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Zoonotic disease: Study warns about cuddling, keeping and slaughtering farmed lions

This is an excerpt from an article written by Louise de Waal and published online by Daily Maverick on 30 September, 2020.

Wild lions can kill you, but farmed lions pose a far greater threat in terms of more than 80 zoonotic diseases that could be passed on to humans.

A joint scientific study by Blood Lions and World Animal Protection has identified 63 pathogens (including bacteria, parasites and viruses) that affect both wild and captive lions. Some of these can be passed from lions to other animals and humans. 

The study listed 83 diseases and clinical symptoms associated with these pathogens, highlighting the potential harm they can cause to the health of both animals and people. It warns that this poses a potential health risk to thousands of local and international tourists as well as farm workers and their families. 

In South Africa, more than 8,000 lions are bred and kept on commercial farms for tourism, hunting and the bone trade. 

The researchers reviewed almost 150 scientific studies on lion-linked diseases. “Wildlife farms can be a hotbed for these diseases,” according to the study, “especially when poor hygiene, poor diet and other stresses associated with captivity weaken wild animals’ immune systems. These can spread rapidly when large numbers – and sometimes even different species – of wild animals are kept in the same enclosures, as this increases the risk of transmission.”

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