For many people, there is no difference between these terms. The terms ‘captive hunting’ or ‘ranch hunting’ has been introduced by the professional hunting bodies in an attempt to get away from the negative image associated with canned hunting. But in essence, captive hunting is as it reads; wild animals are being bred in captivity to be killed in captivity or confined areas.
Fair chase hunting refers to the traditional form of trophy hunting whereby professional hunters and their clients hunt in wilderness areas large enough for the free-ranging animals being pursued to have a chance of escape. These hunts can take up to 21 days, whereas canned hunts can be done in as little as 48 hours. Amongst the wider hunting fraternity, many fair-chase hunters regard canned or captive hunting as unethical or unsportsmanlike.
Attaining precise statistics in this regard is also something of a hit and miss affair as there seem to be loopholes in the reporting systems and different ways of reading the data. The principal sources for this information are the South African Predator Association, The Convention for the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and then the various government and provincial bodies. Between them, the statistics indicate that at the time of the film’s launch, anywhere between 800 and 1 000 lions were being shot annually in South Africa. Just over 50% of these hunters were from the USA. We believe that because of the Blood Lions campaign, this number may well be lower now. However, we are also aware that the breeders and canned hunters are looking at new markets: China, Russia and many of the old Soviet era states, for example.
Not officially, but there may be certain cases taking place in some of South Africa’s neighbours. Canned hunting is however big business in some states in the USA, especially Texas where there are numerous ranches offering exotic species to be killed by canned hunters.
The claim that hunting of captive bred lions takes pressure off wild lions must be challenged as there is no science on this at all. Canned hunting has merely opened up an entirely new market for hunters that would not have been able to afford a wild hunt. And where wild lion hunting has dropped away, this is only because bans on hunting have been introduced. In the countries that still allow wild lion hunting (Zimbabwe, Namibia and Tanzania for example), demand for permits outstrips the quota. And we also know that wild lion populations across Africa continue to decline.