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OR Tambo International Airport has announced it will remove lion cub petting images from the walls of its international arrivals corridor.

These posters, promoting the petting of lions in South Africa, have been up for more than a year and, according to a statement Thursday from OR Tambo, the images were supplied by South African Tourism.

The Airport said: “We accept that conservationists now urge tourists not to participate in the petting of young wild animals, although we had not been made aware of this at the time that the images were installed.

“O.R. Tambo International Airport will remove that panel and replace it. We are happy to offer South African Tourism and BloodLion the opportunity to provide a suitable image that fits with the other images along that corridor and that demonstrates how lions in the wild should be viewed.

“O.R. Tambo International Airport will cover the costs of removing and replacing the panel.”

Captured in Africa’s Drew Abrahamson, Paul Tully and Stephanie Oels said in response: “We thank OR Tambo and SA Tourism for taking swift and responsible action. Thank you to our friends at Blood Lions and Green Girls in Africa for also highlighting this issue and helping efforts towards responsible tourism.”

Many international – and local – tourists are still unaware of the darker side of cub petting: That when these cuddly lions are no longer small and safe enough to pet or take for a walk, they are sold to private game reserves where they often become the soft target for hunters who pay to shoot them in what has become known as South Africa’s notorious “canned lion” industry… lions bred to be shot.

Captured in Africa says: “The more we educate tourists on responsible tourism and divert travellers away from such hugely irresponsible interaction facilities, the better tourism and Brand SA will be.”