Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Captive Raising of Lions for Trophy Hunting in South Africa

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Sustainability, Wildlife, Nature, Science & Society

Ed Hessler

"Is it Ethical to Hunt Captive Lions?" or in the print edition, "The Fate of the King" is a special report by Mark Jenkins, Smithsonian J/F 2023 on raising lions in captivity for big-game hunters which is legal in South Africa.

I make some brief points on what it includes hoping you will read it in full. I thought it a great summary of the question as well as introduction to farming practice I knew almost nothing about.

-- discussion of the economics (not pocket change nationally or for hunters)
-- a lion-breeding facility and what government permits are required
-- lion-hunting in history
-- changes in numbers and distribution of lions in Africa
-- the death of the internationally known lion Cecil by a trophy bow hunter (ultimately shot)
-- U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service classification of lions which led to regulation and then softening of the import of lion trophies to the U. S.
-- plans to end captive-lion hunts, the closing of lion-breeding programs and various bans, noting that not one of these has since occurred so far (2 years)
-- safari hunting which incorporates the principle of "fair chase" without any guarantees of success v. captive aka "canned hunting" which guarantees a lion and is much cheaper than safari hunting
-- a discussion with the owners of a trophy game ranch (10,000 in South Africa)
-- the result of Kenya's decision to outlaw all hunting in 1977 and the results (a 70% reduction in wildlife most of it due to habitat destruction/change
-- the bone trade (based on presumed health benefits and a substitute for tiger bones)
-- what to do with South Africa's captive bred lions (~10,000) if captive breeding and the lion-bone trade are outlawed
-- what science says and doesn't or can't if these captive lions which are not accustomed to humans were reintroduced to the wild and other very thorny issues such as effects on prey species and human conflict
--  a discussion with a senior warden who has devoted his life to conservation who does not support "canned hunting" and is aware of the challenges of putting it to an end. He says "'We have moved on'" and that it is time to move further

1) There must have been a bundle of responses and the March print issue of Smithsonian has a sample of responses -- the letters are found under Discussion in the Table of Contents.

a)  one that refers to it as having an anti-farmed hunting slant with reasons for the writer's support of the practice
b)  kudos for its balance as well as emphasizing the enormous complexity of the solution 
c)  a comparison of raising pheasants for hunting in the U. S. which is widely accepted
d)  a comparison of raising animals for human consumption (chickens, turkeys, beef cattle) and for trophy hunting "for the almighty dollar. It's just wrong."
e)  cultural expectations in developed countries which "color this  controversy"
f)  "Shame on South Africa" (and the U. S.) for doing so little to end it

This well-illustrated article may be read here.   


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