“Lion Crisis”

Stephen Wiggins Article 5 Comments


We have seen the neglect at Walter Slippers’ lion breeding facility in Limpopo Province.

The South African Predator Breeder Association (SAPA) has moved in to offer immediate relief, with SAPA Members funding emergency food provision for the neglected lions (which is a welcomed, short term solution). However, the SAPA’s vitriol and abuse in the accompanying (the SAPA’s efforts to try to garner good Public Relations for all ‘canned’ animal abuse) news release is childish and mocking of “animal activists” – the SAPA’s libellous assertion is that such ‘not-for-profits’ are only in it for the donations, only the SAPA “loves lions.” The SAPA are apologists for an industry that breeds animal stock for the slaughter, but somehow still seeks to hold a higher moral ground than those that say that same industry of death for income is inhumane, cruel and entirely unnecessary in world that has more than enough blood being spilled for anyone’s ‘taste’ I would suggest.

Of course, what the SAPA are doing is helping to prop-up a declining industry based on animal exploitation for profit. In the rush for cash in the unregulated bonanza of ‘canned,’ many South African ‘farmers’ became predator breeders seeking to cash in on the seemingly easy money to be made from killing for fun – hence why the ‘canned’ problem has grown out of all proportion into an undignified mass scramble based on greed.

Update: Professional Hunters’ Association South Africa (PHASA), “Rouge Lion Breeders Tarnishing South Africa’s Wildlife Image,” 17 July 2016 – of course, it depends on one’s view of South Africa’s  ‘Wildlife Image’ (an ‘image’ which appears to me to be base on exploitation). Regardless, it’s good that the PHASA has voiced ‘concern’ over the ‘canned’ industry’s decline and specifically Walter Slipper’ neglect of his lion ‘stock.’ Of course, the PHASA supported ‘canned’ right up until November 2015, so I find it hard to see the PHASA’s stance as anything other than a recent, cynical attempt to now seek to maintain some semblance of ‘respectable’ Public Relations for hunting’s “virtues” (not to mention hunting industry income).

Let’s take a step back and look at the economics of the ‘canned’ industry when it comes to breeding and keeping lions:

  • Reliable figures indicate that is costs 34,000 South African Rand (ZAR) (£1.8k GBP, or $2.32k USD) to feed one lion per year – on top of this there are vets fees, supplements and fixed overheads for land leasing, staff, fencing, maintenance etc.
  • So, for Walter Slippers’ ‘facility’ of some 250 ‘canned’ lions, that’s an annual feed only bill of 8.5m ZAR (£450k GBP, $580k USD) per annum.
  • Estimates suggest that there are some 7,000 to 8,000 ‘captive’ lions in South African ‘canned’ breeding farms – so that equates to a feed only bill per annum in total of 272m ZAR (£14.4m GBP, $18.56m USD).

There is no doubting that the ‘canned’ lion industry is in decline since a drop off in ‘popularity’ in killing lions for fun by mainly American ‘hunters’ since the subsequent trophy has been met with United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) restrictions since the start of 2016. These USFWS restrictions ‘insist’ that any trophy source must be proven to enhance the conservation of the species (which ‘canned’ has no scientific based chance of proving). The fact that ‘canned’ and Trophy Hunting appetites have declined, perhaps  proves that the trophy is obviously the hunter’s main motivation (and always has been).

Obviously, Walter Slippers’ neglect of his lion stock is precipitative of the inevitable ripples that are flowing out across the over stocked ‘canned’ lion industry in South Africa.

Therefore, the SAPA’s Members’ financial support in this instance (Walters Slippers’ neglect) will no doubt be called upon much more widely now the SAPA has set a precedent as the fall-back option for the whole industry (regardless of SAPA Membership, which Walter Slippers is not).

Why don’t the “animal activists” intervene? How can any campaign organisation that has been saying the ‘canned’ industry has grown (virtually unregulated due to complicit authorities) on the profits of death for some 25 years plus, now step in and help to financially prop-up that very same industry now it’s suffering from the results of its own greed based machinations?

Sanctuary is the answer, but there simply isn’t the capacity and funding to match the ‘canned’ industry’s massive stock – of course, now this ‘canned’ lion stock is proving unprofitable (due to the ‘canned’ industry’s own machinations to exploit), the ‘canned’ industry (SAPA) thinks the burden of upkeep should all be someone else’s problem. Well, that simply is not fair to anyone with the capacity for unbiased  reasoning, but nonetheless the captive lions’ plight is overwhelming and painful to witness.

The ‘canned’ lions are the victims (and always have been) – it is heart wrenching to see the suffering of a once dignified species reduced to a ‘perishing commodity’ by the ‘canned’ industry’s self-induced plotting for greed. But this ‘canned’ abomination must end and the best hope for all is for a swift, decisive, humane end.

The hard truth is that the ‘canned’ industry’s stock is doomed and always has been:

  • Either complicit authorities will continue to sanction euthanasia of ‘canned’ ‘stock’ (see Appendix 2 below, “The Bone Breeders” by Andrew van Ginkel) so the breeders can still seek to cover costs/profit from the immoral trade in lion bones to nonsensical Asian ‘medicinal’ markets;
  • The continued selling off of ‘canned’ lion hunts to markets that do not have sufficient (yet) trophy import restrictions, in the absence of the once main ‘cash cow’ market, United States’ ‘hunters’;
  • The selling off of lions by any means (legal, or illegal) to generate income – there is an abysmal apathy in ‘accepting’ China’s/Asia’s abhorrent abuse of tigers, so could more ‘canned’ lions end up being illegally shipped off to Asian shores to endure further exploitation and neglect so the South African ‘canned’ industry can make one last greedy grasp for cash?;

There is no magic wand solution coming over the horizon, where thousands of acres of well provisioned sanctuary await these poor ‘canned’ captives.

The moral of the ‘canned’ story is that as soon as lions (and other big cats/game) were turned into a virtually unregulated, self-interest driven commodity (to be exploited and abused in the name of human greed/blood lust), then any notion of animal welfare (let alone any scientifically recognisable ‘conservation’) was always going to be a minimal priority. The fact that Governments and complicit authorities have gladly gone along for so long, taking their share of the financial spoils is lamentable and shames a nation(s). Don’t even mention the ‘hunters’ and apologists that have gleefully supported the ‘canned’ model and call it “conservation” (sic).

All the shame is on the ‘other side,’ not those that have highlighted and spoken out about the exploitation and abuse for so long.


  • The ‘canned’ industry can be formally closed off by relevant authorities and Governments actually now seeking after years of complicity, collaboration and neglect to finally take action to ensure the ‘canned’ industry is swiftly and humanely shut down. Or, they can continue to stand-by and watch the lingering, odious decline from the side-lines, the complicit blood still dripping from their hands;
  • How do we keep pressure on the South African Government to finally cajole them into action for the sake of South Africa’s reputation if for nothing else? South Africa is hosting the CITES, CoP17 in September – October 2016, yet South Africa seems to have willingly harboured a ‘canned’ animal exploitation industry within its midst for some 25 years. There are lions starving on Walter Slippers’ ‘canned’ farm in South Africa (with perhaps many other ‘canned’ farms in similar dire neglect) that South Africa as a whole has allowed to manifest. Surely now it is time to take decisive, humane action?;
  • ‘When’ the African lion is ‘uplisted’ to CITES Appendix 1 at CoP17, this will only make the legality and ‘legal’ economics of trading in lion hunts and lion bones less ‘palatable’ for the ‘canned’ industry;
  • The Campaign Against Canned Hunting has this week written an open letter (attached at Appendix 1) and compiled a comprehensive report (CACH Brand South Africa Review, 13 July 2016) highlighting the vast catalogue of negative reporting that South Africa’s ‘tolerance’ of ‘canned’ has produced – how can that possibly be good for the ‘South African Tourism Brand’ and the vastly superior revenue stream at risk that is relied upon compared to South African Trophy Hunting income (2011, South Africa(1) – Trophy Hunting $112m USD or some 1.2% of General Tourism at $9.54bn USD)?
  • It should be noted that the ‘canned’ industry also breeds other big cats (such as leopard, cheetah and even tigers despite CITES Appendix I protection) to profit from the hunters’ desire to kill. Unless the whole industry is formally tackled, then what is to stop a shrunken ‘canned’ industry’s emphasis being shifted to develop the over exploitation of other vulnerable species?

The ‘enemy of humanity’ is embodied in killing for killing’s sake – the ‘canned’ industry cannot be seen as anything other than seeking to profit from killing for killing’s sake.



  1. The Economics of Poaching, Trophy and ‘Canned’ Hunting,” IWB, 2 September 2015


Appendix 1 – Campaign Against Canned Hunting – Open Letter to SA Minister of Tourism


13th July 2016

Everyone knows that lion breeding and canned lion hunting in South Africa has attracted significant international criticism, and that this has increasingly damaged South Africa’s image abroad.

What you, and in particular your colleagues in other departments, may be less well aware of is the sheer scale of the overseas reaction. When you see the extent of the damage to SA brand image, you will be shocked.

To demonstrate this, Campaign Against Canned Hunting (CACH) UK have prepared the attached review. It lists the huge range of import bans, airline trophy bans, negative press coverage, anti-canned hunting campaigns, protest marches, tourist industry views and social media criticism.

Hunting PR, swallowed by SA conservation structures, claims that canned hunting is essential to the South African economy. CACH strongly disagrees: rather than benefiting the South African economy, captive lion breeding and canned hunting is a wasteful use of land and significantly limits employment and upskilling opportunities when compared with other farms of farming and ethical wildlife tourism.

For now, we believe there is already a clear economic case for stopping captive lion breeding (through a managed phasing out) and canned hunting because of the consequential damage to Brand South Africa demonstrated in this review.

CACH “Captive Lion Breeding & Canned Lion Hunting: Damaging Brand South Africa?” 13 July 2016

CACH_13 July 2016

Appendix 2 – “The Bone Breeders

By Andrew Van Ginkel, Durban, South Africa – 19 July 2016

When people think of canned breeding and hunting, they often forget that these lions and other wild cats are also bred for their bones, which are used to make “Tiger Bone Wine.” Due to the shortage of tiger bones, they are resorting to substituting the tiger bones with lion bones.

Lion Bones

Lion bones – Image courtesy of LionAid 

South Africa issued export permits of about 1,300 dead lions from South Africa to China from 2008-2012. The majority of these dead lions were exported to the the Xaysavang import and export company in Lao PDR / Viet Nam. This same company was involved in the importation of rhino horns obtained through pseudo hunts, a form of hunting where trophy hunting is used to obtain rhino horns by abusing trophy hunting permits. According to LionAid’s website, the skeleton of a lion sells for between $1,500 to $2,000.

Letsatsi la Africa, owned by the van der Westhuizen family, were named as one of the biggest exporters of lion bones to this company. Canned Lion Org state on their website that they have evidence that shows that Letsatsi la Africa are involved in the breeding, raising and the killing of these lions.

The Lion Cub Con in ‘Canned’ Farms,” IWB, 25 September 2015

In 2010 Letsatsi made news headlines when the owner, Kobus van der Westhuizen, told investigative journalists from Carte Blanche that he was given permits by CITES to euthanize 20 lions so he could sell their bones. When he was approached by journalists from the Volksblad for a comment, he said the following: “Tell the Greenies to go to hell and go moan somewhere else. I don’t know if a permit was granted. I don’t know if I applied for a permit.”

In 2007, A. W. Brothers, a company based in Pakistan purchased six lions at $600 a head and two tigers at $700 each from Letsatsi La Africa. These animals were illegally imported into the country. Letsatsi clearly demonstrating that they were in business with people involved in the illegal trade in wildlife species, even if it was no a direct involvement.

In the indictment document for the Groenewald trial, Johannes Jacobus van der Westhuizen from Letsatsi la Africa is mentioned. He acted as a middleman in a transaction where he purchased two rhino bulls from Plettenberg Game Reserve on the 20th of October, 2009. Davie Groenewald, a man who has been in the news for numerous incidents of rhino related crimes, is another dodgy business partner one can therefore link to Letsatsi.

In 2008 Kobus van der Westhuizen asked Jurg Olsen, owner of the Jukani Wildlife Predator Park in Mossel Bay, to help him import four white tigers from the Elmvale Zoo in Canada. At the time Van der Westhuizen did not have the necessary import permits, to do so, he had to use Jurg Olsen to obtain the tigers. He later got permits for two tigers, and the other two, Angelo and Mich, it was agreed would remain at Jukani, but any babies produced would go to van der Westhuizen. In July 2009, Angelo was diagnosed with progressive retinal atrophy, an incurable genetic disease. This meant that Angelo was not suitable for breeding, and therefore no offspring would be produced.

In July 2011, van der Westhuizen obtained a court order where Jurg Olsen would have to pay him R250,000 for each of the tigers, and if he failed to do so would have to return the two tigers to Letsatsi. Jung Olsen then started a fundraiser and managed to get the money together to pay van der Westhuizen.

In August 2011, an advertisement was published in the Landbou Weekblad, an agricultural magazine. It advertised a liquidation auction which was to be held at Letsatsi on August the 19th in which 30 lions, a leopard, two hyenas, three cheetahs and two serval cats would be sold, along with the house, chalets and a conference centre. The auction was due to a court order by Azalea Trading, which claimed that Letsatsi owed the company more than a million rand.

From the above, one can see that Letsatsi does business with some pretty dodgy people, but one organisation that is linked to Letsatsi does not fall into this category. A French NPO, CRESAM has been helping Letsatsi la Africa breed cheetahs. The company specializes in the breeding of endangered predators through various scientific methods, like the use of artificial insemination. The fact that a company that claims to be in the business of saving endangered species is willing to partner with Letsatsi la Africa makes me question their ethics.


Letsatsi la Africa:













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