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Pro hunters to reconsider lion policy

In an unprecedented move, the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa (PHASA) has been told that its “position on lion hunting is no longer tenable”.

In an email sent to PHASA members on Friday, the organisation’s president, Hermann Meyeridricks, asked for a review of its policy on the matter ahead of its next annual general meeting.

He notes that PHASA has made “little demonstrable progress” in getting government and predator breeders to “clean up” the country’s lucrative but controversial captive-bred lion hunting industry and “to improve its standards and conditions to a generally acceptable level”.

More than 95% of the lions killed by trophy hunters in South Africa are not wild, but ‘produced’ specifically for the purpose. Some 6000 to 8000 lions are currently estimated to be held in captivity in between 150 and 200 breeding facilities, most of them in the North West Province and the Free State. The animals are released into relatively small camps as little as four days prior to being hunted.

While PHASA has traditionally supported the industry, a growing number of professional hunters have expressed their disapproval of its practices.

Meyeridricks’ letter comes in the wake of a stakeholder meeting called by the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Edna Molewa, to discuss the industry, and the release of a hard-hitting documentary on the issue, called Blood Lions, which premiered to a standing ovation at the Durban International Film Festival last week.

He acknowledges that opposition to the hunting of bred lions is no longer confined to “just a small if vociferous group of animal-rights activists”, but that “the tide of public opinion is turning strongly against this form of hunting” regardless of whether it is referred to as ‘captive-bred hunting’ or ‘canned hunting’.