‘Canned’ Industry Deceit, Intimidation and Threats

Stephen Wiggins Article 5 Comments

Video – A heavily sedated, ‘canned’ lion being manhandled to an enclosure, to be executed by a paying Trophy Hunter. The DSC and SCI hunters’ associations still believe this a ‘sport’ and good ‘conservation?’ No, it’s animal abuse and exploitation and has been for the past 20 years+ – it’s been supported by these so-called hunters and authorities that facilitate it.


In November 2015, IWB reported on the African Geographic headline, The End of Canned Hunting Looks Imminent.”

Last week, an auction was held on 17 February 2016 at Olivia Game Lodge, Bloemfontein, South Africa – where the “avid bow hunter” can ‘indulge’ their passion for killing (sorry, “harvesting“) wildlife.


“Olivia 2016 Lion Auction” Video, Vleissentraal (Auctioneers), 3 February 2016

Bloemfontein Auction

Vleissentraal Auction Results, 17 February 2016

PDF of Auction Results: “Statistieke Olive Private Game Reserve Leeuveiling 2016

21 male lions (including two 6 week old cubs), 38 female lions and 2 leopards sold, raising a “turnover” of  2,081,400 ZAR (£95,290, or $133,536 USD)

Top price – 3.5 year old male brown lion – 98,000 ZAR (£4,500 GBP, or $6,300 USD)

Lion cub – 13,500 ZAR (£620 GBP, or $870 USD)

Leopard – 58,000 ZAR (£2,650, or $3,720 USD)

According to Activists for Animals South Africa the lion auction was attended by:

Notable amongst those reportedly rubbing shoulders at the auction, were:  Kobus Van der Westhuizen of Letsatsi La Afrika, a controversial predator trader and lion-bone exporter,  Casper van der Merwe of Paemenons Safaris, a North West lion hunting-outfitter Bethlehem lion breeder and trader Maryn Prinsloo, Marius Prinsloo, her former lion-farmer husband ,who arrived separately. Free State game-breeder and hunting outfitter, Marnus Steyl, who was charged for his role in the Chumlong Lemtongthai pseudo-rhino-hunting scam in North West Province.“……….Not a pleasant sounding bunch in my opinion.


It’s not clear which members of Olivia Game Lodge’s animal occupants can be ‘arrowed’ from the “hideouts,” but the lodge boasts a host of wildlife including “eland, impala, waterbok, Black wildebees[t], Black leopard, Bengal tiger, buffalo, cheetah, White lion, Brown lion, leopard and Rooikat.”

There is also an “active breeding programme” for “lion cubs, leopard cubs” and “tiger cubs.” The concerns raised here are multiple and significant (Reference “The Lion Cub Con in ‘Canned’ Farms”). We don’t believe any of the deluded statements regarding such breeding programmes being conducted for altruistic reasons, but purely motivated by commercial ‘needs.’

Of course, tigers are a CITES Appendix I listed species, where any ‘trade’ (including the hunting of) is subject to strict oversight (in theory) by CITES. But the trade and hunting of even CITES Appendix I listed species, does not always seem to be much of a deterrent in South Africa (South Africa’s Tiger Trade Under Scrutiny,” Annamiticus, 7 August 2015).

During the opening day of January 2016’s CITES Standing Committee, concerns were raised over South Africa’s ‘canned’ industry, with the potential impact of captive bred specimens on wild populations discussed, plus tigers being bred in captivity but not reported to CITES Working Groups.

In a July 2015 report by TRAFFIC, some 280 tigers were recorded in 44 facilities in South Africa, with export and hunting in contravention of CITES Appendix I listing.


Picture Courtesy of Annamiticus – “Screenshot of a photo apparently depicting a tiger killed in a bow hunt. This undated photo has since been removed from the Gotsoma Safaris’ gallery

It was subsequently noted at the CITES Standing Committee that captive bred “big cat parts” are entering ‘illegal’ trafficking routes, but also evidence of tigers being ‘enlisted’ illegally into trophy hunts in South Africa. The predator breeding industry in South Africa appears to be corrupt and wantonly contravening any attempts at over-sight, scrutiny or regulation.

So, back to last week’s auction at Olivia Game Lodge of some “60 lions for auction – 43 lions/lionesses and 17 cubs” according to a translation seen. No tigers or leopards were auctioned as far as we know to date.

So, for those wishing to see the end of ‘canned’ breeding and hunting (for those unfamiliar with the concept, please refer to Appendix 1 below, or The Campaign Against Canned Hunting, or indeed the documentary exposé Blood Lions), the dilemma such auctions raise are many:

  1. Should ‘true’ conservationist seek to buy up the surplus ‘canned’ stock at such auctions?
  2. How would such action proposed above be received within dedicated conservation circles, but also within the ‘canned’ industry?
  3. Should the ‘true’ conservationist remain resolute (in the face of South African government and authority complicity/indifference) and trust that ‘financial failure’ is the only way the ‘canned’ industry in South Africa will self-implode in time?

The second question might be easier to answer in many respects. Of course, any income is welcomed by the ‘canned’/predator breeder entrepreneurs; the fate of their ‘product’ is of little concern, neither is the source of any income they can derive.

However, any intervention that financially supports the ‘canned’ industry is a dilemma for any conservationist and animal welfare campaigner/organisation. But naturally, the internal pressure/conflict to ‘save the victims’ from the bullets and arrows, or an unknown fate can be almost over-whelming at times.

The real victims are of course, all of those ‘canned’ animals held captive, in an industry that has mushroomed in the absence of any substantial regulation since 2010 (and arguably, little oversight in the preceding years either, refer to Appendix 1). The ‘canned’ industry has flourished, with some 200 ‘canned’ farms and an estimated 8,000 big cats (7,000 lions) currently held in South Africa, with an industry turnover of $70m USD in 2012(1). Of course in the vacuum of absent regulation, the money to be made from animal exploitation has encouraged farmers to abandon traditional farming, seeking an easy route to hunters’ $ by eagerly ‘developing’ their own ‘canned’ businesses.

So, before we go any further, the South African authorities and hunting associations that have promoted and encouraged ‘canned’ entrepreneurs over the past 20+ years are the ones to blame for the sad plight and embarrassment to humanity these ‘canned’ farms represent. Not the animal welfare and true conservationists that have been campaigning for the scourge of ‘canned’ farms to be eradicated since it first manifested.

The availability of sanctuary space for all the ‘canned’ animal victims and funds to support the overwhelming need, just does not exist. These ‘canned’ animals are hand reared and fed, often poorly bred from a limited gene pool (ie. genetically mutated), so the chances of any successful, or risk free reintroduction of the ‘canned’ stock into the wild is pure fantasy.

One potential buyer who asked not to be named, told the CACH that he previewed some of the animals before the auction……

Some of the lions we were shown appeared to have physical defects, genetically speaking,” he added, “and there was no way of checking the lineage of the stock. The terms and conditions set out by the auction house were loaded in the sellers’ favour.”

Judge for yourself: Undercover video footage of Olivia Game Lodge lion auction ‘stock

As the ‘canned’ industry contracts with the ‘appetite’ for their ‘services’ receiving increasing foreign agency scrutiny and restrictions, some reports of ‘canned’ farmers seeking to exit this immoral business have emerged. Of course, those seeking such an exit and sanctuary for their no-longer wanted (profitable) animal stock, does not come with an offer attached to help fund ‘sanctuary’ from the ‘canned’ farmer’s own pocket of course (that’s for true ‘conservationist’ to work out and finance apparently).

The plight and fate of these ‘canned’ animals is heart-breaking (but to reiterate, the South African authorities and hunting associations that have promoted and encouraged ‘canned’ entrepreneurs are to blame, not to mention the noble trophy hunters that willingly fund this whole circus and delude themselves it’s somehow ‘conservation’).

How can the animal welfare community react? Well last week, Ban Animal Trading (BAT), South Africa sought to observe the Olivia Game Lodge auction.

Ban Animal Trading_1

But the reception they received upon arrival at Olivia Game Lodge on 17 February was extremely unpleasant (but regrettably, not unexpected by anyone familiar with the predator breeding and ‘canned’ industry, not to mention their ‘hunting’ clientele).

Just 15 members of BAT were permitted to be at the gates of Olivia Game Lodge on the day of the auction, but with access to the auction itself ‘open’ to all comers apparently. A small group of BAT members entered the auction arena (the auction being ‘managed’ by auctioneers Vleissentraal). The BAT group (of six ladies) were immediately confronted by hostile males and the ladies verbally threatened. The males (perhaps representing Vleissentraal, and/or Olivia Game Lodge, or some of the “predator breeders” attending) suggested in no uncertain terms that the ladies should leave “or face the consequences.”

Despite the BAT group voicing their opposition to being verbally abused in an supposedly open arena, the BAT group left the auction to find their vehicles (parked outside the lodge grounds) being illegally ‘searched’, with cell/mobile phones being removed and tampered with by ‘men,’ one of whom was allegedly Olivia Game Lodge owner, Jaap Opperman. However, not all photographs of the day’s activities were ‘removed.’  South African Police attended the scene and restored some degree of order.

Ban Animal Trading_2

The alleged actions of Jaap Opperman does show the desperate level that the ‘canned’ industry will stoop to in a futile effort to hide its actions from public, or indeed any scrutiny.

Is this ‘reception’ (to a legal right to protest and indeed observe an open auction) by the managers/owner of Olivia Game Lodge (and other ‘breeder’ attendees) at this auction indicative of an industry interested in justifying their existence as a model of animal welfare and ‘conservation?’ No, it’s regrettably more indicative of an industry renowned for many things other than pure animal exploitation – the ‘canned’ industry is synonymous with verbal and physical bullying, intimidation and threats at even the remotest hint of dissent, or spot-light on the deluded duplicity and deceit the ‘canned’/predator breeding industry hides behind.


  1. The Economics of Poaching, Trophy and Canned Hunting,”  Internationalwildlifebond1, dated 27 August, 2015

Also read:

  1. 61 Canned Lions Auctioned,” Campaign Against Canned Hunting, 22 February 2016


Appendix 1 – ‘Canned’ Hunting

The ‘canned’ industry has been in existence since the 1990s, with the plight and abuse of the animals held captive highlighted in Gareth Patterson’s 1998 book, “Dying to be Free (1)” So, ‘canned’ hunting is not a recent phenomenon.

For readers not familiar, ‘canned’ hunting/farming is where:

  • Lions and other big cats are held captive in cramped conditions;
  • Overbreeding is evident (cubs taken from mothers so the mothers can breed again);
  • Cubs are used to generate income from tourist ‘petting’ and ‘lion walks’ plus hand –reared by paying volunteers – All of which hide the deceit, that the cubs are eventually transferred back to be callously ‘hunted;’

Eventually, the option to take the pre-meditated decision by a ‘hunter’ to pay to kill one of these tame, hand-reared lions and big cats is ‘sold.’ The hunter takes the trophies (head, skin, claws etc.), whilst the rest of the deceased animal’s body parts are sold into the trade for hypothetical medicines in Asia, thus enhancing the ‘canned’ entrepreneur’s profit taking.

Is ‘canned’ hunting conservation?

The South African Environment Minister tried to enforce a 24 month wilding rule (under Threatened or Protected Species Regulations) to ensure no previously captive (’canned’) lion or big cat could be ‘hunted’ unless it had be freed from captivity for 24 months, or more. The Predator Breeders Association (PBA) (the PBA supplies the ‘canned’ industry) sued the Environment Minister for this attempted regulation of their activities, but the PBA lost in the South African High Court.

However, after the PBA applied to the South African Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA), the SCA ruled(2) in November 2010 (of its own volition, “mero motu”), that since no captive bred lions have ever been released back into the wild, then lion farming had nothing to do with conservation. Therefore, in the SCA’s view, the Environment Minster had no jurisdiction to impose restrictions on what was essentially being declared animal ‘farming.’

Since the SCA’s ruling in November 2010, the ‘canned’ industry has flourished (some 200 ‘canned’ farms and 8,000 big cats (7,000 lions) are currently held in South Africa, with a turnover of $70m USD in 2012(3)). The ‘canned’ industry has been virtually unregulated and unchecked since the SCA’s ruling in November 2010.

However, it has taken until very recently for any hunting association to distance themselves from the 25 year old+ ‘canned’ hunting industry. In something of a sudden epiphany, in November 2015, the Professional Hunters’ Association of South Africa (PHASA)(4)  has finally realised that killing a hand-reared lion or big cat in a restricted enclosure is not hunting – Hunting a wild lion can take upto 21 days, ‘hunting’ a ‘canned’ lion in a baited enclosure can take minutes.

Will other ‘hunting’ associations now follow the PHASA’s lead? Will the PHASA stick with and enforce its stance regarding ‘canned’ hunting?

Why is ‘canned’ farming of lions (or any other species so ‘farmed’) bad for wild populations of a given species and not helping conservation?

Wild cubs are taken to supplement ‘canned’ populations and help diversify the gene pool from which to breed more ‘product.’

‘Canned’ lions ‘hunted’/killed fuel and profit from the nonsensical trade in hypothetical medicines derived from big cat body parts. This encourages the ‘poaching’ of wild population numbers to seek to infiltrate and profit from this ‘trade.’

In 2008 South Africa began issuing CITES(5) permits for the export of ‘canned’ lion body parts to Asia. In 2008, 50 lion skeletons were exported. By 2011, 573 lion skeletons were exported. In the period 2008 to 2011 this ‘trade’ has encompassed a total of 1,160 skeletons weighing approximately 10.8 tonnes. That is the ‘legal’ trade, plus any poached items that have infiltrated and profited from the ‘trade.’

Since 2011 how many more skeletons and tonnes have been exported and who is benefitting? 85% of historical exports of ‘canned’ lion body parts has gone to Loas (between Thailand and Vietnam), reportedly to the ‘Xaysavang Network,’ a trafficking syndicate that also ‘deals’ in the illicit rhino horn trade in South Africa (Williams et al. 2015, pp. 7–10, 59; Environmental Investigative Agency 2014, p. 13; U.S. Department of State 2013, unpaginated).  This also begs the question, how South Africa’s recent attempt (November 2015) to manipulate laws and self-approve rhino horn harvesting(6)  can be seen as anything other than seeking to profit from trafficking in a seemingly similar, ‘legal’ fashion?

The ‘clientele’ the ‘canned’ hunting industry attracts is the fly-in, fly-out ‘hunter’ that wants a quick, easy and comparatively ‘cheap’ kill, but the ‘trophy’ that they will hang on their wall must look ‘good’ – They want young and beautiful animal heads and skins to display. In terms of hunter ‘ethics’ (which should equate to taking only the old and weak when absolutely necessary), the ‘canned’ hunters’ approach is an anathema.

It could be argued that the ‘canned hunter’ client base so nurtured, will graduate and develop a taste for taking wild population numbers, but bring the same ‘canned ethics’ (or lack thereof) with them – eg. hurriedly “taking/harvesting” a  wild:

  • Male lion that is obviously too young and will cause a pride’s potential downfall (a male lion less than 6 years old);
  • Pregnant mother, thus depleting a pride of its potential expansion and stability – Though lion Trophy Hunting is predominantly biased towards male lions, hunting is not exclusively of males;
  • Mothers in front of their cubs thus leaving the cubs highly vulnerable;
  • Not take a clean shot for a quick kill (head shot), but seek to protect the ‘condition’ of their prize/trophy to seek recognition and extra ‘points’ back at their Hunting Association’s assessment of their ‘prowess’ and ‘skill;’
  • Inflict unnecessary suffering to their target/victim by using an amateur approach (poor shot), or from wanting to ‘prove their skill’ using less reliable ‘clean kill’ equipment (ie. bow and arrow rather than a rifle);
  • Shoot collared/research animals;
  • Sanction and/or assist the baiting of a wild lion from a protected area in order to get their kill.

There is no scientific evidence to support the ‘canned’ industry’s claim that a captive hunt ‘saves’ the taking of a wild animal of the same species. Captive hunting breeds hunters, which will potentially breed more wild animal hunters and at the same time, encourage poaching to also try to ‘cash-in.’

What next for ‘canned’ hunting?

All of the above, begs the question why (for so long) have the hunting associations and ‘ethical hunters’ embraced and protected the ‘canned hunter’ interloper, plus the dark trade in animal body parts the ‘canned’ industry thrives and prospers from?  Or, are there no ‘ethical hunters’ left perhaps, or are the bullying voices within such associations too loud to confront even from within?

If the United States Fish & Wildlife Service’s (USFWS’s) planned implementation (22 January 2016) of tighter lion trophy import rules applies to halt the import of ‘canned’ lion trophies, will this end ‘canned’ hunting? Well it could, because lion Trophy Hunters are predominantly (60%) from the USA and ‘want’ their trophies. CITES 2013 data suggests that of the 627 lion trophies imported into the USA, 545 (87%) originated from South Africa –“the majority of which are reported to be of captive-born origin.” At the moment, apparently “99%” of lion hunting trophies exported from South Africa are derived from ‘canned’ hunting, so that means of the 545 lion trophies imported in the USA in 2013, 540 were ‘canned’ lions.

South Africa has a population of some 2,000 – 2,500 wild lions, with no hunting quota set. So, if the amateur hunters’ enthusiasm for ‘canned’ hunting subsides because of trophy imports restrictions into the USA, will this mean more pressure on wild lion hunting quotas? Well, no one knows for sure, but:

  • Perhaps the potential ‘canned’ hunter will begin to realise that their ‘hobby’ and ‘trophy’ is not meeting with public, hunting association (PHASA), or authority (USFWS, EU etc.) approval.

That the emphasis being placed on scientifically based hunting quotas potentially means less availability and increased hunting package costs. Perhaps the potential lion trophy enthusiast will find something less morally reprehensible to do with their time and money (?).

But will such a scenario where ‘canned’ hunting is in steep decline end ‘canned’ farming? Well, despite public condemnation and outcry, I doubt the ‘canned’ industry will not continue to seek to maximise ‘legal’ profiteering from supplying (with CITES permits) the export of lion body parts.

How can this ‘trade’ in lion body parts be curtailed? Would the ‘uplist’ of Panthera leo to CITES Appendix I not curtail the ‘trade?’ Well, not if South Africa and other nations that seek to ‘trade’ such items exempt themselves. CITES has not been known in the past for seeking to crush such markets/trade, but has thought that perhaps such trade might  quell poaching to meet demand. But when the demand is exponentially rising, that notion looks increasingly naïve. Only international inter-Government pressure and public pressure might prevail.


  1. Dying to be Free,” Gareth Patterson, 1998, ASIN: B008XJFCCG
  2. The Supreme Court of Appeal of South Africa Judgement,” Case No: 72/10, 29 November 2010
  3. The Economics of Poaching, Trophy and Canned Hunting,”  Internationalwildlifebond1, dated 27 August, 2015
  4. Professional Hunters’ Association, South Africa (PHASA)
  5. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
  6. Commoditisation of Rhino Horn Trade ‘Self-approved’ in South Africa,” International Wildlife Bond, 30 November 2015



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