Rescuers send lion to canned hunt supplier

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2006:

BUCHAREST, CAPE TOWN–Romania is not
usually regarded as a lion-exporting nation,
South Africa is rarely if ever thought of as a
lion importer, and the animal advocacy groups
Born Free Foundation and Vier Pfoten are unlikely
canned hunt suppliers, but recent lion rescues
have taken some very strange twists.
First, in mid-2004 a young African lion
named Lutu was “found starving to death in a
squalid cage in Romania,” according to Mark
Townsend of the London Observer. Actress Amanda
Holden raised $250,000 to enable the Born Free
Foundation to send Lutu to the Shamwari private
wildlife viewing reserve in South Africa.
Instead, in August 2004, days before Lutu was
to be moved, he disappeared.
“All that is currently undisputed
regarding the fate of Lutu,” Townsend wrote two
months later, “is that his owner broke an
agreement with the Born Free Foundation by
selling Lutu to a mystery buyer for an unknown
sum.”

Lutu is still missing, suspected dead at the
hands of a European trophy hunter. The Born Free
Foundation eventually bought a four-year-old
lionness named Achee from a Bucharest used car
dealer and sent Achee to Shamwari instead.
As notice of the Lutu case subsided, the
Romanian radio station Radio Total bought a lion
cub from a zoo, hoping to release her into wild
habitat.
“To find Frida the right place,”
recounts CannedLion.com founder Chris Mercer, of
Cape Town, South Africa, “they got in touch with
Vier Pfoten, who assured them that it had done
this before, and could make all the arrangements.
“On December 5, 2005, Frida was flown
to the Camorhi Game Lodge in Free State province.
The considerable expenses were born by Radio
Total and Bogdan Popescu. Imagine the shock and
horror of Mr. Popescu when he found out via the
Internet that his cub was not going back to the
wild, but had been delivered to the benefit,
ultimately, of canned lion hunting. Frida had
not been spayed. She is now a perfect candidate
for captive breeding.”
Now campaigning to have Frida relocated
to the well-regarded Drakenstein Lion Park in
Cape Town, Mercer has clashed with Camorhi Game
Lodge owner Marius Prinsloo several times before.
Mercer wrote in a 2003 court filing that
Enkosini Wildlife Sanctuary cofounders Greg
Mitchell and Kelsey Grimm, “from March 2000
until September 2001, ran the Camorhi Game Lodge
ecotourism businessÅ They saw tame lions sold for
canned hunts, cubs ripped away at birth from
their mothers, and lionesses forced into estrus
for ‘speed breeding.’
“The Johannesburg Zoo brought two High
Court cases against Prinsloo,” Mercer said. The
cases were based on information from Mitchell and
Grimm that Prinsloo had falsely reported the
death of a lion named Zeus, sent to him on a
breeding loan.
“With the help of Mitchell in identifying
the lions, the zoo removed four of Zeus’
offspring in February 2002,” Mercer related.
“The removal was no easy task, as the Prinsloo
contingency bolted the gates to the lion
enclosures, fired gunshots to stress the
animals, and assaulted the zoo veterinarians.”
Mitchell also gave evidence against
Prins-loo in a case alleging that he and
associate Ken Heuer “organized for wild cheetahs
to be captured in Namibia and flown into South
Africa,” Mercer said.
“Last year, an estimated 6,700 South
African tourists killed nearly 54,000 animals,”
Clare Hullis of Associated Press reported in
October 2005. “The TRAFFIC wildlife trade
monitoring network said 190 lions were hunted,
worth an estimated $3.3 million–or $17,500
each. Nearly 5,500 kudus, valued at $5.3
million, also were killed, along with 45
leopards worth an estimated $250,000. The list
of slain animals included baboons, giraffes,
elephants, hippos, mongooses, porcupines,
warthogs and zebras. Prices ranged from $25 for
the humble pigeon or quail to $25,000 for the
mighty white rhinoceros.”
“This is something that no civilized
country can continue to tolerate,” South African
environment minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk said.
In April 2005 van Schalkwyk appointed an
expert panel to review canned hunts and other
hunting-related issues. In October 2005 the
panel recommended a complete ban on canned hunts;
hunting in national parks or provincial reserves;
hunting on any properties where captive-bred
animals are kept; the use of dogs, traps,
snares, bait, lights or luring sounds; and
so-called ‘green’ hunting, in which the animals
are felled with tranquilizer darts. for photo
sessions, then released to be hunted again.
Van Schalkwyk promised that legislation
would follow, but it has not yet been introduced.

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