South Africa bans captive lion hunting but lets wild lions be killed

Captive lion hunting was banned for economic reasons as it will help reposition South Africa’s image for tourism. Wild lion hunting is still allowed.

South Africa decided to ban the hunting of captive-bred lions. The Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy, released the report of a panel of experts with different interests reviewing the practices on elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros management.

The 582-page-long report provided 18 goals, 60 recommendations including stopping the hunting of captive lions, which was later adopted by the Government. It was one of the two recommendations that were not unanimously shared between the panel members.

The ban includes both canned and put-and-take hunting of captive-bred lions. The former is a hunt of the animal in a confined area, the latter is when the lion is released in the wild, although it is not fit for a non-captive life, and will anyway be killed shortly after.

If NGOs were satisfied by the recommendation, they still had to concede compromises to economic interests.

Lion South Africa
Trophy hunting of lions in South Africa will be banned for captive animals but not for wild ones

The economic value is not worth damaging South Africa’s image

Wildlife conservation in South Africa lies in the combination of state-owned lands, and private areas. And the private sector needs a business model, which mostly comes from various forms of tourism, alleviating South Africa’s government funds. And the first sentence of the report clearly states the importance of the economy in the decisions: “we need to understand the role and contribution of the wildlife sector to the national Gross Domestic Product“.

As South Africa wants to become a champion in wildlife conservation and attract tourism, removing the controversy over captive-bred lions was therefore found necessary. The main reasons for the ban were that “captive lion breeding industry did not contribute to conservation and was doing damage to South Africa’s conservation and tourism reputation“.

In fact, the ban is mostly because hunting captive lions is controversial and damages South Africa’s brand. “The hunting of captive-bred lions might have done irreparable damage to the reputation of South Africa, especially considering the negative global publicity, let alone the image of the hunting industry generally.

Wild lion hunting still authorized

And as the report further explains, the economic value is minimal and “undermines South Africa’s tourism brand value“. Captive lion breeding, and especially the ones raised for hunting, is not “the image South Africa wants for the National Brand. The financial revenue from captive lion breeding for hunting is not worth compromising our National Brand reputation and position as a unique wildlife destination.

However, wildlife hunting is still permitted. As such, instead of slaughtering animals bred for tourism – 8-10,000 lions live in ranches – hunters will directly hunt the 2,000 wild lions in South Africa. The report mentions hunting captive lions was not detrimental to the wildlife populations. However, the consequences on wildlife conservation of such a ban were not apprehended.

The goal of the ban is to help reposition South Africa’s reputation as an “even more competitive destination of choice for ecotourism and responsible hunting“.

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