The 84 minute documentary, Blood Lions, focussing on the multi-million dollar canned lion hunting industry in South Africa, is causing an uproar worldwide.
Blood Lion’s message was instrumental in leading to the Australian government announcing a ban on the importation of all African lion trophies into Australia. Last month the US Fish and Wildlife Services announced new curbs on the lion hunting trophies into America. And now the Professional Hunters Association of SA (PHAS A) has formally announced that it would expel any members involved in captive lion hunting.
Since the first screening at the Durban International Film Festival in July last year, dozens of screenings followed in South Africa as well as internationally, including the Australian and EU parliament, and this year it will be shown at a couple of American Film Festivals.
The Hermanus Times caught up with one of the producers Pippa Hankinson who was in Hermanus recently. Originally from Malawi she grew up in Swaziland and “a passion for environmental issues is a part of me. I was in tourism for 20 years and served as a trustee with various conservation organizations.”
The seed for the documentary was planted after Hankinson visited a lion breeding facility in the Free State four years ago. She came away with more questions than answers and says she couldn’t believe what she was seeing.
She quotes Martin Luther King when asked what drove her to make the film: “I just had to – in a nutshell, Martin Luther King, Jr best sums it up for me: ‘Our lives begin to end the day we remain silent about things that matter’.
Blood Lions is a call to action which follows Ian Michler, a South African conservationist and safari operator, onto the breeding farms to witness the results of battery-farmed lions. It shows highly profitable commercialization of lions – cub petting, volunteer recruitment, lion walking, hunting and the new lion bone trade.
Hankinson explains: “The carcasses of adult lionesses are shipped to Asia as supplements for ‘tiger-bone wine’ (said to help combat rheumatism and arthritis) and ‘tiger-bone cakes” (believed to boost virility). Because tiger numbers are on the decrease lion-bone is the new substitute ingredient. One carcass can fetch as much as R25 000.”
The documentary, in parallel, follows Rick Swazey, an American hunter, who buys a lioness online, and sets out to come to South Africa to shoot it.
The documentary tells the story of how lion breeding, canned trophy hunting and increasingly lion bone trade are intertwined.
“In South Africa there are between 6 000 and 8 000 predators in captivity, most of them lions. Last year alone over 1 000 captive, hand-reared lions were shot in SA, mostly by international hunters. There are around 2500 to 3000 lions roaming in the wild.”
For Hankinson it is about the hope that the film will be the voice for the voiceless, “that it will raise global awareness and encourage all of us who view it to take a good look at our relationships with each other, and our treatment of and responsibility towards these magnificent creatures – indeed all animals – not only for us, but for our children’s children.
“Our wildlife is our heritage and I believe we are all accountable.”
The screening, followed by a Q&A session with Ian Michler and Pippa Hankinson, is at 18:30. Tickets: R8Opp. To book, please call 083 390 5555.