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Exclusive: Inside a controversial South African lion farm

This is an excerpt from an article written by Rachel Fobar and published online by National Geographic on 21 November, 2019

Lichtenburg, South Africa – Thirty-four lions were crammed into a muddy enclosure meant for three. Rotting chicken carcasses and cattle body parts littered the ground. Faeces piled up in corners. Algae grew in water bowls. Twenty-seven of the lions were so afflicted with mange, a painful skin disease caused by parasitic mites, that they’d lost nearly all their fur. Three cubs lay twitching in the dirt, one draped over the blackened leg of a cow, its hoof visible. Mewling, they struggled—but failed—to drag themselves forward. A fourth cub looked on, motionless.

“Soul destroying.” That’s how Douglas Wolhuter, senior inspector with South Africa’s National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA), describes the scene at Pienika Farm, in North West Province, on April 11, 2019. The NSPCA is responsible for enforcing the country’s Animals Protection Act, and Wolhuter was conducting an inspection of Pienika, one of the more than 250 privately owned lion farms in South Africa.

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