“There are some facts which I would also like to bring to the fore that have an impact on our beautiful lions.”

WITH reference to your article, ‘Dept reviewing lion management rules’ on page 16 of the issue dated 24 July, thank you for bringing the subject of canned hunting to the public. However, there are some facts which I would also like to bring to the fore that have an impact on our beautiful lions.

As Asian traders have taken an interest in our rhino since the decline of their own tiger population, they have also taken an interest in our lions. On the Asian market, the lion bone trade can reach and exceed a value of R200 000 per skeleton. It is estimated that an average yearly figure of around 7 000 lion skeletons are sold legally to two Chinese dealers in South Africa. These bones are boiled down and bottled in Asia then hit the streets as ‘healing medicines’. So the circle of life for the lion starts as a cub.

They are normally rented out to ‘petting zoos’, where tourists can have their photo taken while petting and cuddling a cub. Hundreds of ignorant volunteers come to these ‘wildlife sanctuaries’ to help bottle-feed and raise these cubs. Then, once the lion is fully grown, it is released, only to be hunted. The rest is history.

There are around 174 captive lion breeding facilities in South Africa, where lions are bred exclusively for trophy hunting. Leopards are not being overlooked either. They are also being hunted, either as trophies or for their skins, which are either used locally or sold to the fur trade. Their numbers are also rapidly declining.

This can only stop with you, making an effort to take a stand. There are websites where you can gain more information on this subject. For further information you can visit www.cannedlion.org. There is also a new documentary that has just been released. It outlines the practice of canned lions. The documentary is called, ‘Blood Lions’.

From allowing 26 live rhino to be sold to Vietnam, to selling our lions like common farm animals, we as South Africans need to seriously think what type of example we are setting for the rest of Africa and need to take a stand against this sick and degrading trade. Is this something we can share with our foreign tourists who flock to our game reserves, hoping to spot one of the Big 5? The recent illegal hunting and shooting of Cecil the Zimbabwean lion by an American dentist has received worldwide publicity. Europe is calling for a ban on hunting trophies, meanwhile South Africa has just lifted this ban on exporting trophies – where are we going?