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The Scourge of Canned Hunting

Posted onCategoriesethics, hunting, legislation

In the last three decades South Africa has created a booming industry based on its wild animals. When this all began SA had the best intentions in the world – to conserve, protect and increase dwindling wildlife populations and promote eco-tourism. However, the wildlife industry grew rapidly and the good intent on which it was initially based – that is, to breed and supply excess wild animals to protected and conservation areas and eco tourism ventures – began to tip in favour of commercial trade as wild animals became profitably valuable and were supplied to a growing hunting industry. Over the past three decades more and more people have become involved in the wild animal business and this resulted in a huge gap being wedged between the eco tourism and hunting industries, with the latter becoming entrenched in unethical and inhumane conduct. Wild animals increasingly became commodities to be captured, transported, sold, hunted or exported.

It has since become more and more evident that the South African game industry is spiralling out of control. Hundreds of thousands of wild animals are being captured and sold for one reason or another every year and the industry has proved to be growing at an average annual rate of 5.6% since 1993. It is currently one of the fastest expanding sectors in the South African economy.

The Role of Money

To date more than $1.5 billion has been invested by private landowners in game farms, with the breeding of valuable species and hunting ranches occupying over 11 million hectares. A range of specialist services including insurance brokering, game capture units, auctioneers, specialist game breeders, agricultural and veterinary support services, wildlife consultants and helicopter services have been established to support this booming industry. It is estimated that together these services generate a turnover that annually exceeds $100-million.

Although the lure of financial gain is the prevailing incentive, this industry has gained support for its activities under the banner of sustainable utilisation regardless of how unethical and inhumane some practices have become (i.e. the hunting of captive bred lions and other species in enclosed small areas from where there is no escaping) and the industry’s ways are widely accepted and supported by the South African government. Unfortunately the dark side of this industry has begun to undermine South Africa’s credible standing as a principal country that concerns itself with the conservation of wildlife in the African continent.

As dismal as this reality is there is hope to end this horrific sport and it is with much thanks to a few dedicated individuals who tirelessly continue to fight against the government and the canned lion industry that was the inspiration for this second expose into this sordid, blood-thirsty dominion. These few people are doing amazing work to raise awareness to trophy hunting and the canned lion industry in order to save our majestic lions and other large game from this commercial bloodbath industry of hunters and breeders.

Gareth Patterson wrote: ‘For me and many of the people who contact me to offer their support, killing innocent animals for self-gratification is no different from killing innocent people for self-gratification. By extension then, trophy hunting -the repeated killing of wild animals – should surely be viewed as serial killing. Like the serial killer, the trophy hunter plans his killing with considerable care and deliberation. Like the serial killer he decides well in advance the ‘type’ of victim – that is, which species he intends to target. Also like the serial killer, the trophy hunter plans with great care where and how the killing will take place-in what area, with what weapon. What the serial killer and trophy hunter also share is a compulsion to collect ‘trophies’ or ‘souvenir’s of their killings. The serial killer retains certain body parts and/or other ‘trophies’ – ” …for much the same reason as the big game hunter mounts the head and antlers taken from his prey – as trophies of the chase.

Toothless Regulation

Chris Mercer, the founder of the Campaign Aginst Canned Hunting, explains:

“Canned hunting is where the target animal is unfairly prevented from escaping the hunter, either by physical constraints (fencing) or by mental constraints (habituation to humans such as being bottle-fed and hand-reared. By this definition, all trophy hunting and almost all sport hunting in South Africa is ‘canned’ to a greater or lesser extent”. According to Chris this is the reason for there being no definition included in the new Regulations – it is impossible to formulate a definition which addresses public concerns while at the same time cautiously avoiding the adverse impact this could have on the hunting industry, so a consistent definition has tactfully been averted. The Minister’s widely-publicised claim to have ‘banned canned hunting’ is therefore unfounded since no one is clear about what he is implying.

According to Chris Mercer if one carefully analyses the new regulations it reveals that canned hunting has not been banned at all – on the contrary, it has been legalised. The next step inevitably leads to the granting of self-regulations for the hunting industry. How does this apply in practice? Basically the hunting industry will comply with policies which will be monitored by the provincial conservation officials (the same people who have demonstrated their incompetence in the past of properly monitoring their ‘associates’ in the hunting industry). Compliance with superficial ethical standards of hunting has been shrugged off by an irresponsible government and ‘passed over’ to the very people who have caused irreparable harm to the animals, and who have shown that they are incapable of regulating themselves; namely the hunting clubs. These ‘hunting ethics’ (an oxymoron) originate with powerful international hunting role-players like Safari Club International (SCI), based in Reno, Nevada.

Chris further states that the majority of the world’s population is blissfully unaware of the large scale of slaughter, abuse and gross mistreatment of hunted animals worldwide, all of which are directly linked to the SCI. Every year SCI hands out prizes to the hunters who have shot the most animals during that year, along with a whole pageant of other rewards. For example, special prizes are awarded to hunters who have killed the most endangered species. Mr Mercer goes on to say that most people may regard these hunters associated with such an organisation as environmental terrorists rather than environmental conservationists.

In Chris Mercer’s opinion the new regulations effectively sacrifices SA wildlife to the mercy of an environmental terrorist-like organisation. As Hector Magome, spokesman for SANParks, said: “The protectionist mentality is irrelevant today – wildlife must be used to reduce human poverty otherwise we will lose our parks”. He is also skeptical of the ‘protection’ these regulations offer the animals and how it will be monitored and enforced is this retired advocate’s utmost concern since hunting takes place on private properties, out of sight of independent observers.

Canned hunting in the media

The Cook report revealed to a shocked audience the sinister world of canned lion hunting. Graphic images showed a mother lioness that was separated from her three cubs by an electric fence; she was the trophy hunt. In cold-blooded fashion the hunter took aim and fired his first shot. The impact of the bullet was so powerful that the lioness was lifted off the ground and thrown a few feet back. She did not die with this first bullet but instead tried to drag herself toward her three frantic and terrified cubs. The hunter took aim again and fired a second fatal shot. The impact threw her a few feet back again and this time the lioness died an agonizing death – in full view of her three bewildered cubs. This emotional and horrific scene caused such a furor of outrage and condemnation that South Africa was thrown into the media spotlight and was subjected to international scorn and scrutiny and the South African Embassy in London was inundated with phone calls and threats to act on such atrocities. Due to the immense pressure from the international world, but reluctant to lose income from foreign hunters, the SA government has since adopted a policy of condemning canned hunting in public and declared a suspension on this sport, but secretly allows it to continue unchecked in private.

Sadly, even after such a horrific expose this sport has never been completely banned in South Africa and it secretly continues to gain popularity amongst international trophy hunters; canned hunting is therefore alive and thriving in present day, no thanks to a government that is fully supportive of this lucrative industry.

In South Africa substantial profit is the only gain the canned lion industry presents and this is its justification for continuing one of the most cruel and unfair blood-sports that continues to exist. If one looks at the ‘benefits’ associated with this industry it is not hard to see why it is being backed by an unscrupulous government and is presently thriving. International hunters are determined to return to their respective countries with a bona fide African ‘trophy’ from this continent and are prepared to pay hundreds of thousands in (South) African currency to shoot and kill a rare, exotic species. For the amount of money these hunters are prepared to pay moral ethics, principles and values fall on the wayside for the poverty ridden countries on the African continent – home to most of the world’s endangered species.

Hunting is Conservation?

The hunting industry’s argument about protecting our wildlife is therefore inconsistent. Hunters also claim that they only shoot animals who are surplus or excessive to the carrying capacity of the land, or who are old or injured. They claim that their killing is done for humane and practical reasons, and that an untimely death by bullet or arrow is preferable to death from natural causes. Hunters are intolerant of anyone who invokes doubt about their so-called “ethics” or who dares to criticise or condemn their violent pastime. Anyone opposing the hunting/killing of innocent animals by hunters is vindictively labelled a “bunny-hugger”, “unrealistic”, “impractical”, “emotional”, “ignorant”, “humaniac”, or even a “terrorist” if one happens to be an animal rightist or animalist.

However, hunters cannot argue with science. Scientific facts presented after extensive investigations in 2004 further rebuff hunters claims. Research carried out by the Oxford University Wildlife Conservation Unit in Zimbabwe in 2004 revealed that the sport hunting of lions is having a potentially irrevocable effect on the region’s lion population. Research carried out in the Hwange National Park region (located in Zimbabwe) acknowledged the growing popularity of trophy hunting but cautioned that the socio-ecology of lions allows this big cat to be susceptible to severe exploitation by trophy hunters. The research revealed that since large trophy males are particularly sought after by sport hunters, commercial hunting is a selective entitlement with an irreversible impact on social behavior and demographics. In the wild the mature male lions compete for groups of females, with the fittest males dominating and passing on their genes.

Should disproportionate cropping of these mature males continue to occur the consequence would be that younger less experienced males, or males that would not normally have access to females, may have the power to take over a pride. Research also indicated that without natural selection taking place a situation may occur where sub-optimal genes are integrated into the population. Even though lion populations are able to recover swiftly from a one-off sub-optimal harvest, continuous removal of extreme numbers of dominant males are likely to affect lion ecology and social behavior and threaten the continued existence of these lion populations.

Furthermore, hunters settle for nothing but the finest, fittest and strongest specimens to kill. This is in direct contradiction to the role of the natural predators that hunt the old, disabled and unwary and in so doing preserve the healthy, strong genes of the respective predator populations. The unrelenting and unnatural killings by human hunters who only want the best specimens of any animal population or species will undoubtedly lead to hampering of the gene pool and can accelerate the rate at which a population or species becomes endangered or even extinct. No natural predator would behave in this manner unless in very unnatural and exceptional circumstances. Natural and balanced predator/prey relationships ultimately lead to healthy populations of both the prey and the predator species.

Although it was acknowledged by researchers that trophy hunters bring in revenue to the region they also pointed out that substantial revenue can be generated by adopting ‘alternative uses of wildlife’ including photographic tourism. Africa’s amazing and exotic species wildlife are after all more valuable alive than dead. Researchers concluded that alternative activities were found to contribute substantially to the economy and would be able to retain the benefit of sustainability. Although the survey carried out was focused on the Hwange region of Zimbabwe research indicated that these findings can be applied to other geographical and socio-economic regions which are similar in South Africa.

There are over nine thousand game farms in South Africa. Most of these are hunting farms. Over a million animals are killed for senseless, mindless pleasure every year by sport hunters. With regard to the trophy hunting industry, large numbers of targeted animals die – unfortunately their deaths are most often not instantaneous but slow, torturous and painful because cold-blooded trophy hunters do not want to break the skin on the head. A single shot or arrow to the heart is exceptional and rare; and naturally it is always the finest specimens that are targeted and hunted down. It is never the aged and infirm animals, as these hunters and breeders blubbering “sustainable use” would lead people to believe.

In the Kruger Park majority of the hunting takes place in the large conservancies which adjoin the western border, as well as where park fences have been dropped by SanParks officials to facilitate the hunting of Kruger Park animals. SanParks rangers are themselves allowed to hunt Kruger Park animals for their own consumption. This privilege is actually written into their employment contracts, shocking as it may sound.

Cub petting

Ethical tourists with good intentions and a genuine interest in conservation and environmental issues should be wary of resorts which allow cub petting. Cub petting often profits the canned hunting industry. Breeders rent out cubs to tourist facilities until such time the cubs become too big; when these lions are returned to the breeders they are grown out in captivity and thereafter hunted. There are dozens of sites devoted to hunting but this documentary will not expose the ones already openly advertising their hunting activities. The reveal is primarily aimed at alerting tourists to those resorts which purport to be ethical eco-tourist facilities yet contribute to the canned hunting industry, directly or indirectly; eg. the Rent-a-Cub business.

Since there are too many cub petting establishments in operation in South Africa, we will attempt to unearth as many of these unscrupulous farms as possible to inform and educate the unsuspecting public. At these institutions where lion cubs are used as petting objects it is more than likely that these same cubs will be trophy hunted as young adults.

Some of the farms listed do allow hunting, but not necessarily lion hunting and/or cub petting. So we plan on paying surprise visits to some of these shady establishments that openly advertise cub petting. If we are met with resistance and aggression by an establishment then we will most probably have stumbled upon one of the unscrupulous farms fronting as conservation establishments.

The purpose of this expose is to primarily encourage tourists and volunteers to direct tourism dollars to wildlife destinations where animals are genuinely cherished and protected from sport hunters. Many tourism resorts conceal their hunting activities to attract eco-tourists. This documentary will assist tourists in making an ethical decision when they choose a resort.

Listed below are tourist resorts where hunting (not necessarily lion hunting) or cub-petting takes place.

LETABA – LIMPOPO

MANYELETI – LIMPOPO

ANDOVER – LIMPOPO

MKHUZI – KWAZULU-NATAL – HUNTING

APNR (TIMBAVATI, KLASERIE, UMBABAT)- LIMPOPO/MPUMALANGA – HUNTING

SANDHURST SAFARIS – N.W. PROVINCE – LION BREEDING – HUNTING/BOW HUNTING

LEEUWENKUIL GAME RANCH – LIMPOPO – HUNTING

INGULULE – N.W. PROVINCE – HUNTING

BALELE MOUNTAIN LODGE – VOLKSRUS – HUNTING

BOULDERS GAME RANCH – HOEDSPRUIT -HUNTING

KUILFONTEIN STABLE COTTAGES (www.kuilfontein.co.za)- HUNTING

BOKPOST GUEST FARM – HUNTING

ZEBULA COUNTRY CLUB & SPA – LION AND TIGER CUB PETTING

SHAKAWA SAFARIS – HUNTING

SERAPA SAFARIS -CANNED HUNTING

KABRA SAFARIS – HUNTING

KAWANTU GAME RESERVE – CUB PETTING

TAU ROARA LODGE – CUB PETTING

RHINO AND LION NATURE RESERVE – GAUTENG – CUB PETTING

SUNDOWN LION PARK – CUB PETTING

SHAKAWA LODGE LIMPOPO – IN ASSOCIATION WITH ASKARI AFRICAN HUNTING SAFARIS

INKWENKWEZI – EASTERN CAPE – LION BREEDING – CUB PETTING

***SEAVIEW GAME AND LION PARK – DEFINITLEY MUST BE INVESTIGATED***.

KAROO GARIEP CONSERVANCY – HUNTING

AFRICAN SKY – EASTERN CAPE & GAUTENG – HUNTING

THE FARM INN – GAUTENG – CUB PETTING – LION BREEDING

SANYATI NATURE FARM – LOUWSBURG – This resort is a hunting farm but since it openly advertises its hunting activities on its website and CACH has agreed, at the request of the owner Mr Kobus Erasmus, to remove this from the list and to publish this explanation. “This facility does not hunt lions; the website advertises the hunting of ” vervet monkey, blue wildebeest, red hartebeest, common duiker, impala, bush buck, kudu, nyala, bush pig, warthog, common reedbuck and zebra.”    Source – CACH website

Cub Petting Facilities in South Africa (lions, tigers & cheetah):

Lory Park Zoo – http://www.lorypark.co.za/home.php

The Lion Park – http://www.lion-park.com/home2.htm

Sundown Lion Ranch – http://www.sundownlionpark.com/

Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve – http://www.rhinolion.co.za/newsite/default.asp

Seaview Lion Park – http://www.seaviewgamepark.co.za/

Zebula Country Club & Spa – http://www.zebula.co.za/

Boskoppie – http://www.boskoppie.co.za/

Kwantu Game Reserve – http://www.kwantu.co.za/

Tau Roara Lodge – http://www.tauroaralodge.com/

Inkwenkwezi – http://www.inkwenkwezi.com/

The Farm Inn – http://www.farminn.co.za/

Addo Lion & Croc Park – http://www.savealion.co.za/

Cheetah Outreach – http://www.cheetah.co.za/

Cango Wildlife Ranch – http://www.cango.co.za/

Horseback Africa – http://www.walking-with-lions.za.net/

Letsatsi-la-africa – http://www.letsatsi-la-africa.co.za/

Glen Africa – http://www.glenafric.co.za/

Paws4Life Africa – http://paws4lifeafrica.com/

Aqulia Game Reserve – http://www.aquilasafari.com/

De Wildt – http://www.dewildt.org.za/outreacheducation.htm

Tenikwa – http://www.tenikwa.co.za/

Bloemfontein Zoo – http://www.friends4zoo.org.za/TouchaCheetah.htm

Fiela Funds – http://www.cheetahexperience.com/

Predator World – http://www.predatorworld.co.za/

Hartebeespoort Dam Zoo – http://www.hartbeespoortdam.com/snake&animalpark/

Daniell Cheetah Breeding Centre – http://www.greateraddo.com/dcb/dcb.html

Ukutula – http://www.ukutula.com/home.php

The Lion Park ( East London ) – http://www.lionsatwork.com/lion_park.htm

Shingalana Game Farm –  http://www.shingalana.co.za/index.html

Moratuwa Game and Holiday Farm –

http://www.news24.com/News24/South_Africa/News/0,,2-7-1442_2135815,00.html

Leshoka Thabang Game Lodge – http://www.poelano.co.za/leshoka.htm

Jukani Predator Park – http://www.jukani.co.za/

Lion’s Gate – http://www.gracelandlodge.co.za/LionIndex.htm

Kapama Game Lodge – http://www.kapama.co.za/_en/default.html

Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre – http://www.wildlifecentre.co.za/

Moreson Ranch – http://www.moresonranch.co.za/index.html

Protea Hotel – The Ranch – http://www.theranch.co.za/index.html

Protea Hotel Cristiana –

http://www.proteahotels.com/protea-hotel-christiana.html

Oldenburg Lodge – http://www.oldenburglodge.com/lion%20visits.html

Siesta Guest House – http://www.ioltravel.co.za/article/view/4753480

Amanzi Game Reserve – http://www.bedstop.co.za/guesthouse.php?city=79&sid=699

Tshukudu Game Lodge – http://www.tshukudulodge.co.za/englishindex.htm

Mahala View Lodge – http://www.sleeping-out.co.za/member_details-MemberID-13335.html

Abo Shamani – http://aboshamani.net

With nineteen years of experience as a specialist guide and photo-journalist operating throughout Southern and East Africa, Ian Michler is well known and highly respected in the wildlife industry. Apart from being a photo-journalist and safari guide, Ian has also worked as a researcher and field coordinator on various natural history television documentaries for international broadcasters and annually contributes to tutoring a short course on eco-tourism and conservation at the University of Cape Town. In addition, he consults and does radio and television work, and does public presentations on topics related to his photojournalism. In 2005 he completed an in-depth report on canned hunting and the captive breeding of large predators for IFAW. He was also involved in the production of the film Blood Lions.

Ian’s findings in 2005:

1) Canned hunting is a component of trophy hunting and ultimately, that’s where the main efforts should be targeted – at questioning the conservation credentials and wildlife management contribution of trophy hunting – these can be made on both scientific and philosophical grounds. IUCN, WWF and the likes must be challenged on this.

2) Government and the professional hunters associations are ultimately to blame as they have allowed the industry to flourish – hunting industry must be made accountable for what is taking place.

3) The breeding programmes of wild animals are behind the canned hunting industry – will discuss what takes places on these farms – everything is in contravention of all recognized conservation principles, esp the CBD.

4) The domestication process that is taking place, which undermines the very basis on which trophy hunting is supposed to take place; that, big brave hunter comes to shoot dangerous and wild animals. We are in fact in the process of domesticating our wildlife and that has major implications.

The Current Status and the Future

With increasing pressure over the past few years from local animal rights groups an amendment of the regulations was made in December 2008 leading many people to naively believe that the South African government is attempting to close down the canned lion hunting business. This cannot be further from the truth. The December 2008 amendment to the new regulations surprisingly excludes lions from the list of protected predators. This blatantly spells out that lions shall continue to be canned hunted with the SA government’s 100% approval. In effect this allows the canned lion hunting industry carte blanche. In 2007, after the circulation of the new TOPS (Threatened or Protected Species) regulations, close to 1000 lions were canned hunted in the North-West province alone.)

One on the amendments added to the regulations was the two-year wilding rule and lion breeders are challenging the validity of this new regulation. Basically this is a convenient smoke-screen by the government because, as a result of this government regulation, the hunting industry is attempting to persuade a susceptible public that a lion which is kept in a camp for two years with readily available prey (goats, donkeys and horses) to hunt can no longer be considered tame and therefore hunting this lion can no longer be termed ‘canned’ hunting. This illogical and unintelligible reasoning by the hunting industry is ridiculous and insults the intelligence of its public. What the hunting industry attempted to do is manipulate the unsuspecting public into believing that if a lion can hunt its own food it is considered a wild animal and as such cannot be termed a canned lion; therefore this industry cannot be accused of carrying out a canned lion hunt on these predators.

More incriminating evidence continues to pile against the government. The government received a national petition with over 23000 signatures from South Africans who regard this sport as appalling and a national disgrace, as well as an online petition signed by thousands of potential international tourists who, in no uncertain terms, declared that they will never tour a country that institutionalizes cruelty to wild animals. Yet the SA government continues to steadfastly support this lucrative hunting industry. Why is that? Could it be the billions in revenue that comes into the country as a result of this booming hunt-to-kill industry?

In Africa, lions are present in a number of large and well-managed protected areas, and remain one of the most popular animals on the must-see lists of tourists and visitors to Africa. Most range states in East and Southern Africa have an infrastructure which supports wildlife tourism, and in this way lions generate significant cash revenue for park management and local communities and provide a strong incentive for wildland conservation.

Regional conservation strategies have been developed for lions in west and central Africa (IUCN 2006a) and eastern and southern Africa (IUCN 2006b). The West and Central African Lion Conservation Strategy focuses on three primary objectives to address threats that directly impact lions: to reduce lion-human conflict, and to conserve and increase lion habitat and wild prey base. The objectives of the Eastern and Southern African Lion Conservation Strategy are articulated around the root issues in lion conservation, including policy and land use, socio-economics, trade, and conservation politics. For example, the policy and land use objective is “to develop and implement harmonious and comprehensive legal and institutional frameworks that provide for the expansion of wildlife-integrated land use, lion conservation and associated socio-economic benefits in current and potential lion range.” The trade objective is “to prevent illegal trade in lions and lion products while promoting and safeguarding sustainable legal trade.” Both regional strategies share common priorities of conserving and restoring lion populations, improving management capacity, and increasing the flow of benefits to communities living with lions. These strategies should be used by governments to guide national lion action plans, policies and programs, and by the conservation community to guide their project development. By setting out common priorities to guide action on both national, community and landscape levels, the regional conservation strategies have the potential for broad and significant improvement of lion status and management.


 

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