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Bred for hunting: South Africa’s Lion Industry

Bred for hunting: South Africa’s Lion Industry

The hunting of the bred lions is not the only reason for complete rejection of this industry as being unethical from the point of view of animal protection. The road to suffering for the lions on the South African breeding farms begins shortly after their birth. 

FOUR PAWS is fighting to finally stop canned lion hunting in South Africa.

Separated from the mother too soon


Often the lion cubs are separated from their mothers only three days after their birth. This practice has fatal consequences, not including the mental suffering that these animals suffer: Due to the lack of milk provided by the mother, multiple deficiencies are displayed in the young animals. The cubs frequently suffer from bone deformations, breathing and digestive problems, thyroid problems, calcium deficiencies and many other illnesses, the results of which have a significant effect on the animals when they grow up.


The keeping conditions for the young animals are also often completely unacceptable: Water, food and shade are hard to come by in many of the enclosures. In the most extreme cases, female cubs are shot shortly after their birth as they are rarely in demand for hunting.

Petting is stress

Even when they are only babies, the little lion cubs are abused as tourist attractions. Through their being raised by hand, they are imprint on humans. Everywhere in South Africa you can find the offers to pat a lion cub, take your photo with a lion cub or to go for a walk with a half grown lion. Unwitting tourists pay money to look at or touch young lion cubs, thereby supporting a horrific industry, an industry that even many hunting associations reject as being unethical. Most tourists to South Africa are unaware.


This is pure stress for the motherless lion cubs: young animals have a great need for calm and so the constant contact to people and the bad keeping conditions lead to massive behavioural disturbances. Even their physical development is strongly affected. In addition, over and over again people are being attacked and injured by young lions.

Wealthy hunters from overseas pay for killing an innocent animal.

Lionesses as breeding machines

The breeding lionesses are ready to conceive  again very shortly after their young cubs are taken away from them and are then instantly mated again. Abused as “breeding machines”, continuously exposed to the traumatic experience of losing their young. Because they are giving birth much more often than they would be doing under natural conditions, after only a few years they become drained and weak. The cubs that are bred to these lionesses while they are in this condition also have  bad constitutions.


In the wild, lionesses usually give birth once every two years – on the breeding farms they have to give birth every six months. It is not rare for drained or small lionesses to end up being “special offers” for hunters or simply neglected and their bones harvested.

Misinformation for tourists …

In the wild, lionesses usually give birth once every two years – on the breeding farms they have to give birth every six months. It is not rare for drained or small lionesses to end up being “special offers” for hunters.


The lion breeders falsely describe themselves as nature conservationists and claim to tourists that the animals are being bred to be later released into the wild. This is obvious a misinformation. Predators that are born in captivity, especially when they have been raised by hand, cannot be successfully released into the wild.

… and volunteers

Voluntary workers from Europe are often attracted to the breeding farms as volunteers, to help handraising the lions. It’s not rare for these volunteers to pay a lot of money for a six week stay in a so-called “rescue station” or a “game reserve”.
However these offers have nothing to do with the protection of species or animals. The young lions suffer on these farms. Anyone doing volunteer work or gaining work experience here is supporting the horrific lion industry – even if they don’t intend to or realise that they are doing so.

Generally, the sad end destination ofSouth African captive lions is a Canned Hunting farm.

Adult lions end as trophies …

Lions reach trophy age after four to seven years and then become available on the market for trophy hunting. 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 of Free State, North West and Limpopo.

… and bones sold to Asia

The escalating lion bone trade also poses a serious threat to captive animals and wild lion populations. Euthanizing healthy lions and tigers for their bones is legal in South Africa with a permit! Bones from hunted animals are also exported. The selling of lion bones to Asian countries like China, Laos or Vietnam for use in traditional medicine products has become an important and lucrative business for South African lion farmers.