South Africa regulates–but does not ban–killing captive lions

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2007:
CAPE TOWN–“We are putting an end, once
and for all, to the reprehensible practice of
canned hunting,” insisted South African
environment minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk at a
February 20, 2007 press conference in Cape Town.
“South Africa has a long standing
reputation as a global leader on conservation
issues. We cannot allow our achievements to be
undermined by rogue practices such as canned lion
hunting,” van Schalkwyk continued.
Effective on June 1, 2007, van Schalwyk
said, the new regulations will prohibit “hunting
large predators and rhinoceros who are ‘put and
take’ animals–in other words, a captive-bred
animal who is released on a property for the
purpose of hunting within twenty-four months.
Hunting should be about fair chase,” van
Schalkwyk said. “Over the years that got eroded
and now we are trying to re-establish that

Added van Schalkwyk, “Hunting
thick-skinned animals and large predators with a
bow and arrow will be prohibited, and hunting
from vehicles will no longer be allowed.”
Said van Schalkwyk later, to Clare
Nullis of Associated Press, “To see people who
are half drunk on the back of a truck hunting
lions who are in fact tame animals is quite
Summarized the South African Press
Agency, “The new regulations also introduce a
uniform national system for the registration of
captive breeding operations, commercial
exhibition facilities, game farms, nurseries,
scientific institutions, sanctuaries, and
rehabilitation facilities.
“It’s a step in the right direction,”
ventured International Fund for Animal Welfare
regional director Jason Bell-Leask, to Agence
France-Presse. Other animal advocates were less
“Despite what the South African
government claims, the new regulations by no
means outlaw this egregious practice. They simply
redefine what is meant by ‘canned hunting,'”
said Humane Society International wildlife trade
program director Teresa Telecky. Telecky noted
that U.S. hunters are the most numerous patrons
of South African canned hunts. “Most of the
nearly 1,200 lion trophies exported from South
Africa from 1994 to 2005 went to the U.S.,”
Telecky said. “In 2005, 206 of the 322 lion
trophies exported were captive-bred. One hundred
twenty of those went to the U.S.”
Overall, South Africa attracts as many
as 7,000 visiting trophy hunters per year, who
spend an average of $18,000 apiece to kill
animals, according to the Professional Hunters’
Association of South Africa. About 55% of the
hunters come from the U.S. and Canada, with most
of the rest coming from Europe. Altogether, 480
lions were killed in South Africa in 2006, 444
of them bred in captivity.
Prices ranged between $6,000 and $8,000
to shoot a female, and $20,000 and $30,000 to
shoot a maned male.
“The big thing for South Africa would be
to stand up and say ‘This industry is immoral and
unethical and we are not going to allow it,'”
declared Louise Joubert of the SanWild Wildlife
Joubert “said it made little difference
whether a lion was freed for six months or two
years before being hunted,” wrote Nullis of
Associated Press, “because once it is used to
being reared and fed by people, it is hard to
break that trust. Joubert said there should be
an outright ban on intensive breeding projects,
which often remove cubs from the mother at birth,
so the lioness mates more quickly, and often
destroy female cubs, as male lions fetch a
higher trophy price.”
“The legislation makes absolutely no
provision for the protection of white lions, who
are more at risk than ever,” objected Global
White Lion Trust chief executive Linda Tucker.
“This critically endangered animal,” not
internationally recognized as even a subspecies,
“is not listed on the Schedule of Threatened and
Protected Animals of National Importance. In the
proposed clampdown on the canned hunting
industry,” Tucker predicted, “a frenzy of
hunting is sure to take place, with captive
white lions as primary targets.
“Of even graver concern,” Tucker said,
“is that no prohibition has been placed on lion
hunting reserves such as Timbavati, where the
last surviving gene pool of this critically
endangered animal is being wiped out.”
Leghold traps
A more detailed critique of van
Schalkwyk’s regulations came from retired
attorney Chris Mercer, founder of, and a frequent book reviewer for
ANIMAL PEOPLE. “After June 1, 2007,” wrote
Mercer, “you will no longer be permitted to
restrain a rhino or large predator by means of a
leghold trap. You may continue to use a leghold
trap on all other species, such as elephant,
buffalo, and hippo, as well as exotic species
such as tigers.
“But who could conceivably want to use a
leghold trap on a lion or rhino, you may ask?
How else can you hold the animal in one place so
that the bow hunters and their video
photographers can get close enough? Use a pack
of dogs? Yes, but this is now also
‘regulated.’ It is perfectly legal under the new
regulations to set a pack of dogs on any helpless
animal, from an elephant down, only now the
animal must first be wounded, however slightly.
“You may no longer, after June 1, shoot
lions in their cages, or rhinos in their boma.
If you cannot live without killing lions and
rhinos, you can turn them out into a fenced camp
which has a few springbok grazing in it, let
them grow out into huntable size for two years,
and then kill them.
“The fenced camp must fall within the
definition of ‘extensive wildlife system.’ Here
it is: ‘extensive wildlife system’ means a
system that is large enough, and suitable for the
management of self-sustaining wildlife
populations in a natural environment which
requires minimal human interventionĊ ”
“As you see, there is no minimum size
for the hunting camp,” Mercer pointed out. “And
you can supplement the feeding of the
captive-but-free-roaming animals, but only
minimally, whatever that means. The new
regulations allow you to drag a carcass around
the hunting camp, and then hide and wait at the
carcass for lions, leopards and hyena to show
up,” Mercer continued. “And you can still kill
leopards and hyena for fun by first blinding them
with a dazzling light.
“What is missing here?” Mercer finished.
“Well, just about every other living creature,
starting with buffalo, who will continue to be
used for target practice. Buffalo, hippopotamus,
eland, kudu, wildebeest, gemsbok–all kept in
fenced camps, awaiting execution.”
“Other questions remain subject to
debate,” noted Agence France-Presse, “such as
what will become of the thousands of lions who
have been raised in captivity and will not be
worth rearing for the breeders after June 1.”
“The text does not say anything about the
welfare of those animals,” observed Animal
Rights Africa spokesperson Michele Pickover.
“There is a need for a real financial
commitment,” Pickover said, “to truly create a
life for these lions post-promulgation.”
Wrote Nullis, “The South African
Predator Breeders’ Association, set up to lobby
against the regulations, has warned that
breeders may be forced to kill the estimated
3,000 to 5,000 lions they have reared, if they
are unable to offer them to foreign hunters and
can no longer afford to feed them.”
That, said Joubert. “would be a tragic
day, but if it is the only way for this country
to get a grip, so be it.”
The South African Predator Breeders’
Association threatened to litigate against the
new regulations–but the regulations were
endorsed by the Professional Hunters’ Association
of South Africa, whose president, Stewart
Dorrington, told Nullis that the breeders’
association represents only about 3% of the South
African hunting industry.

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