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Cecil the lion and Blood Lions documentary brings issue of brutality to the fore

THE SA Predator Breeding Association (Sapba) has commissioned a study to investigate the value of the lion industry.

This comes at a time when the lion- hunting industry seeks to overcome the negative backlash after American dentist Walter James Palmer shot dead Cecil, a lion in Zimbabwe, and over local documentary Blood Lions.

The recent development raised shared concern on conditions in which lions are raised and how they are brutally killed every year.

 For this reason, Sapba has approached Prof Melville Saayman and his team at Trees (Tourism Research in Economic Environs and Society) at the North West University’s Potchefstroom campus to investigate the value of the lion industry in South Africa.

 His study will focus mainly on the main breeding areas of North West and the Free State to determine the number of lions in the industry, estimated to be between 4000 and 6000.

 ln his brief, Prof Saayman said: “A ban on hunting in Zimbabwe and the accompanying loss of income for Zimbabweans means that about 2.3 million children are now deprived of the necessary aids. This means that the education sector is suffering, it means that bread is taken from their mouths. lt means that 2.3 million children are worse off and their low quality of life has deteriorated even more as a result of a bad decision by the government.

 “We can already see how poaching is increasing and we see unemployment increasing as well.

 “This is not a healthy situation,” he said. Saayman said the Blood Lions documentary brought to the fore practices that needed to be wiped out.

“Blood Lions created a bad impression of the industry and one of our challenges will be to rectify the situation. There are undesirable practices that harm the whole industry. However, this can be attributed to only a few people, but still leads to the fact that misconceptions about the industry are created.

There are one or two bad apples in the lion cage,” he said.

The study would also focus on how best lions can be evenly distributed should they become too many for their habitat.

 “We will also determine what must be done with the surplus lions, because it has to be determined what is best for the market. Some of the lions have to go back to the parks and some must be introduced to new areas to improve the gene pool. We have a healthy number of lions in the country and thanks to our breeding programmes we are not in a dangerous situation, but we will have to see what is going to happen with the surplus lions,” Saayman said.

“Surplus lions can serve an educational purpose, they can play a major role in ecotourism, like walking with lions and, as was mentioned before, they can be distributed to improve the gene pool in the country.

 “Of course we can also export lions to countries where there is a shortage of lions. This will mean that those countries will have to guarantee that they will care for the lions.

We did that in the past, but then the animals were poached,” he said The investigation is also anticipated to play a leading role in bringing back the respect it lost as a result of the Cecil and Blood Lions issues.