This is an excerpt from an article written by Dr Louise de Waal of Blood Lions and published online by Getaway on 03 March, 2020
In recent years, people have become more aware of the concerns around taking lion cubs (and those of other cats) away from their mothers within days after birth and hand rearing them for entertainment purposes.
This practice intentionally brings the females back into oestrus (become fertile) much quicker and feeding the cubs with puppy formula (as most places do) often leads to nutritional deficiencies, diseases and even death.
Captive predators are oftentimes subjected to crippling intensive breeding cycles and are kept in inappropriate, overcrowded and often unhygienic conditions, all so tourists can pet them.
South Africa’s captive lion population is now estimated to be as high as 12,000 lions with thousands of additional other big cats, including cheetahs, leopards, caracals, servals, as well as exotic species such as tigers, jaguars, pumas and even ligers (crossbreed between lion and tiger).
The links between tourism activities, such as cub petting, walking with lions, ‘canned’ hunting and the lion bone industry are well-documented. Despite what the owners of petting facilities may tell the public, a hand-reared lion habituated to humans can never be returned to the wild and will ultimately only have value in the trophy hunting industry or lion bone export trade.
This incessant and legal commoditisation of captive bred lions has led to the export of nearly 2,000 lions per year as live exports, hunting trophies or skeletons.