Skip to content

Five things to learn from ‘Blood Lions’

Acclaimed South African documentary Blood Lions has been making waves both at home and internationally.

Along with attending a screening of the documentary, we spoke to Ian Michler, the documentary’s specialist consultant and lead character

Here are some things the documentary team hopes that viewers learn from the film.

1. The scope of captive breeding
“There are approximately 200 facilities holding somewhere between 6 000 and 8 000 predators in captivity,” Michler told

The majority of these, around 7 000, are lions.

This number could increase past 12 000 in the next few years.
But what’s the problem with this?
The mass breeding of lions leads to overcrowding in confined spaces. Lion breeders only need to obtain a permit by meeting minimum standards for fencing and enclosure sizes. Most of these farms are on private property.
Footage from Blood Lions shows the overcrowding on several farms, with large groups of lions kept in small enclosures.

2. Many captive-bred lions end up in canned hunts or the bone trade
“Over 800 lions are being shot annually in canned or captive hunts, and another 1 100 plus carcasses are being shipped to Asia in the lion bone trade,” Michler said.
Canned hunting has been condemned worldwide, with many hunters not condoning the practice.
In fact, American hunter Rick Swazey works with the Blood Lions team to help expose the industry in the documentary.
3. Captive breeding serves no conservation value
The vast majority of lions bred in captivity are not bred for conservation and most of these animals cannot be released into the wild.
“There has not been a successful lion reintroduction programme using captive bred and reared lions into any free-ranging park or reserve in South Africa. Lion conservationists warn that captive bred lions are not suitable for reintroduction programmes,” the Blood Lions team explained on their site.
“Not a single recognized lion ecologist or conservation agency is involved with any of South Africa’s lion facilities as they serve no conservation value whatsoever ,” Michler said.
Furthermore, wild lions are used for breeding with the aim of conservation. This is because they’re genetically stronger than captive lions, which are often inbred.
4. How to determine a true sanctuary
Blood Lions is not trying to stop people from viewing wildlife, but rather it aims to lift the lid on unethical practices and fallacies.
With that in mind, there are real sanctuaries in South Africa for lions.
These sanctuaries offer a life-long home to the animals and do not trade lions, so they are not sold off when they reach a certain age.
True sanctuaries also do not offer interaction with or petting of the animals, according to the Blood Lions team.
The problem with cub petting is that the cubs are taken away from their mothers within a few days of being born – when in the wild they stay with their mothers for up to almost two years.
When these cubs become habituated to humans, there is no way to release them back into the wild.
When these cubs become too large to safely interact with tourists, they are often sold to private farms. Their habituation to humans is then often exploited for canned hunting, as the animal will not run away when the hunter approaches.
5. How you can help
The Blood Lions team recommends not visiting any lion parks which allow interaction, petting or the trade of lions.

You can also express your opinions to any tourism, hunting or government body. Go to the Blood Lions campaign page to see who you can contact in this regard.

You can also watch the documentary to learn much more. However, it is not available on DVD yet. Screenings of the film are announced on the documentary’s Twitter and Facebook pages.