our YouthForLions webpage:; or contact

Clip by Dave Cohen, Illustrations by Patrick George

Youth For Lions Blog: Creating Awareness with Tomorrow’s Leaders

Written by Cath Jakins
Published 10 December, 2018

Welcome to the new YouthForLions Blog, and welcome to our very first blog post. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Cath, the new Blood Lions ‘YouthForLions’ Coordinator. My role at ‘YouthForLions’ is to raise awareness and educate the youth of South Africa (and the world) about the captive breeding of lions in South Africa and the importance of not interacting with these majestic animals.

When I joined the Blood Lions team in June, I was a little bit nervous about speaking in front a big group of people. But less than a month into my new job, my first presentation was a 15 minute talk to a hall of over 400 school children and their teachers. And it was fantastic!

One of my favourite parts of these presentations is when I ask who has touched a lion or another wild animal. Seeing majority of the hands in the room (including mine) go up will always take my breath away. The sheer number of people, both young and old, who have been duped by the con that is cub petting, is shocking.

I usually follow on from this with a video clip about why we shouldn’t be petting lion cubs. During the clip I like to look around the room to gauge the audience’s reactions. Some look sad, some seem indifferent but almost always, most are shocked. Interacting with wild animals is a popular holiday activity around the world. From elephant back rides in India to lion cub petting in South Africa, wildlife interactions are what many people crave when going on holiday. What majority of holiday makers don’t realise though is the massive negative impact they are having on the lives of these animals.

Generally, lion cubs that are born in captivity are taken away from their mothers when they are between 3 and 10 days old. The reason for this is so that the mothers go straight back into oestrus when their cubs are removed from them. This practice is done to ensure that they will breed again immediately. In captivity, lionesses often breed up to four or five times faster than they would in the wild.

Cubs that are hand raised, bottle fed and used for cub petting attractions grow up to be used in lion walking attractions. These sub-adult lions are trained, pretty much the same way that circus animals are trained, to climb trees and pose on rocks for “selfies”.

Once fully grown, these now tame lions are often sold to captive hunting establishments where they are added to a catalogue, and given a price to be shot and killed by “canned” or captive lion hunters from around the world. Because they have been so used to people feeding and handling them, they are not afraid of humans and seldom run away or try to defend themselves. This is just one of the ways in which hand reared and bottle fed lion cubs end up. Others are kept in their small enclosures and killed so that their bones can be exported to South East Asia to supplement the tiger bone trade.

My focus at YouthForLions is to educate young people about the captive lion breeding industry and related activities, and to create change in the future. We believe that awareness of the horrific conditions in which many of these animals live, and the fate that awaits them, will discourage most people from visiting or supporting facilities that contribute to these industries.

Our wildlife is our heritage, and it is the youth of today who will be the custodians of tomorrow!

To get involved and spread the word, visit our website and follow us on social media where you can like and share all our posts.

If you would like me to visit your school or university and host a screening or presentation, email me on Keep an eye on our social media pages for blog updates from now on.

NEWS: One of the largest travel operators in Africa pledges against wildlife exploitation in tourism

Last week Friday, Thompsons Africa, a global leader in travel and tourism, dedicated the entire day to watching the award winning feature documentary, Blood Lions®, with over 100 employees in attendance. This included the signing of the ‘Born to Live Wild’ global pledge not to support exploitative wildlife interactive tourism.


Since the Blood Lions® film premiered in July 2015, the Campaign team, together with key partners around the world, have made great strides in their efforts to raise global awareness around captive lion breeding, ‘canned’ (captive) hunting and the lion bone trade to Asia. Upholding the values of responsible tourism, Thompsons Africa’s pledge formalises their stance against these activities.


Says Alessandra Alleman, CEO Thompsons Africa, “We are very proud to partner with Blood Lions in creating awareness around the canned hunting industry. It is important that our people understand why we say no to our customers when they request experiences involving walking with lions, cub petting and other forms of animal interactions. Tourism in South Africa is about our wildlife and nature and we want to keep it that way! We want generations of families from all over the world to continue to see our wonderful wildlife in their natural habitat…. not caged or being handled by hundreds of people each day. We pledge our support to the Blood Lions campaign and we pledge to continue to create awareness in holding up the values of sustainable tourism.”


Thompsons Africa support Blood Lions and its aims and acknowledge the following:
  • The established predator research and scientific community do not recognize any of the breeders or operating facilities as having conservation merit.
  • In marketing themselves as breeding facilities, these entities confuse the conservation messages and priorities, specifically with lions, which in turn results in a misdirection of vital funding that negatively impacts wild lion populations.
  • There is sufficient evidence to show that their activities put additional pressure on wild lion populations: intensive breeders have illegally acquired new genetic stock from the wild, and the burgeoning lion bone trade remains a risk because of an illegal demand for bones from wild lions.
  • We are deeply concerned about the welfare conditions of the animals kept in these facilities.
  • Canned hunting does not reduce the hunting pressure on wild lions and is unethical.


Furthermore, Thompsons Africa commit to the following:

  1. To not knowingly book or otherwise support any breeder or operator that contributes to the cycle of breeding, exploitation and senseless killing of predators. This includes all petting and ‘walking with lion’ facilities.
  2. To continue our support and promotion of the formal conservation community in their endeavours to secure the survival of Africa’s predators in the wild. Without wild lions and the rest of the predator guild extant in functioning ecosystems, there will be no African tourism industry; a calamitous situation for many economies.
  3. To continue in our own endeavours towards wildlife conservation and economic development wherever we operate across Africa.
  4. To continue supporting an ethical and responsible interaction with Africa’s wilderness and wild animals.
  5. To continue promoting Africa as an authentic, wild and rewarding tourism destination.


“To have one of the largest tourism operators in Africa stand behind the ‘Born to Live Wild’ pledge and commit to promoting ethical and responsible tourism in South Africa is a huge step forward for the industry. We commend Thompsons Africa for pledging against these exploitative wildlife activities. Blood Lions is proud to partner with them in this campaign.” Pippa Hankinson, Blood Lions Producer.
In case of any queries regarding the pledge, please contact Blood Lions on or Thompsons Africa on

PRESS RELEASE: New Parliamentary report calling for an end to captive lion breeding in South Africa


BREAKING NEWS: New Parliamentary report calling for an end to captive lion breeding in South Africa

Following the recent Parliamentary Colloquium entitled “Captive Lion Breeding for Hunting in South Africa: Harming or Promoting the Conservation Image of the Country”, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment Affairs has released their report calling for a ban on captive lion breeding in South Africa.

Blood Lions commends the Hon. Mr. Mapulane and members of the Portfolio Committee on Environment on the findings and resolutions of this comprehensive 24-page report. There is little doubt that the captive lion breeding industry has attracted extensive international criticism, and that it has had a deleterious impact on South Africa’s conservation and tourism reputation. The colloquium was attended by Blood Lions together with a number of leading conservation groups and scientists from across the globe.

Blood Lions official statement: 

‘This is an important day for Blood Lions and all those who have been fighting against the captive lion breeding industry in South Africa. After some years in production, Blood Lions launched the feature documentary film and global campaign to end all exploitative predator practices in 2015. Since then, and together with a number of our partners in South Africa and around the world, we have fought hard to expose the horrors that comprise the commercial exploitation of Africa’s most iconic species. Blood Lions acknowledges the immense work being done by so many across the conservation, tourism and welfare sectors. While this is a small victory for everyone involved, we also understand that much work still lies ahead. In this regard, we thank the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment Affairs for their immense efforts to date, and urge them to continue this process until the brutality ends.’   

The summary of findings from the report include the following points:

  • “The conservation value of predator breeding is zero; the economic value is minimal and undermines South Africa’s tourism brand value … studies have proven that breeding predators in cages or enclosed areas has no conservation value in the South African context. Moreover, there has not been a successful lion reintroduction programme with lions bred in captivity in the South African case.”
  • “South Africa’s captive lion breeding industry for hunting is an international pariah, and hence the Government should rethink this policy stance. The announcement by DEA that the lion bone quota determined for 2018 is doubled from 800 in 2017 to 1500 for 2018 is highly concerning.”
  • “Captive lion breeding for hunting is currently lawful, but this does not make it ethically, morally or socially acceptable, especially when the manner in which hunted animals are raised and released for hunting. It is obvious in this instance that hunting of captive-bred lions might have done irreparable damage to the reputation of South Africa, especially considering the negative global publicity.”
  • “The use of lion bones, body parts and derivatives in commercial trade, including for scientifically unproven medicine, is one of the major emerging threats to wild lion, besides habitat loss, diminishing prey and human wildlife conflict, and could serve as a cover for illegally wild-sourced lion and other big cat parts.”
  • “South Africa’s conservation reputation is being challenged for its captive lion breeding industry and its perceived disregard of the impact, effect, welfare and consequences of its policies with respect to captive lion breeding and wildlife trade…”
  • “South Africa is the largest legal exporter of lion bones and skeletons … Ninety-eight percent of these were destined for Laos and Vietnam, which are known hubs for illegal wildlife trafficking….”
  • The risk of human health and safety posed by zoonosis – an infection or disease that is transmissible from animals to humans under natural conditions, including tuberculosis (TB) and possible exposure to lethal compounds …. The risk to South African lion abattoir workers is real. South Africa also risks finding itself in a precarious legal position should it arise that the country had exported tuberculosis-infested lion bones.”

The summary of the Proposed Resolutions put forward in the report by The Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs includes the following: 

1)    Department of Environmental Affairs to urgently initiate a policy and legislative review of the Captive Breeding of lions for hunting and the lion bone trade with a view to putting an end to this practice.

2)    Department of Environmental Affairs to conduct an audit of the captive lion breeding facilities throughout the country, including those offering private lion and cheetah cub petting and/or walking activities.

3)    Department of Environmental Affairs and Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries to present a clear programme of work on how they intend to address the badly neglected animal welfare and health issues which were raised during the colloquium.

4)    The agreement between the Kruger National Park and Association of Private Nature Reserves (APNR) concluded in 1996, should be revised to ensure that there is sharing of benefits, arising from the collapse of the fences in the western boundary of the Kruger National Park in the interest of the broader society.

5)    The Department of Environmental Affairs should reconsider their decision earlier this year to increase the lion bone trade quota from 800 to 1 500 lion skeletons, as it was purportedly based on the Interim Report of the Scientific Authority, which report it emerged during the colloquium, was informed by commercial considerations, as opposed to science.

Click here for the Parliamentary statement on their report: 
Click here for the full version of the report, which will be presented to Parliament for consideration in due course:

Blood Lions hosted a Live Facebook interview on 15 November with Blood Lions producer, Pippa Hankinson. Click here to join the conversation.

The Blood Lions team