Hunters Oppose Killing Captive-Bred Lions in South Africa

  • Hunting groups under pressure to reform after death of Cecil
  • South Africa has got 7,000 to 8,000 captive-bred lions

Shooting a lion in South Africa, home to the continent’s biggest hunting industry, just got a lot more difficult.

Five months after Cecil the lion was killed by a U.S. dentist in Zimbabwe, the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa said it will expel members who are involved in killing captive-bred lions, a practice is described by critics as canned hunting.

“Phasa needed to be convinced that captive-bred lion hunting in South Africa met internationally acceptable ethical standards, resulted in direct funding for the conservation of wild lions" and helped social programs in rural areas, it said in an e-mailed statement on Monday.

While legal in many instances, canned hunting has provoked the ire of animal-rights activists who accuse practitioners of killing lions who have been hand-reared and accustomed to humans in small enclosures. Hunting groups are coming under pressure from activists to reform their practices after this year’s slaying of Cecil, a 13-year-old lion that was a popular attraction for tourists, exposed the scale of Africa’s hunting industry.

“The hunting industry has got a lot of bad press recently and it’s high time they took a stance on this issue," said Kelly Marnewick, who heads the carnivore conservation program at the Endangered Wildlife Trust. "Depending on how they define canned hunting, it will go a long way towards sorting out the problem."

South Africa has 7,000 to 8,000 captive-bred lions, many of which are used for cub-petting in zoos and later sold to hunting reserves. The law dictates that lions must not be drugged when hunted and must be released in adequately sized reserves, the size of which varies between provinces. The Campaign Against Canned Lion Hunting says these rules are regularly flouted.

Phasa said the South African Predator Association, which represents lion breeders, has failed to convince it that breeding lions helps conservation. Pieter Potgieter, chairman of the organization, disagrees.

“The lion population is declining every day” and hunting captive-bred lions helps save wild ones, he said by phone. It’s "a hugely important sub-population of lions in Africa,” he said.

After Cecil was killed, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines Inc. stopped customers from transporting big-game hunting trophies as cargo. Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Singapore Airlines Ltd. and Emirates are among international airlines that have also banned animal trophies.

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