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Lion cub petting: to ban or regulate?

The formulation of a Captive Carnivores Working Group has seen a handful of interested parties collaborate in order to plot the way forward for the controversial lion cub petting industry.

The people involved come from a diverse background of experienced conservationists; people like Petri Viljoen of African Lion Working Group of the IUCN and John Werth, CEO of PAAZA and WAZA exec committee member (Pan African Zoo Association and World Association of Zoos), CACH – The Campaign Against Canned Hunting group as well as representatives from Lion and Safaris Park.

CACH – The Campaign Against Canned Hunting, who are vehemently against any kind of commercial commoditisation of lions, particularly canned hunting and cub petting, have come on board to initiate discussions around formulating an animal welfare management plan for carnivore cubs and cub encounters which government could adopt. As there is currently no regulation in South Africa to regulate lion encounters (other than a provincial ordinance in Kwa-Zulu Natal).

The groups came together at the behest of Lion and Safari Park, who reversed a recent decision to cease all cub petting when they began to lose revenue to competitive parks where cub petting is offered (Rhino and Lion Park and Chameleon Park). During this decision-making process Lion & Safari Park approached key NGO’s and organisations to explain their decision, and invited them to discuss the subject, and assist in finding solutions to the problem.

CACH was the only NGO to take up this offer and, despite the very different histories and stand-points between the two groups, a constructive and open meeting with Lion and Safari Park took place and the two groups plan to work together in an effort to come up with proposals to government that will eventually see the elimination of cub petting, as well as it’s subsequent problems within the industry.

The first meeting was held on 21st January 2017 – and a statement of intent emanating from that meeting has already been circulated.

Apprehensions about the controversial diversity in the group are summed up perfectly by a comment made during a group meeting: “To find a solution we do not need to attack, we need to engage!”