NGO Appeal for Closure of Captive Lion Breeding Industry and Associated Activities

Stephen Wiggins Article 1 Comment

PDF version of letter – NGO Appeal for Closure of Captive Lion Breeding Industry and Associated Activities, 2 December 2020


Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Environment House,

473 Steve Biko, Arcadia,

Pretoria 0083, South Africa

For attention

Faroze Shaik, Chief of Staff [email protected]

cc Paul Daphne, Secretariat High Level Panel [email protected]

cc Shonisani Munzhedzi, Deputy Director General, Biodiversity & Conservation [email protected]

2 December 2020


Dear Honorable Minister Creecy

We, the undersigned members of the NGO conservation and animal welfare community appeal to the Minister to initiate the processes necessary for the closure of the lion captive breeding industry and its associated activities, including captive lion trophy hunting and the export of lion skeletons for commercial purposes, with due consideration for the welfare of the affected animals. This appeal is in line with an August 2018 Parliamentary Portfolio Committee of Environmental Affairs Resolution, which stated, “The Department of Environmental Affairs should as a matter of urgency initiate a policy and legislative review of Captive Breeding of Lions for hunting and Lion bone trade with a view to putting an end to this practice.”1

Whilst the necessary processes are deployed to close the industry, we further appeal to the Minister for an immediate moratorium be imposed on:

  • breeding of lion at the captive breeding facilities; and
  • the issue of further permits for the establishment of new or additional facilities.

The Parliamentary Resolution resulted from local and international opposition to the captive breeding of lion and associated activities and the negative impact that this was having on South Africa’s international reputation. There has been widescale outcry and distaste around cub petting, lion ‘walking’, hunting of captive bred lion, slaughter of captive lions in order to export their skeletons and generally very poor, and at times cruel, welfare conditions within the industry.

Due to regulatory and legislative shortcomings and unresolved conflict of mandate between the Departments of Agriculture and Environment, the captive lion breeding industry lacks regulations, enforcement controls and standards. Industry-generated Norms and Standards are voluntary and not enforceable. As a result, there are pending cruelty prosecutions of lion breeding facilities for contraventions of the Animals Protection Act 71\1962. In August 2018, High Court Judge Jody Kollapen delivered judgement in the NSPCA vs Min. Env Affairs, that the lion bone quotas for 2017\2018 were unlawful and irrational and stated that it was inconceivable that welfare had not been take into account by the Department in determining conservation policy.2

The breeding of lion in captivity for cub petting, lion walking, hunting of captive bred animals and slaughter for bones and derivatives has no conservation value as lion scientists have repeatedly pointed out. Wild lion populations in South Africa are limited by habitat and prey availability. Currently available habitat is occupied and relocation wild lion for repopulation where necessary, has proven successful and the preferred method by lion scientists. The release of captive bred lion into the wild has associated risks including concerns about genetics, viability, disease and increased potential to become ‘problem’ animals. There is no justification, conservation need or value in breeding lion in captivity.3

Additionally, the trade in lion bones may be directly contributing to the growing demand for body parts and the poaching of lion and other big cats, threatening species across the globe that are already at risk. This is a concern echoed in the most recent wildlife crime report of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime.4

The breeding of lion in captivity and associated activities is not sustainable and has far less economic and community benefit than claimed by the lion breeders, lacking in transformation and equity. The activities are purely commercial, and the industry is profit-driven, benefiting only a small elitist group. This is causing significant damage to South Africa’s reputation as a tourist destination and responsible custodian of its wildlife.

The growing global opposition to trophy hunting, and distaste about the ethics and cruelty of ‘canned‘ hunting, embodied by the captive lion industry, is making South Africa a pariah in conservation and animal welfare and protection communities.

The current Covid-19 pandemic causing global chaos with its credible link to wildlife utilization should be raising concerns about the zoonotic risks5, including tuberculosis6, associated with the unregulated, inadequately monitored intensive breeding, slaughter and utilization of lion.

In addition to the zoonotic risks of contact with both live lion and their body parts, there has been an alarming record of human injuries and fatalities associated with the captive lion industry.7

The NGO conservation and animal welfare community appeal to the Minister to take heed of our concerns, and call for an end to the captive lion industry and associated activities, including trophy hunting of captive bred lions and the export of lion skeletons for commercial purposes. We offer our collective support, assistance and expertise to the Minister and the Department in finding a way forward to stop the cruelty and unethical activities and restore South Africa’s reputation as a leading wildlife destination.


  1. ATC181108: Report of the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs on the Colloquium on Captive Lion Breeding for Hunting in South Africa – https://www.tabled-committee-report%2F3595%2F&usg=AOvVaw2Gv8K-R9GjI78G-3GV4uPP
  2. NSPCA Lion bone judgement–jRUM8fV0l
  3. Hunter, Luke et al. Walking with lions: Why there is no role for captive-origin lions Panthera leo in species restoration. Oryx.47. –
  5. Green, J., et al. (2020). “African Lions and Zoonotic Diseases: Implications for Commercial Lion Farms in South Africa.” Animals 10(1692) –
  6. Ibid,
  7. Conservation Value of Captive Bred Lions






1 Animals Asia Jill Robinson, Founder & CEO

2 Animal Defenders International Jan Creamer, President

3 Animal Rescue Irmgard Gutersohn, Animal Advocate

4 AnimalTalk Africa Wynter Worsthorne, Founder

5 Beauty Without Cruelty Toni Brockhoven, Chairperson

6 Blood Lions Pippa Hankinson, Director

7 Born Free Foundation Mark Jones, Veterinarian, Head of Policy

8 Born Free USA Julie Kluck, Campaigns Associate

9 Captured In Africa Foundation Drew Abrahamson, Director & Founder

10 Campaign Against Canned Hunting, NPO Chris Mercer, Director

11 Cape Town Unites for Animals Jenny Chadwick

12 Coalition of African Animal Welfare Organisations Tozie Zokufa, Director – Regional Coordination

13 Center for Biological Diversity Sarah Uhlemann, International Director

14 David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation Theo Bromfield, Programmes & Policy Manager

15 EMS Foundation Michele Pickover, Director

16 FourPaws, MJ Lourens, Head of Communications and Fundraising

17 For the Love of Wildlife Donalea Patman, Founder

18 Gabo Wildlife Carly G Ahlen, Founder

19 The Global March for Elephants and Rhinos Rosemary Alles, President

20 Global White Lion Protection Trust Linda Tucker, CEO and Founder

21 Green Girls in Africa Louise de Waal

22 Humane Society International-Africa Audrey Delsink, Wildlife Director

23 Humane Society International Teresa Telecky, Vice President, Wildlife

24 International Wildlife Bond Stephen A Wiggins, Founder

25 Nosh Food Rescue NPC Hanneke van Linge, Founder

26 OIPA International Max Pradella, President

27 Panthera Africa NPC Lizaene Cornwall, Founder & Director

28 Panthera Africa NPC Cathrine S. Nyquist, Founder & Director

29 Pan-African Sanctuary Alliance Gregg Tully, Executive Director

30 Pit-Track K9 Conservation & AntiPoaching Unit Carl Thornton, Director

31 Pro-Wildlife Daniela Freyer, Co-Founder

32 Rhinos for the Future Liz Penprase

33 Stop Poaching Now Lisa Goldsmith

34 SPOTS Simone Eckhardt, Director

35 Voices4LionsSA Linda Park, Director

36 Voices4LionsUK Sarah Dyer, Co-Founder

37 WildAid Guy Jennings, Southern African Consultant

38 WildAid HongKong Alex Hofford, Director

39 Wildlife ACT Fund Trust Mark Gerrard, Managing Director

40 WILDTRUST Roelie Kloppers, CEO

41 World Animal Protection, Edith Kabesiime, Wildlife Campaign Manager – Africa

Further Reading

Linda Park, Voice4Lions, “TB in lions,” YouTube, 11 February 2021

African Lions and Zoonotic Diseases: Implications for Commercial Lion Farms in South Africa, Green et al., MDPI, 18 September 2020

Comments 1

  1. Pingback: South Africa’s Draft Policy Position – Elephant, Lion, Leopard and Rhinoceros – International Wildlife Bond

Leave a Reply