The majority of the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (Phasa) members have voted to distance the association from captive-bred lion hunting until such time as the South African Predators Association (SAPA) could prove the conservation value of this practice to both Phasa and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The lion-hunting industry caught global attention after Walter Palmer shot Cecil, a rare black-maned, collared lion in Zimbabwe. The documentary Blood Lions also showed audiences how lions live in terrible conditions and are abused.

The South African Predator Breeding Association (SAPBA) contacted Prof Melville Saayman and his team at Tourism Research in Economic Environs and Society at North-West University to investigate the value of the lion industry in South Africa.

This study, which will focus mainly on the main breeding areas of North West and the Free State, will also determine how many lions are part of the industry, as numbers vary between 4 000 and 6 000.

Saayman said South Africa’s lion population was far from showing problems but that more could be done to distribute the lions effectively and also to utilise them better. “We will also determine what must be done with the surplus of lions, because it has to be determined what the best will be for the market.”

He also praised SAPBA’s commitment to improving the industry and striving for a better future for lions in the country. “Cecil hurt the industry a lot. Blood Lions hurt the industry. The initiation of this study shows that the industry is serious about erasing the bad patches, and that will be to the benefit of the whole industry.”