It is likely that you are familiar with the term “blood diamond” and you probably have a basic understanding of this term. If not, blood diamonds are diamonds “mined in a war zone and sold to finance an insurgency, an invading army’s war efforts, or a warlord’s activity”. (source – Wikipedia) However, there is a relatively new term that perhaps you are not as familiar…Blood Lions, and there are sadly, similarities between the two. So, picture this scenario below:
A young lion cub, born into a world completely vulnerable, blind for the first two to three weeks of his life. He is solely reliant upon his mom to protect him, to shelter him, to feed him. Yet, within a few hours of birth, he is ripped away and separated from his mom’s grasp. He is then bottle fed by human surrogates. Meanwhile, Mom is forced back into estrus, to reproduce again and again and again.
Four years later, the lion cub has now become completely entrusting of humans and has no fear of them. He is released into a fenced-in area to roam about, albeit in a semi-drugged state – to ensure he remains lethargic and doesn’t stray very far. Little does he know there is no escape route in this fenced-in area.
He sees a human approaching; but has no fear. That is because this human is no different from the human he viewed as his protector…his defender, his mother. So, he approaches this individual, who we will refer to as Joe Bob.
He then sees Joe Bob holding something in his hand, but doesn’t know what it is. He observes that the object is long and is perpendicular to his body, one end facing the hunter…the other end facing the young lion. Of course, the lion has no reason to fear this human, nor whatever he has in his hands. So, in his drugged state, and out of curiosity, he moves closer. Perhaps this kind-hearted person has food to share. Suddenly, the sound of gunshot. The lion buckles from the intense pain and collapses to the ground.
Unfortunately for the lion, Joe Bob is not a very good shot. He was a simpleton…born into wealth but without the good sense to spend his money on positive societal contributions. So, he must pay a handsome fee for a “guaranteed kill”, to offset his lack of skill as a hunter and lack of compassion as a human being.
The lion is suffering in immense pain, stares up at the hunter with innocent eyes, asking why? Of course the lion cannot talk, but his expression asks the question, “Why would you do this to me? What did I do?”
Mercifully, a professional hunting escorting this hunt steps in and mercifully ends the poor young lion’s suffering. The lion’s final thoughts are those of betrayal and confusion.
This is known as a canned hunt. It is brutal It is savage. It is deplorable. To put this as blunt as possible, it is sick. And in the 21st century, it is also legal. Is it ethical or moral? Far, far from it. In fact, it is hard to envision a scenario any more inhumane or cruel than this. Not just the final moments of his life, but the entire cycle…from separation from his mother, the deplorable conditions of which he exists, and his brief existence — serving solely to satisfy the ego of someone who believes the mighty lion is best suited to serve as a conversation piece over a fireplace.
This is so shocking, that many people have no idea that this barbaric activity exists today. And many people would view this as so incredulous that surely it is an exaggeration; that no one would stoop to this level to treat another living being. Yet, it does exist. And on Wednesday, October 7 at 10:00 p.m. EST, MSNBC and on the Discovery Channel around the world, the long-awaited premiere of Blood Lions will finally be premiered; and it will lay bare the dark underbelly of South Africa’s captive breeding and canned hunting industries.
The link to the trailer is found below. However, a warning to the weak of heart; the trailer and the actual documentary may be deeply upsetting and tough to stomach. Unfortunately, this may be necessary to shed the light and bring out the truth that has been hidden for so many years.
Of course, the captive lion breeding program or canned hunt is no different from any other marketable product. Without demand, there is no supply. So, enter Joe Bob. And it is unlikely that any representative within the hunting community, or a hunting organization such as Safari Club International would actually admit the truth.
You ask why? Okay. If you have read some of my previous posts or other articles written on the subject – which probably number in the thousands by now, you probably have a general understanding of the conservation argument. However, this is THE issue that trophy hunters use to justify the killing of lions and other animals. So, I will briefly provide this explanation again. The good news for you, the reader, is that the reasoning itself is not subject to debate. Both sides generally agree as to the why; the dispute is in the reality and accuracy of the argument.
So to keep this is as basic as possible; the pro hunting community argues that they are conservationists, because trophy hunters spend top dollar to purchase the licenses required to hunt these animals. Most of these African countries establish an annual quota of animals to be shot; with that quota established to theoretically maintain a healthy balance of the surviving population. The revenue generated – argued by the hunting associations – is $200 million per year. And that $200 million is then filtered back down where it can be used for conservation purposes and to support the local communities.
This theory is sound in its logic; with the $200 million number based upon a 2006 publication entitled, Economic & Conservation Significance of the Trophy Industry in Sub-Saharan Africa (Lindsey, Roulet and Romanach). However, in February 2013, The African Lion Coalition published “The $200 Million Question: How Much Does Trophy Hunting Really Contribute to African Communities”; in an attempt to verify not only the legitimacy of this $200 million number, but also to determine the true economic benefits of hunting to the local economies – the primary component of this argument.
The origin of the $200 million estimate is from a variety of sources, with $100 million of that total provided by the South African Professional Hunters Association (PHASA). However, despite repeated attempts by the African Lion Coalition to obtain the necessary documentation and source of this estimate, PHASA failed to provide any further documentation in support of this number. And given that this information was provided by a pro-hunting organization clearly benefitting from the existence of trophy hunting; and with no source of origin, it should be accepted with great caution and skepticism. One might even wonder if this was an erroneous doubling up of the first $100 million derived from the other combined sources.
In fact, as noted in the chart below, the only two documented sources of information were Namibia’s $28.5 million – provided by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism; and Tanzania’s $27.6 million – provided by the Selous Game Reserve Data. The African Lion Coalition also determined that Zambia’s $5 million was overstated, with an actual figure of $3.1 million.
Unfortunately, the Lindsey, Roulet and Romanach is the only known continent-wide study of trophy hunting available, so it is constantly sited…accurate or not. That said, according to the African Lion Coalition, these same three authors also provided another study in 2005, And in that study, they estimated South African trophy hunting revenue of between $68 million and $81 million. So, can we put any faith or trust in any of these numbers…other than those provided by legitimate and confirmed sources?
Yet, despite the discrepancy, whether $100 million or $200 million, there is no question that this is a significant amount of revenue that is generated by the hunting industry. So, the more important question is how much of this revenue actually filters down to the local communities?
According to both the pro hunting organization International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, only 3% of total revenues actually filter back to the local communities; which might be better described as a trickle or even a drip. The majority of the revenue accrues to hunting firms, governmental agencies and individuals located internationally or in national capitals.
Simple mathematical calculations suggest this 3% equates to somewhere between $3 million and $6 million annually (based upon the assumption that $100 million to $200 million is an accurate revenue range). And keep in mind that this number is representative of the entire continent; so the actual benefit per country is substantially smaller.
The African Lion Coalition, in their study, also concluded that hunting revenue only contributes .04 of 1% to the gross domestic product of those African countries; and hunting revenue only represents 1.77% of total African tourist revenues. So, does trophy hunting contribute to the local economies? Yes, but in an extremely nominal amount.
And keep in mind that the $100 million to $200 million estimate represents revenue from the trophy hunting of all animals, not just lions. The buffalo, for example, contributes 22.1% of trophy fees to Tanzania, far more than any other species. And further studies by the African Lion Coalition have determined that a reduction of lions hunted would have a minimal impact on the overall revenue of the industry. So in truth, it could be argued that actual revenues and benefits to the local communities tied to the trophy hunting of lions is nominal at best.
And this brings us back full circle to Blood Lions. Owners of private breeding farms say that more hunting of captive-bred lions takes pressure off declining wild lion populations. Not so, says Dr. Luke Hunter, president of Panthera, an organization dedicated to conserving endangered big cats. “This industry pumps out cats to be shot in cages or shipped to Asia to supply the demand for big cat parts. Blood Lions blows away the hollow ‘conservation’ arguments made by South Africa’s predator breeders to justify their grim trade.”
Yellow – USA, Green – Spain, Red – Rest of the World.(source http://www.lionaid.org)
The narrator of Blood Lions, Ian Michler, spent 25 years in Africa as a specialist safari operator, journalist and conservation advocate. In the 1990’s he was living full-time in the Okavango Delta, and during this period, he began learning about the lion farms and canned hunting. According to Michler, there were an estimated 800 to 1,000 lions living in cages in 1999. By the time he submitted a report to the Botswana Minister of Environment and Tourism in 2005, there were an estimated 3,000 to 3,500 captive lions. Today, there are an estimated 8,000 captive lions, tigers and leopard in Botswana.
Defenders of these lion farm facilities will argue that they exist for education and conservation purposes. However, there are currently no South African ecologists trying to re-establish lion populations. Additionally, lions are among those species that cannot be re-wilded after being hand reared. Yet, many of these organizations continue to promote these falsehoods and even recruit unwitting volunteers to pay up to $1,000 to go work these properties, with the understanding that they are simply caring for these orphaned lions until they can be released back into the wild.
Additionally, Michler notes that “These lions are genetically contaminated, sometimes to the extent that they suffer from rickets, back and eyesight problems, all sorts of issues that come from inbreeding and cross-breeding.” And “ No self-respecting conservationist would ever allow a genetically contaminated lion to be introduced into wild populations.”
SO, WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS?
According to Michel, they initially reached out to Australian and American audiences with a promo clip to help raise money to get the documentary made. An Australian organization – For the Love of Wildlife saw the clip and took it to their Parliament, from where it made its way to the minister of the environment. It caused outrage.
Greg Hunt, the environment minister, subsequently signed an order to prevent the import of the gruesome hunting trophies, effective immediately. Hunt, said the practice of canned hunting was “cruel” and “barbaric.”
“It is about raising the most majestic of creatures for a singular purpose and that is to kill them, to shoot them for pleasure and for profit, it is done in inhumane conditions. It is involving things such as raising and then drugging and in many cases, baiting. It is simply not acceptable in our day, in our time, on our watch.”
And this should not be an acceptable practice on our watch either. It is time to stop this barbaric and inhumane practice once and for all.