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#WorldLionDay: Imagine a world without lions?!

Cape Town – Today is World Lion Day.

Admittedly, South Africa has 99 problem and then some – with the extinction of some of its most iconic species but one of them.

As the world celebrates the majestic lion, it is the most opportune time to once again remind ourselves that these animals are facing a number of conservation threats  ranging from poaching to habitat encroachment. As a result the issue of canned lion hunting and trophy hunting in general has never received as much attention as it does now.

What the past year, since the release of Blood Lions at the Durban International Film Festival in 2015  has demonstrated is that small steps can add up to make a massive difference.

The revolutionary documentary has garnered global acclaim and support from top international influencers and celebrities and will be screened on DStv on channel 121 at 21:00 on Wednesday, 10 August 22016 in honour of World Lion Day.

The documentary together with the cynical killing of Cecil the Lion on 1 July 2015  has caused international outrage at the unethical practices of South Africa’s lion breeding industry – causing the world’s largest airline Emirates to ban trophy hunting outright, while some of Africa’s largest safari and eco-tourism operators have come together to call for an end to these activities altogether.

Locally a number of alleged violations within the industry have surfaced, even causing the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa (PHASA) to condemned “rogue lion breeders for tarnishing South Africa’s wildlife image”.

If the statistics are to be believed, South Africa has some 2 000 wild lions as opposed to  its 7 000 canned lions.

So what does the future hold for the estimated 7 000 captive-bred lions, owned by farmers who now face the reality of a declining revenue stream as the US, SA’s largest market also refuses to allow the import of Lion Hunting Trophies and local organisations distance themselves from the practise.

Is the reality of animal cruelty a certain future for these lions, as the number of incidents showing the deplorable practices involved in the predator breeding and canned hunting industries grow – continuing to diminish SA’s reputation as a desirable wildlife destination?

It also raises the need for a more targeted approach to help these lions. One only needs to think of organisations such as the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary, which does not allow public interactions with its lions at all and was instrumental in assisting British charity Animal Defenders International (ADI) in rescuing 33 abused circus lions. But 7 000 appears to be an insurmountable task in comparison. Are you able to help, we’d like to hear from you?

Following an historic agreement between 28 African lion Range States, more than 180 countries are expected to debate whether to move lions from their current listing on Appendix II to Appendix I – which would prohibit the trade in lions, except under exceptional circumstances.

Whether or not the SA government will head these calls to address predator breeding and canned hunting or the endangered status of the African lion at CITES COP117 conference to be held in Johannesburg from 24 September to 5 October at the Sandton Convention Centre remains to be seen?