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World Wildlife Day: Why lion cubs should not be part of the ‘petting zoo’

This is an excerpt from an article written by Dr Louise de Waal of Blood Lions and published online by The South African on 03 March, 2020

On World Wildlife Day, Blood Lions campaign manager Dr Louise de Waal reflects on why we feel this urge to engage in the unnatural… and pet a lion?

This is a question I have asked myself many times. Petting a predator is incongruous and unnatural, so why this obsession with petting wild animals in captivity? Why do we believe it is acceptable to put our own needs well above the animal’s requirements? Is it for that “like”-boosting selfie on social media? Does it make us look macho? Does it boost our ego? Is it for the thrill of adventure?

Over the last couple of decades, we have seen a significant shift in public awareness in the recognition that animals are sentient beings with the capacity to feel both physical and mental pain.

People are becoming more cognisant of animal welfare, and awareness campaigns, such as Blood Lions, aim to educate the public on the exploitation and abuse involved with the captive breeding and keeping of lions and other big cats. 

Captive lions: Unethical and brutal conditions

There are huge welfare concerns around taking cubs away from their mother within days after birth, which intentionally brings the females back into oestrus (become fertile) much quicker. The hand-rearing of those cubs with puppy dog formula often leads to nutritional deficiencies, diseases and even death.

Captive predators are subjected to crippling intensive breeding cycles and are kept in inappropriate, overcrowded and often unhygienic conditions.

These unethical and brutal conditions are rife in South Africa’s intensive captive predator breeding industry and its associated lucrative chain of exploitative tourism activities.

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