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Canned Hunting

Born to be killed: Lion hunting in South Africa

Travel to South Africa is booming, not only for nature lovers. South Africa is also a paradise for hunters. Thousand of hunting tourists from Europe and the USA travel to the region – they bring home dead animals instead of photos as souvenirs. Nearly all wild species are available – even protected species like elephants: it’s just a question of money. An especially perfidious form of trophy hunting is “Canned Hunting” of lions.

#FOURPAWSgowild - why we are fighting against this brutal industry

The most extreme variety of trophy hunting is “Canned Hunting”. Most of the victims are lions, which are served to their hunters on a silver platter: The animals are kept in fenced areas and then simply shot.


The lions are bred on farms and raised by hand. They hardly demonstrate any shyness of humans. The animals can’t escape from the cages. Occasionally they are attracted with bait, sometimes they are even sedated with medicine.


Anyone can go and hunt lions in South Africa – a hunting licence or proven hunting experience isn’t usually necessary. This means that many lions aren’t killed by the first shot which results in them experiencing an agonising death.

Rapid boom in breeding farms and shootings

For trophy hunting in South Africa, lions are bred in 200 farms, usually raised by hand and accustomed to humans.. Today, around 6,000 captive animals are threatened with the same gruesome fate – this is 50 percent more compared to the numbers in 2010. more than ever before. About 1000 captive lions are killed by trophy hunts per year, the hunters mainly come from the US and European countries. 

First pet …

Many of the young animals must then serve as tourist attractions where people can pet them, take photos with them and take them for walks. Unwitting tourists visit these farms and pay money to look at or touch young lion cubs. That they are thereby supporting a horrific industry, an industry that even many hunting associations reject as being unethical, is something that most of the tourists don’t know.

… then shoot

The lions reach the trophy age after four to seven years and are then offered to the hunters for shooting. In many cases the ‘hunting’ isn’t carried out on the same farm that the animal was bred at. Instead the lions are transported to other areas and shot there. Most of the breeding and hunting stations in South Africa are located in the provinces Free State, North West and Limpopo.

A question of money

Canned Hunting is a hobby for a well-off minority from rich industrial nations. The European Union and the United States are the two largest importers of lion trophies. Between 2007 and 2012 the U.S. imported 400 lion trophies annually, while the EU Member States imported 200.


The larger the wallet, the larger the trophy: A male lion with its magnificent mane costs about €25,000, animals with particularly dark, thick manes go for up to €45,000. It’s possible to get the lionesses for €5,000 or less. On some farms even the cubs are offered for shooting! Lions can be hunted with rifles or bows, often many shots are needed to kill the animal.


Complete hunting packages, which include the “support” of professional hunters as well as room and board, are offered in the internet, at hunting trade fairs or in specialist travel agencies. The transport costs and expenses for the animal preparer are also paid.


But not only lions fall victim to the trigger happy hunting tourists. In order to offer hunters special trophies some farms even breed and offer tigers for hunting, even though the animal isn’t indigenous to South Africa.

Danger for wild lions

The supporters of Canned Hunting claim that Canned Hunting serves to protect the species. In fact the opposite is the case: The increasing number of trophy hunting tours on offer is increasing the pressure on the lion populations living in the wild. An increasing number of animals are captured from the wild smuggled cross border to South Africa and used for fresh blood in the breeding industry.


 The number of wild lions has been shrinking for years, the populations remain distributed in a number of protected areas as their ranges are gradually diminished. Significant populations only occur in East and southern Africa. Recently the IUCN Red List stated that they have greater confidence in the estimate of fewer than 20,000 Lions in Africa than in a number over 30,000.


With only 3500 tigers left in the wild, it is clear that the massive demand for traditional medicine in Asia can have an enormous pressure on wildlife populations. Behind this background the legal trade with lion bones poses an enormous risk to put further pressure on wild ranging lion populations.