NSPCA CHALLENGES THE CAPTIVE LION INDUSTRY - A POSITIVE CHANGE FOR ALL WILDLIFE IN SOUTH AFRICA

 
NSPCA CHALLENGES THE CAPTIVE LION INDUSTRY - A POSITIVE CHANGE FOR ALL WILDLIFE IN SOUTH AFRICA
© Mario Moreno / Getty Images
                                             © Mario Moreno / Getty Images
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NSPCA CHALLENGES THE CAPTIVE LION INDUSTRY - A POSITIVE CHANGE FOR ALL WILDLIFE IN SOUTH AFRICA
Wild Animal Welfare                National Council of SPCAs ©

                       REGISTRATION NO.
                       003-189 NPO

                       ABOUT US
                       P O Box 1320, Alberton, 1450

                       6 Clark Road, Florentia, Alberton

                       Telephone: (011) 907-3590/1/2/3

                       Fax: (011) 907-4013

                       Website: www.nspca.co.za

                       Email : nspca@nspca.co.za
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                      © NSPCA 2021 All Rights Reserved
NSPCA CHALLENGES THE CAPTIVE LION INDUSTRY - A POSITIVE CHANGE FOR ALL WILDLIFE IN SOUTH AFRICA
Wild Animal Welfare   National Council of SPCAs ©

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NSPCA CHALLENGES THE CAPTIVE LION INDUSTRY - A POSITIVE CHANGE FOR ALL WILDLIFE IN SOUTH AFRICA
Wild Animal Welfare                                               National Council of SPCAs ©

                        ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The NSPCA wishes to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to all of our supporters.
Thank you for choosing the NSPCA through which to show your kindness to animals and for
your trust in us. The continued support from the public, various trusts and foundations,
sponsors and individual donors continue to assist the NSPCA in our quest to improve the
welfare of animals in South Africa.

The NSPCA was fortunate to have a legal team with admirable commitment to our vision and
mission. To Advocate Les J. Morison, Dr. Jane E. Marston, Advocate Thai Scott and Advocate
Angus McKenzie, thank you for your fundamental role, counsel and leadership that resulted
in a precedent judgement that not only paved the way for animal welfare considerations for
captive lions, but for all wildlife in South Africa.

We also wish to express our gratitude to every expert witness of which your expertise,
knowledge and contributions played a pivotal role - A special thank you to Dr. Paul Funston,
Dr. Ross Harvey, Karen Trendler, Dr. Smaragda Louw and Michelle Pickover.

Thank you to Blood Lions, Ban Animal Trading and the EMS Foundation for the extensive
information and contributions made towards the litigation process.

A final and warm thank you to the NSPCA task team - Marcelle Meredith, Esté Kotzé, Pricilla
Stiglingh, Karen Trendler (former Manager of the NSPCA’s Wildlife Trade & Trafficking Unit)
and the Wildlife Protection Unit, whom each in their own respective roles, played a
significant part in the outcome of the positive litigation measures against the captive lion
industry and the lion bone trade.
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NSPCA CHALLENGES THE CAPTIVE LION INDUSTRY - A POSITIVE CHANGE FOR ALL WILDLIFE IN SOUTH AFRICA
Wild Animal Welfare                                       National Council of SPCAs ©

                       TABLE OF CONTENTS

ABOUT THE NSPCA – Page 1

RECOGNITION TO THE NSPCA – Page 1

NSPCA’S PAST EFFORTS TO ADDRESS THE CAPTIVE LION INDUSTRY – Page 2

CONTINUED DISSERVICE TO CAPTIVE LIONS – Page 5

CONSERVATION VALUE – Page 8

ANIMAL WELFARE & RELEVANT ISSUES – Page 11

       EARLY REMOVAL OF CUBS & CUB PETTING – Page 13

       WALKING WITH LIONS – Page 14

       LION MOVED ON FOR HUNTING & SLAUGHTER FOR BONE & PRODUCT - Page 15

       BREEDING FEMALES – Page 17

       QUESTIONABLE BREEDING & GENETIC ISSUES – Page 17

       EFFECTS OF A CAPTIVE ENVIRONMENT – Page 18

       NEED FOR CONTINGENCY PLANS – Page 21

       WELFARE OF OTHER WILD SPECIES FOUND AT CAPTIVE LION FACILITIES – Page 22

       LESS THAN THE FIVE FREEDOMS – Page 24

       DIFFICULTIES EXPERIENCED BY THE NSPCA – Page 29

PRECEDENT SETTING JUDGEMENT – Page 33
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NSPCA CHALLENGES THE CAPTIVE LION INDUSTRY - A POSITIVE CHANGE FOR ALL WILDLIFE IN SOUTH AFRICA
Wild Animal Welfare                                             National Council of SPCAs ©

                                               The NSPCA acts as the governing body for
        A B O UT T H E N S PC A                all local Societies for the Prevention of
                                               Cruelty to Animals (SPCA’s) and as a
The National Council of Societies for the      statutory body legally mandated with
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA)       preventing animal cruelty, addressing
is the largest animal welfare organisation     animal welfare and enforcing the Animals
in Africa, with the objective to serve and     Protection Act No. 71 of 1962 (APA).
protect all animals, to uplift their welfare   The NSPCA comprises of a number of
and to ensure that the protection they         specialised units that operate on a
have under South African Law is upheld         national basis which include the Animal
and respected. The NSPCA’s mission is to       Ethics Unit, Society Liaison Unit, Special
prevent cruelty and promote the welfare        Projects Unit, Communications Unit, Farm
of all animals, whilst the NSPCA’s vision is   Animal Protection Unit, Wildlife Protection
to end animal cruelty in South Africa and      Unit, Training Unit, Community Outreach,
engender compassion for all animals.           and the Special Investigations Unit. Each
The NSPCA is the only animal welfare           respective unit is staffed and managed by
organisation to have their own Act of          experienced inspectors and personnel
Parliament, namely the Societies for the       with expertise and qualifications relevant
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act No.       to each unit’s function and focus areas.
169 of 1993 (SPCA Act). The organisation
is a statutory body in terms of Section 2 of
the SPCA Act with the organisation’s main
objectives laid out in Section 3¹ which
include but are not limited to the             R E C O G N IT IO N T O T H E N S PC A
following:

- (c) “To prevent the ill-treatment of         The critical role that the NSPCA carries out
  animals by promoting their good              in society was firmly established in the
  treatment by man”.                           unanimous judgement handed down on
                                               the 8th of December 2016 by Judge J.
- (e) “To take cognizance of the               Khampepe in the matter between the
  application of laws affecting animals        NSPCA, the Minister of Justice and
  and to make representations in               Constitutional Development, the National
  connection     therewith    to    the        Director of Public Prosecutions and
  appropriate authority”.                      Corruption Watch (Case CCT 1/16) in the
                                               Constitutional Court of South Africa². The
- (f) “To do all things reasonably             relief sought by the NSPCA, i.e. rendering
  necessary for or incidental to the           the organisation unable to privately
  achievement of the objects mentioned”        prosecute causes a limitation to fulfil its
  in Section 3.                                statutory mandate. The court granted the
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                                               affirmation sought by the NSPCA and ruled
NSPCA CHALLENGES THE CAPTIVE LION INDUSTRY - A POSITIVE CHANGE FOR ALL WILDLIFE IN SOUTH AFRICA
Wild Animal Welfare                                            National Council of SPCAs ©

that the NSPCA has the statutory power to     “Animal welfare is connected with the
institute private prosecutions, which         constitutional right to have the
power is conferred upon it by section         environment protected through legislative
6(2)(e) of the SPCA Act read with section 8   and other means. This integrative
of the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977.     approach correctly links the suffering of
                                              individual animals to conservation, and
The judgement recognised that the NSPCA
                                              illustrates the extent to which showing
is best placed to conduct private
                                              respect and concern for individual animals
prosecutions, giving effect to preventing
                                              reinforces     broader      environmental
and enforcing the offences set out in the
                                              protection efforts. Animal welfare and
current statutory regime for protecting
                                              animal conservation together reflect two
animal welfare and preventing animal
                                              intertwined values”.
cruelty, noting that the NSPCA and SPCA’s
have over the years become well               Firstly, the court provided recognition to
established and fully recognised as the       the NSPCA stating that its long history of
authoritative voice in the protection         guarding the interest of animals reflects
against animal cruelty and the most           constitutional values and subsequently in
renowned organisation in the field of         the interest of society. Secondly, of great
animal welfare.                               importance is the recognition of the
                                              sentience of animals, the intrinsic value of
Furthermore, Section 24 of the
                                              animals as individuals, and the importance
Constitution of the Republic of South
                                              of animal welfare within a broader context
Africa No. 108 of 1996 (the Constitution)
                                              that interlinks societal values, biodiversity
states thatᶟ - “Everyone has the right
                                              conservation, animal well-being and
(a) to an environment that is not harmful     constitutional rights.
   to their health or well-being; and

(b) to have the environment protected, for
   the benefit of present and future
   generations,      through    reasonable
   legislative and other measures that –
                                                  N S PC A ’S PA ST E F F O R T S
    i.    prevent pollution and ecological
                                                       TO ADDRESS THE
          degradation;
                                                  C A PT IV E L IO N IN D U ST R Y
    ii.   promote conservation; and

   iii.   secure ecologically sustainable     The issue of canned lion hunting in South
          development and use of natural      Africa was brought to the world’s
          resources     while   promoting     attention after the 1997 award-winning
          justifiable economic and social     “Cook Report” was broadcasted on a
          development.”                       British television programme called
                                                                                              2

The aforementioned has relevance to the       “Making a Killing”⁴. It showcased
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judgement highlighting that -                 disturbing realities associated with the
NSPCA CHALLENGES THE CAPTIVE LION INDUSTRY - A POSITIVE CHANGE FOR ALL WILDLIFE IN SOUTH AFRICA
Wild Animal Welfare                                             National Council of SPCAs ©

industry which involves the hunting of         community, animal welfare and rightest
lions raised in captivity and unfairly         groups, including the prevalent negative
preventing the target animal from              publicly and media coverage associated
escaping the hunter by eliminating “fair       with captive lion hunting, resulted in the
chase”, whereby the hunter is guaranteed       publication of the National Environmental
a trophy. The animal is placed at a            Management: Biodiversity Act, 2004 (Act
disadvantage by being confined to small        No. 10 of 2004): Threatened or Protected
enclosure or because it has lost its fear of   Species Regulations, 2007 (TOPS), with the
humans as a result of hand-rearing, whilst     aim to provide certain species, including
some are tranquillized. The programme          lions, with national protection⁶ and to
sparked an outcry and a wide range of          rein-in the captive lion industry⁵. The
animal welfare and animal rights               proposed legislation brought on by the
supporters, conservation groups, some          DEA instituted a prohibition on the
hunting associations and members of the        hunting of listed predators, including lions,
public called for urgent action for this       within 24 months of their release on large
practice to be outlawed.                       areas of land⁴. The then South African
                                               Predator Breeders Association (SAPBA)
Soon after the expose on canned lion
                                               legally challenged the regulations, as the
hunting in South Africa, the then Minister
                                               regulations would have rendered hunting
of Environmental Affairs (DEA), Dr Pallo
                                               of captive-raised lions as economically
Jordan, engaged with environmental
                                               unviable. On the 29th of November 2010,
officials from all provinces and
                                               the Supreme Court of Appeal of South
subsequently        recommended          a
                                               Africa delivered a judgment in favor of
moratorium on the granting of licences for
                                               SAPBA, stating that the DEA was
new breeding facilities, however this did
                                               unreasonable for not including a
not materialize⁵. His successor, Mr Vali
                                               transitional period to comply with the 24-
Moosa, also stated his opposition to the
                                               month period; lacked a rational
captive breeding of lions for hunting, but
                                               justification on a factual and scientific
also lacked action. In 2005, the Panel of
                                               basis to indicate that captive-bred lions
Experts on Professional and Recreational
                                               require a 24 month period to become self-
Hunting was convened by the then
                                               sustainable; and providing no rational
Minister of DEA, Mr Marthinus van
                                               basis that captive bred lions could be
Schalkwyk. The panel was tasked to look
                                               rehabilitated; including that the lawfulness
into the canned hunting of large predators
                                               of the decision taken on DEA’s part was
among other things and recommended
                                               questioned as the court found no legal
that the hunting of any captive bred
                                               basis for the regulation of ethical matters
animal should be disallowed, of which the
                                               in legislation designed to conserve and
Executive Director of the NSPCA, Marcelle
                                               protect biodiversity⁴. The implication
Meredith, served as one of the expert
                                               thereof meant that the prohibitions under
panel members. The recommendations of
                                               Regulation 24 of TOPS do not apply to the
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the panel, and the continued and
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                                               hunting of captive-bred lions, however the
collective pressure from the conservation
NSPCA CHALLENGES THE CAPTIVE LION INDUSTRY - A POSITIVE CHANGE FOR ALL WILDLIFE IN SOUTH AFRICA
Wild Animal Welfare                                              National Council of SPCAs ©

prohibitions under Regulation 26 still         groups, concerned citizens and wildlife
apply, whether it is wild or captive-bred,     rehabilitators including but not limited to
because Regulation 26 applies to any           the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT),
specimen of a listed threatened or             Animal Rights Africa, SanWild Wildlife
protected species, which includes lions. In    Trust, Animal Anti-Cruelty League (AACL),
essence, the hunting of captive-bred lions     FOUR PAWS Animal Welfare Foundation -
remains legal, provided the hunter             South Africa, LIONSROCK Big Cat
conforms to the prohibitions under             Sanctuary, FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation
Regulation 26, which include that the lion     Centre, International Fund for Animal
may not be hunted if it is trapped against     Welfare (IFAW), Wilderness Foundation,
a fence or in a small enclosure where the      De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Trust,
animal does not have a fair chance of          Wildlife and Environment Society of South
evading the hunter, thus allowing the          Africa (WESSA), Karen Trendler (Animal
captive lion industry to continue to grow.     welfare consultant and stakeholder), Sven
                                               Kreher      (Concerned         citizen     and
Since the time that canned hunting was
                                               stakeholder) and Margi Brocklehurst
exposed, the NSPCA has raised opposition
                                               (Wildlife rehabilitator & concerned
to the captive lion industry in its entirety
                                               citizen). The NGO Alliance compiled and
and have attempted through various
                                               presented       a      detailed       response
means to address animal welfare and
                                               management and action plan to the DEA
cruelty associated with the industry,
                                               in 2009, which included assistance in
including the fact that it serves no
                                               closing down the captive lion industry and
conservation value and the blatant
                                               providing full consideration to the fate and
disconnect to the ethical issues embedded
                                               well-being of all the lions in captivity.
in the utilisation of captive lions. A
combination of both the preceding and          Furthermore, the lion bone trade industry
overall opposition to the captive lion         is not a new concern area for the NSPCA.
industry, including the past attempt by        Whilst the lion bone trade industry has
Minister van Schalkwyk to tighten              come under the spotlight in recent years,
regulations, lead to what was considered       past attempts to address this industry was
back then as a potential crisis if the         also brought to the attention of the DEA,
regulations remained unchallenged by           of which the NGO Alliance Group appealed
SAPBA, as the positive outcome would           to the DEA back then to address this issue
have effectively halted the hunting of         through legislative controls to avert a
captive-raised lions, however the well-        further crisis and possible conservation
being, quality of life and the future of       implications.    Unfortunately,     SAPBA
thousands of animals in captivity              succeeded in having the TOPS regulations
remained a concern and required a              regarding the hunting of captive lions set
solution. It resulted in the formation of      aside in 2010, and the recommendations
the NGO Alliance Grouping led by the           afforded from the NGO Alliance Grouping
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NSPCA and included conservationists,           resulted in no action from government, In
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animal welfare-, rescue- and rights-           addition, the lion bone trade was not
NSPCA CHALLENGES THE CAPTIVE LION INDUSTRY - A POSITIVE CHANGE FOR ALL WILDLIFE IN SOUTH AFRICA
Wild Animal Welfare                                            National Council of SPCAs ©

publically acknowledge by government.         facilities registered in terms of the TOPS
The industry continued to grow and with it    Regulations⁹. Yet, the size of the captive
the associated welfare and cruelty issues.    lion industry that resulted from an audit
The trade in lion bone carried on quietly     remains highly questioned, as it does not
under the radar.                              indicated exactly how many facilities exits
                                              across the country and the number of
                                              large predators being kept. Other
                                              estimates are higher, estimating 459
                                              facilities and between 10 000 to 12 000
                                              captive lions.
 C O N T IN UE D D I SSE R V IC E T O
          C A PT IV E LI O N S                The rapid expansion of lion breeding,
                                              captive hunting and tourism activities,
                                              including other spin-off industries remains
It has been more than two decades since
                                              highly controversial and widely opposed.
the initial expose of the inhumane nature
                                              The commercial nature of the industry is
of canned lion hunting, the very same
                                              entrenched within a profit-and-production
period for which the DEA has consistently
                                              based model that exploits these animals at
facilitated the growth of the captive lion
                                              every stage of their lives. Lions are
industry, except for the period between
                                              intensively bred, cubs are removed from
2007 – 2010, by maintaining legislation
                                              the mother and used, purchased or rented
which enables the issuing authorities of
                                              for human interaction, once too big they
each respective province to issue permits
                                              are used in lion walk excursions before
for lion breeding and hunting⁵. To date,
                                              being sold for further exhibition and
the captive lion industry has been allowed
                                              breeding purposes or even for captive lion
to operate within a framework that can
                                              hunts. Their body parts are sold directly or
only be described as unlimited,
                                              indirectly into the global lion bone trade
unregulated and uncontrolled, with
                                              to be used in products of no medicinal
inadequate regulation. The captive lion
                                              value. The industry also includes lions
industry commenced in the 1990’s and by
                                              used for filming and photographic
1999 there were no more than a few
                                              purposes, including live exports.
hundred captive lions in South Africa⁷,
with estimations of around 5 800 captive-     A number of other species can also be
bred lions in 2013, almost double the         found at some captive lion facilities for
number in 2005⁸. In August 2019, the          tourism-related, exhibition, breeding
same year the DEA was renamed to the          and/or trade purposes, including but not
Department of Environment, Forestry and       limited to brown bears, coatis, mountain
Fisheries (DEFF), the current Minister, Ms.   lions, bobcats, jaguars, Siberian tigers,
B.D. Creecy, stated in an official written    Bengal tigers, raccoons, blue-and-scarlet
reply to a parliamentary question, that       macaws, African Grey parrots, alligators,
there are approximately 7979 lions in         Iguanas, Bearded dragons, European wild
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captivity and there are 366 captive
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                                              boars,    yellow    anacondas,     green
Wild Animal Welfare                                               National Council of SPCAs ©

anacondas, various venomous and non-              their health or well-being, and to have the
venomous species of snakes, sugar gliders,        environment protected for the benefit of
marmosets,         capuchin      monkeys,         present and future generations. The
hamadryas baboons, pygmy hippos,                  DEFF’s mission is to provide leadership in
Canadian timber wolfs, Arctic fox, fennec         environmental management, conservation
fox, chimpanzees, howler monkeys,                 and protection towards sustainability for
cotton-top       tamarins,     Red-handed         the benefit of South Africans and the
tamarins, western purple faced langur,            global community¹⁰.         The DEFF is
squirrel monkeys, chinchilla ring tailed          ultimately responsible for the regulation
lemurs, caracal, panthers and leopards.           and management of all biodiversity,
                                                  heritage and conservation matters in a
Problem areas with regards to the captive
                                                  manner that facilitates sustainable
lion industry range from continued animal
                                                  economic growth and development. The
suffering, cruelty and compromised
                                                  mission of the DALRRD is to accelerate
animal welfare; unresolved mandate
                                                  land reform, catalyse rural development
conflict between the DEFF and the
                                                  and improve agricultural production to
Department of Agriculture, Land Reform
                                                  stimulate economic development and
and Rural Development (DALRRD); the
                                                  food security. Of the various functions and
unregulated nature of the industry; the
                                                  structures, the DALRRD is responsible to
misuse of the sustainable use principle to
                                                  develop norms and standards for animal
justify the existence of the industry
                                                  production and game farming and to
despite warnings against the collective
                                                  ensure effective regulation, monitoring
harm it poses to South Africa; to the lack
                                                  and impact assessment of animal
in conservation value; and the abrasive
                                                  production and game farming systems,
and eroding moral and ethical dilemma
                                                  among other things¹¹. The mandate
associated with the industry where the
                                                  conflict is twofold, firstly, the DEFF
African lion, a highly charismatic member
                                                  administers provisions of the National
of the megafauna of Africa, and one of the
                                                  Environmental Management: Biodiversity
most loved and iconic animals of the
                                                  Act, 2004 (Act No. 10 of 2004) (NEMBA)
world, including one of the biggest
                                                  and other relevant regulations such as
drawcards for travellers to Africa, is
                                                  dealing with TOPS species and the DALRRD
reduced to basically an intensively bred
                                                  administers animal health and welfare
farmed animal and caged for human
                                                  legislation through the APA (No. 71 of
entertainment.
                                                  1962, the Performing Animals Protection
The DEFF is appointed as the custodians           Act 24 of 1935 (PAPA Act) as amended and
and ambassadors of the natural                    the Animal Matters Amendment Act, 1993
environment and all the species                   (Act No. 42 of 1993). In essence, DEFF
dependant on it for survival, whilst their        permits the existence of the captive lion
mandate is to give effect to Section 24 of        industry, arguing that animal welfare is
the Constitution, i.e. the right of citizens to   not their mandate and irresponsibly shifts
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an environment that is not harmful to             the regulatory role with regards the
Wild Animal Welfare                                            National Council of SPCAs ©

welfare of captive lions to DALRRD, whilst    the Colloquium, outlining clear time
both DEFF and DALRRD have not delivered       frames for achieving this. The mandate
on developing national standards for the      conflict between the DEFF and the
captive keeping and breeding of lions as      DALRRD has been an ongoing issue for
per the implementing parties among            years and as a consequence, consideration
others as stated in the Biodiversity          for the desperate need for sufficient wild
Management Plan for the Lion (Panthera        animal welfare continues to fall through
leo) in South Africa (BMP) ¹². The BMP was    the cracks. There is no valid reason for
released in 2015 and provides for clear       overlapping mandates to dampen efforts
distinctions between the objectives for       to serve in the best interest of animals, as
wild, managed wild and captive lion           Chapter 3 of the Constitutionᶟ clearly state
populations, with a specific set of actions   that all spheres of government must both
for each objective for the period from        observe and adhere to the principles and
2015 - 2019. The intended 5-year outcome      conduct their activities within the
states that the norms and standards           parameters of Chapter 3. Under principles
should be developed and implemented           of     co-operative     government      and
and by 2019, all permit holders have to       intergovernmental relations it states
comply with the minimum standards or be       further that all spheres of government and
closed down permanently. To date this         all organs of state must – “co-operate with
has not materialized.                         one another in mutual trust and good faith
                                              by assisting and supporting one another;
The       Portfolio    Committee        on
                                              informing one another of, and consulting
Environmental Affairs hosted a historic
                                              one another on, matters of common
two-day colloquium in August 2018
                                              interest; and co-ordinating their actions
entitled - Captive Lion Breeding for
                                              and legislation with one another” among
Hunting in South Africa: Harming or
                                              other things.
Promoting the conservation image of the
country, held on 21 and 22 August 2018.       Another instruction from the Portfolio
The purpose was to interrogate the            Committee stated that the DEFF should
captive lion industry and associated          conduct an audit of all captive breeding
practices that has gained the reputation      facilities in South Africa to verify and
for being the most controversial subject in   ensure that the facilities are compliant in
the conservation industry due to the          terms of the relevant legislation. In
damage caused to the conservation image       addition, the Portfolio Committee wanted
of South Africa⁴. The Portfolio Committee     to know why DEFF have allowed for the
recognised the both the DEFF and the          captive lion industry to grow without
DALRRD have dropped the animal welfare        proper governance, especially when the
ball and as a resolution instructed both      number of facilities and captive lion are
governmental departments to present a         not fully known¹³. However, reports
clear programme of work on how they           indicate that the audit resulted in only 227
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intend to address animal welfare and          lion facilities inspected of which 88
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health issues that had been raised during     facilities were found to be non-compliant
Wild Animal Welfare                                              National Council of SPCAs ©

with TOPS regulations, and other               captive lion breeding and make
provincial regulations that were meant to      recommendations that will ultimately save
govern this industry of which the permits      both     South      Africa’s    conservation
were merely renewed, without legal             reputation and the thousands of captive
repercussions¹⁴. This is just another pile-    lions condemned to a life of misery and
on that illustrate that government have        for the disservice to captive lions to stop¹⁵.
allowed the captive lion industry to
proliferate without sufficient governance
or consequences for violations in terms of
relevant legislation.

Fifteen years ago, the DEFF attempted to            C O N SE R VA T IO N V A LU E
curb the captive lion industry and have
once again been presented with that
                                               The promulgation of the Game Theft Act
opportunity. The colloquium resulted in an
                                               No. 105 of 1991 has allowed for the
overwhelming consensus for the need to
                                               private ownership of wildlife where
bring an end to the controversial aspects
                                               private properties are adequately fenced.
of the captive lion industry. It was
                                               This and the concept of sustainable use as
recognised that the industry holds no
                                               included in the Constitution in 1994 have
conservation value; is damaging to South
                                               subsequently awarded wildlife with a
Africa’s conservation reputation, its
                                               financial incentive proven to be a
tourism sector and the socio-economic
                                               competitive land-use alternative and has
welfare of South Africans; and is
                                               led to the establishment of a formal
considered unethical and holds significant
                                               wildlife sector in South Africa¹⁶. Whilst
animal welfare concerns. Subsequently
                                               there are credible examples that serve to
the DEFF has been instructed to initiate a
                                               prove how private ownership has saved
policy and legislative review of captive
                                               species from extinction and that the
breeding of lions for hunting and lion bone
                                               wildlife sector has largely been compatible
trade with a view to putting an end to this
                                               with biodiversity conservation, however
practice. This resolution was adopted by
                                               certain sub-sectors have shown to be
National Assembly. Minister Creecy of the
                                               risking biodiversity conservation. Even
DEFF have subsequently established a
                                               though game numbers have increased in
high-level panel for the review of existing
                                               numbers for some species over the last 30
policies, legislation and practices relating
                                               years as a result of wildlife privatization,
to the management and handling,
                                               an increase in numbers alone does not
breeding, hunting and trade of elephant,
                                               necessarily constitute a significant
lion, leopard and rhinoceros. The NSPCA
                                               contribution to biodiversity conservation.
have made submissions to the panel and
                                               It is only when wildlife areas contribute to
awaiting the final outcome. As stated in
                                               all the components of biodiversity from
the media, it remains to be seen whether
                                               genetic to functional diversity that these
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the DEFF and the high-level panel finally
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                                               contribute to the conservation of
accepts the weight of the evidence against
Wild Animal Welfare                                               National Council of SPCAs ©

biodiversity as a whole¹⁶. Which suggests        externalities associated with the industry,
that evidence of the conservation value is       it is estimated that the industry may
subject to a case-by-case basis or that          undermine        South    Africa’s    brand
individual land-use practices within the         attractiveness as a tourism destination by
wildlife sector is subject to certain criteria   up to R54.51bn over the next decade.
of what constitutes as credible                  Current and future damage caused, may
conservation value. For instance, intensive      undermine tourism revenue potential
management and selective breeding of             significantly, as there are other high-cost
game has been identified as a sub-sector         destinations that offer more ethical
that poses a number of significant risks to      opportunities to observe the big five in the
biodiversity at landscape, ecosystem and         wild, which is one of the most important
species level, including but not limited to      drawcards to attract tourists to South
loss of genetic diversity affecting fitness      Africa. The knock-on-effect would include
and adaptability; habitat degradation and        that much needed funds to conserve large
fragmentation due to impermeable                 wilderness landscapes are negatively
cramped fencing; killing of predators to         affected which in turn would affect the
protect high-value game; domestication of        megafauna dependent on these habitats
wild species resulting in loss of ability to     for survival¹⁷.
adapt to wild conditions; disruption of the
                                                 There are further claims that the industry
natural selection process; and resistance
                                                 can be used for reintroducing captive lions
built up to stock remedies and veterinary
                                                 into the wild for its role in species
medicines¹⁶.
                                                 restoration and broader conservation
Regardless of the claims made by industry        outcomes. Published research and
role-players the captive lion industry in its    conservation experts state that there is
entirety has no conservation value. This         absolutely no need to use captive lions for
sub-sector also poses significant risks to       reintroduction purposes, as wild sourced
the biodiversity economy of South Africa,        lions in well-planned translocation and
as it undermines South Africa’s tourism          introduction programmes to new areas,
brand value and tarnishes South Africa’s         including the restoration of lion to areas of
historical conservation reputation¹⁷. The        the species former range has historically
industry attracts both day visitors and          been used and proven successful since
high-paying volunteers under false               1991¹⁸. Translocating wild lions to both
pretexts. Tied in a neatly folded bow,           establish     new      populations       and
perceptions matter in the tourism game           supplementing declining populations has
and in a world increasingly characterised        become routine. With national and
by ethically conscious consumption, the          international recognised conservation
continued unethical practices associated         plans in place, none of them identify the
with the captive lion industry threatens         captive keeping and breeding of large
the tourism sector, a large contributor to       carnivores as a means to contribute
                                                                                                 9

South Africa’s economy and one of the            towards the conservation of wild lion
                                                                                                 Page

biggest employers. Due to the negative           populations. Not only is the relocation of
Wild Animal Welfare                                               National Council of SPCAs ©

wild lion the most effective for restocking      direct threat to biodiversity and
and repopulating an area, there are              ecosystem function by risking the survival
sufficient wild lion to support this practice,   of wild lion populations as keystone
no need exists for supplementation from          species via genetic pollution and reduced
captive populations. In addition there are       genetic diversity that negatively affects
a number of serious concerns regarding           individual fitness; health; survival and
the introduction of captive bred lion to         future adaptability due to the risks of
wild habitats. Carnivore reintroductions         weakened resilience or reduced adaptive
and restocking are expensive, complex            capacity to environmental changes; health
and require expertise and a wider range of       hazards; ecosystem transformations; or
factors to be taken into account.                the effects of climate change. Relatively
Relocation of wild lion is the preferred         small receiving lion populations could be
option over the release of captive bred          more vulnerable compared to larger or
stock as wild animals are less likely            genetically more diverse populations.
reservoirs compared to captive animals           Captive bred carnivores are more
which may be exposed to a greater range          dangerous than wild lions, as they lose
of exotic pathogens, furthermore the             their fear of humans and associate
captive lion industry does not contain a         humans as food providers¹⁹.
formal rigorous disease screening
                                                 The NSPCA is of the view that any current
programme¹⁶. Maladaptive behaviour due
                                                 or future attempts to use captive origin
to impoverished captive environments
                                                 lions for reintroduction purposes only
such as males inexplicably killing females,
                                                 portrays the desperation of industry to
or high mortality rates in cubs due to
                                                 find any way possible to justify the
failing to thrive are unknown among wild
                                                 existence of an industry that is regarded
sourced lions for species restoration
                                                 as repulsive both domestically and
programmes¹⁸. The use of captive sourced
                                                 internationally. In addition, the captive
lions holds genetic implications. The lack
                                                 lion industry does not contribute towards
of responsible breeding, absence of
                                                 addressing the root causes of the real
studbooks, no accredited national
                                                 threats faced by the African lion, such as
breeding programme and lion of unknown
                                                 habitat loss; indiscriminate killing; prey
origin sourced from the captive lion
                                                 base depletion; disease; trophy hunting;
industry excludes them from being a safe
                                                 and the illegal trade in lion body parts and
and responsible source of animals for
                                                 trade in lion bone exports. This ultimately,
restocking areas. The dubious genetic
                                                 does not contribute towards the
lineage of captive lions as a result of
                                                 conservation of the African lion, but to the
uncontrolled and intensive selective
                                                 continued abuse of lions kept in captive
breeding of captive lions, as well as human
                                                 lion facilities in South Africa. The NSPCA
imprinting and coupled with not growing
                                                 only supports bona fide conservation
up in natural social groups renders captive
                                                 measures in the interest of wild lion
                                                                                                10

lions at risks for their own welfare and
                                                 populations, roaming free in their natural
                                                                                                Page

risking their wild counterparts¹⁹. It poses a
                                                 habitat and contributing to biodiversity
Wild Animal Welfare                                               National Council of SPCAs ©

conservation and ecosystem function as          the sustainable use principle is
keystone and flagship species.                  manipulated to justify its existence. Whilst
                                                the Constitution provides for the right to
Regardless of the fact that certain
                                                use natural resources, such use should be
practices within the captive lion industry
                                                done responsibility and in a way that is
remain legal, industry role-players
                                                ethical and humane, aspects the captive
continue to defend their right-to-use
                                                lion industry lacks in addition to its lack in
under the sustainable use principle,
                                                conservation value. An industry that
objecting to what they consider are
                                                threatens the very bedrock on which
unreasonable controls and limitations on
                                                South Africa has built its conservation
their business. The NSPCA is of the view
                                                reputation should not be supported.
that the industry itself does not contribute
to the sustainable and responsible use of
natural resources, nor to biodiversity
conservation. The sustainable use
principle is moulded and modified within
the framework of regulations and                       A N I MA L W E LF A R E &
legislation to include wildlife conservation            R E L E V A N T IS S UE S
alongside provisions that promote
commodification²⁰. Subsequently, South
                                                What is welfare? Welfare very basically
Africa has arguably, the largest and most
                                                refers to the physical, physiological and
commercialized wildlife industry in the
                                                mental well-being of an animal.
world. Sustainable use in essence refers to
                                                Regardless of the relationship humans
the concept that natural resources may be
                                                have with animals whether directly as
harvested and used as long as the relevant
                                                companion animals or indirectly as a
population’s maximum sustainable yield is
                                                means of a valuable service provided or
not exceeded, i.e. use of animal for
                                                products derived from animals, humans
commercial purposes is not necessarily
                                                have a moral and ethical obligation to
problematic,      provided      that    over-
                                                ensure that all animals receive treatment
exploitation is avoided ¹⁷. The NSPCA does
                                                that is considered both responsible and
not disregard the sustainable utilisation
                                                humane. The World Organisation for
principle, as it remains a constitutional
                                                Animal Health (OIE) describes animal
right, provided it is done lawfully, however
                                                welfare as follows²¹:
the NSPCA also agrees that there is also
the reality that this principle has become a    “Animal welfare means how an animal is
smokescreen behind which controversial          coping with the conditions in which it lives.
decisions are rationalised, based on a          An animal is in a good state of welfare if
narrow reading of section 24 of the             (as indicated by scientific evidence) it is
Constitution at the expense of broader          healthy, comfortable, well nourished, safe,
biodiversity preservation commitments           able to express innate behavior, and if it is
                                                                                                 11

made in the same section¹⁷. The captive         not suffering from unpleasant states such
                                                                                                 Page

lion industry serves as an example of how       as pain, fear and distress. Good animal
Wild Animal Welfare                                           National Council of SPCAs ©

welfare requires disease prevention and      The     Five     Freedoms     have      been
veterinary treatment, appropriate shelter,   exceptionally influential in shaping the
management, nutrition, humane handling       development of animal welfare standards.
and humane slaughter/ killing. Animal        The NSPCA has adopted the Five
welfare refers to the state of the animal;   Freedoms as part of the organisation’s
the treatment that an animal receives is     policy and has played a crucial role in
covered by other terms such as animal        animal       welfare     standards       and
care, animal husbandry and humane            considerations. Whilst the Five Freedoms
treatment”.                                  remains vital, recent years have brought
                                             on a growing understanding of animal
The Five Freedoms was the first widely       sentience          and        science-based
accepted evidence-based framework to         understanding of animal welfare. Animal
capture the key aspects of animal welfare    welfare has moved from only simply
in one model²². Initially developed in the   meeting basic animal needs; and
1960’s by Britain’s Farm Animal Welfare      minimizing negative states and distress, to
Council, the Five Freedoms are               recognising the emotional needs of
international recognised and widely          animals     and     encouraging     positive
accepted as being the absolute basics of     experiences and mental states²³. With this
animal welfare and apply to the welfare of   growing understanding of animal welfare
all animals, not just livestock²³.           and seeking means to actually assess and
                                             measure the severity of compromised
The Five Freedoms are as follows:
                                             animal welfare a new model, the Five
 Freedom from hunger and thirst – by         Domains model has been introduced. The
ready access to fresh water and a diet to    Five Domains model provides for an
maintain full health and vigour;             effective tool in evaluating and facilitating
                                             animal welfare that is focused more on
Freedom from discomfort – by providing       positive states and a more comprehensive,
an appropriate environment including         objective, encompassing approach. The
shelter and a comfortable resting area;      Five Domains model recognizes four
                                             physical domains namely nutrition, health,
Freedom from pain, injury or disease – by
                                             behavior and environment, with the fifth
prevention,  rapid      diagnosis    and
                                             domain         being       the       mental
treatment;
                                             state²⁴. Ultimately, the model illustrates
Freedom to express normal behaviour –        how compromises in an animal’s nutrition,
by providing sufficient space, proper        environment, health and behavior can all
facilities and company of the animal’s own   impact upon its mental state. Each domain
kind; and                                    may overlap and have combined effects
                                             on the overall welfare status of an
Freedom from fear and distress – by          individual animal and serve as a
                                                                                             12

ensuring conditions and treatment which      framework for the broad assessment of
                                                                                             Page

avoid mental suffering.                      animal welfare²⁵.
Wild Animal Welfare                                                     National Council of SPCAs ©

                                             Cubs pulled from
                                             mother for hand
                                                 rearing

                                                                  Cubs used for
                        Breeding females                        paying volunteers
                                                                    & petting

                             Lion moved on for          Older cubs used for
                                 hunting or                lion walking
                                 slaughter

   Figure 1: Life cycle of a captive lion.

    What are the welfare                             paying volunteer programmes and for
                                                     tourist     interaction     opportunities.
  problems associated with                           Volunteers and tourists are misinformed
   the commercial captive                            and believe they are helping these animals
      breeding of lion?                              in some way or that these captive animals
                                                     are designed for release back into the
Each stage of a lion’s captive life cycle has        wild.
welfare implications combined with the
overall challenges of maintaining large              Volunteers are mostly inexperienced and
carnivores in captivity detailed in next             do not question or have the knowledge or
section as outlined in Figure 1.                     understanding to identify problems or
                                                     inadequacies in the cub rearing protocols.
                                                     The novelty value of rearing cubs results in
         EARLY REMOVAL OF CUBS & CUB                 excessive and unnecessary handling. The
         PETTING                                     tourist and volunteers facilities are not
                                                     designed or managed as proper
 A popular practice with cubs born in
                                                     rehabilitation facilities, hygiene and
captivity includes the early removal from
                                                     biosecurity measures remain poor and
the mother when they are about 3 to 10
                                                     facilities inadequate for providing for the
days old²⁶. This practice caters for the
                                                     needs of rapidly growing and developing
paying volunteer and tourist market,
                                                     cubs.
                                                                                                      13

whereby a ready supply of cubs are
available for hand-rearing purposes via
                                                                                                      Page

                                                     Cubs used for tourism interaction and
Wild Animal Welfare                                               National Council of SPCAs ©

photo opportunities adds to the handling                 prematurely or to be handled and
and stress load of the animal. Captive                   touched by humans²⁷.
facilities do not provide for an avoidance           -   Inadequate diets lead to poor
facility for the cubs providing the cub with             nutritional and immune status with
the opportunity to move away from the                    possible     short-and-long    term
interaction, subjecting the cubs to                      health issues.
repeated forced interactions with tourists.          -   Cubs need adequate sleep for
Handling is not adequately supervised and                development, of which constant
inexperienced handling by tourists and                   disturbance and lack of rest
children can be rough on lion cubs,                      impedes healthy development.
especially if the frequency and duration of          -   Poor monitoring and response to
the interactions are excessive.                          health      and       developmental
                                                         problems holds animal welfare
Cubs are also removed to increase                        implications.
breeding under the guise that the mother             -   Excessive and rough handling
has abandoned them or will kill them,                    range from mild discomfort to pain
ironically and sadly, this is a self-fulfilling          and injuries. Additionally, handling
prophecy on lion farms. Poor husbandry                   in cubs with nutritionally induced
and management practices, including                      bone problems is not only painful
inadequate facilities and veterinary input               but may result in bone fractures.
all contribute to higher rates of                    -   Poor rearing protocols can result in
abandonment and killing of cubs by the                   long term, permanent and even
mother.                                                  fatal health problems.
                                                     -   The combination of stress,
Compromised animal welfare, including
                                                         inadequate nutrition, hygiene,
relevant issues pertaining to cub petting
                                                         biosecurity and veterinary input
may include but are not limited to the
                                                         results in poor immunity and
following:
                                                         higher levels of disease.
    -   Wild animals are naturally fearful           -   There is no conservation or
        of humans, therefore, any tactile                educational value in cub petting²⁷.
        interactions such as cub petting is
        regarded as unnatural behaviour²⁷.                WALKING WITH LIONS
    -   Generally, the cubs have no control
        or choice to be involved in the            When cubs become too old, dangerous
        interaction activity, often left with     and difficult to handle for cub petting
        no means of escape²⁷.                     purposes, some are moved or sold to
    -   Cub petting involves removal of           facilities that offer ‘walking with lion’
        the cub from its mother, which is         activities. This basically involves, as the
        stressful for both the cub and the        name suggest, tourists walking and
                                                                                                14

        mother²⁷. It is not in the best           interacting with sub-adult lions. The lions
                                                                                                Page

        interest of the cub to be removed         are often walked at all hours of the day,
Wild Animal Welfare                                              National Council of SPCAs ©

often in the heat and at times when they       slaughtered directly for the lion bone
would be sleeping and resting in natural       trade.
and free ranging conditions.
                                               Canned hunting refers to the shooting of
Training lions to walk next to humans is       captive bred and/or tame animals in
regarded as unnatural behavior that            confined areas, which according to Blood
serves no conservation or educational          Lions covers other definitions such as
value. Sometimes harmful and negative          captive hunting and ranch hunting as
techniques are used in training.          In   well²⁸. The term became popular since the
addition, the animal does not have a           Cook Report broadcast in 1997. Now the
choice of freedom and it is not an activity    term refers to hunting of wild animals in
that the animal would naturally initiate²⁷.    confined areas with little to no chance of
                                               escape. Canned hunting is widespread in
                                               South Africa and refers not only to the
         LION MOVED ON FOR HUNTING
                                               hunting of captive lions, but to all wild
         & SLAUGHTER FOR BONE &
                                               animals bred in captivity specifically to be
         PRODUCT
                                               shot²⁸. The TOPS Regulations²⁹ does
The use of lions for captive/canned            provide for prohibitions for hunting a
hunting purposes and for the lion bone         listed threatened or protected species
trade may involve various sources. Some        with set hunting regulations which makes
lions are bred directly for captive hunting    canned hunting an illegal activity.
purposes with minimal human imprinting,        Depending in which province the hunt
known as ranched lion by the South             takes place, the captive bred lion is
African Predator Association (SAPA) and        released into an area and for a period
hunted in larger enclosures¹⁷. Other lions     (that differs from province to province)
are used for cub petting purposes initially,   and the lion is shot as a ‘re-wilded’ lion.
of which the cubs are exploited either at      This is from a conservation, scientific and
the breeding facility itself or sold from      wildlife rehabilitation perspective, not re-
breeding farms to the petting facilities.      wilding, but regulations and definitions
Some facilities rent cubs from breeders        were introduced to make the hunting of
and return them once they have fulfilled       captive bred animals seem less distasteful,
their initial commercial purpose. Once         however it is still ‘put- and take’, with
cubs are too old to pet, they are either       serious welfare and ethical implications.
sold to hunting facilities or become           The re-wilding phase is not designed to
‘walking’ lions, before being sold either      facilitate effective and successful wildlife
directly into the bone trade or to the         rehabilitation but merely to fulfill the legal
captive/canned hunting industry¹⁷. Due to      requirements for the hunting of a captive
a decline in the demand for                    bred lion to avoid the ‘canned’ label.
captive/canned hunting in recent years,
                                               The relocation process itself may hold
                                                                                                15

coupled      with   continued      intensive
                                               animal welfare implications, which
breeding, many lions are being
                                                                                                Page

                                               involves crating and transport. Depending
Wild Animal Welfare                                               National Council of SPCAs ©

on the provincial requirements, timing and       other provinces to the Free State Province
‘re-wilding’ conditions vary, adding             to be slaughtered for their bone in what is
additional and unnecessary stress to the         referred to as lion mass slaughterhouses.
animal, including the physical challenges        Currently, there is no financial incentive
experienced by the animal as it tries to         for a breeder to maintain captive lions
adapt to a new environment and                   designed for lion bone trade as a primary
circumstances. The care and effort put           product to be in a healthy and physically
into genuine re-wilding and rehabilitation       appealing condition, compared to lion
are absent as the intention is to facilitate a   designed for captive hunting. In addition,
hunt and not long-term survival and              there are no regulations or guidelines for
proper integration back into a free-ranging      the slaughter of lion for production
situation.                                       purposes, which means whilst there are
                                                 mandatory welfare protocols, such as
The captive lion cycle is completed with         stunning prior to slaughter applicable to
the lion bone trade, where captive lions         livestock in abattoirs, none exist for lion.
are killed in captivity in order to export
their skeletons to Asia, used to                 The welfare implications of the practice
supplement the tiger bone trade, as a            attracted public attention when Senior
substitute in Tiger Bone Wine or made            Inspector, Reinet Meyer from the
into Tiger Bone Cakes²⁶.                         Bloemfontein      SPCA conducted an
                                                 inspection on Wag ‘n Bietjie Farm, only to
Disingenuously referred to as ‘euthanasia’       find what was described as a low-tech lion
on permits and by industry role-players,         slaughterhouse³⁰. As found with all the
the killing of lions for the lion bone trade     sub-sectors of the captive lion industry,
is not euthanasia by intention or means,         animal welfare has never been an
as in the true sense of the practice, it         overriding concern and slaughter of lion
involves the killing or slaughter of an          for the bone trade is no different.
animal in order to obtain product derived        Inspector Meyer found that two adult
from the animal. Euthanasia is a humane          lions that were transported from
process intended as a compassionate              Predator’s Park near Johannesburg were
action, whilst slaughter is killing for          kept in small transport crates for two days
commercial purposes and production of a          without food or water, awaiting to be
product. Farm animals are not sent to the        slaughtered at the Wag ‘n Bietjie farm.
abattoir     to    be     euthanized,    but     During the inspection she also found
slaughtered. Using the term euthanasia           workers stripping the skin and flesh off
only provides a false dressing of the            fresh carcasses of 26 lions. The same day
inhumane and unethical practices                 an additional 28 lions arrived, planned to
associated with the practice.                    be slaughtered the next day of which the
                                                 farmer once again wanted to leave these
Currently, only the Free State Province is
                                                                                                16

                                                 lions in their transport crates.³⁰ For
issuing permits for ‘euthanasia’ of lion for
                                                 animals to be transported over long
                                                                                                Page

bone. Captive lions are transported from
Wild Animal Welfare                                            National Council of SPCAs ©

distances and then held in small crates       female’s body through intensive breeding
without food or water for an extended         takes a substantial toll on the animal’s
period prior to being killed constitutes as   health. It also results in each litter
animal cruelty. Bloemfontein SPCA has a       becoming progressively weaker as the
cruelty case pending following the cruel      female’s condition deteriorates. The
and inhumane handling and killing of lion     hormonal roller coaster places addition
for bone.                                     stress on her body and the stress of having
                                              cubs repeatedly removed is also a serious
Theoretically a veterinarian drugs the lion   welfare concern. Combine this with
and it is then shot. Following an outcry      inadequate nutrition and questionable
about the killing of lion for bone, some      breeding practices, breeding females are
vets have been unwilling to be involved.      repeatedly exposed to compromised
Due to the demand for undamaged skulls        animal welfare.
on the Asian market, there are reports of
lion being shot with soft nose .22
ammunition through the eye or ear to
avoid damaging the skull. This may not kill
outright and there are deeply concerning
reports of lion been processed /’dressed’
whilst unconscious but still alive.
                                               General welfare challenges
With the recent change from bone as a by-      and constraints placed on
product of captive hunting to bone as the         large carnivores in
primary product, there has been an
alarming increase in the welfare problems
                                                       captivity.
and even lower standards of husbandry
and care. It has also been found that the
welfare standards are better at facilities
that are open to the public than some of
the closed farms breeding for hunting and             QUESTIONABLE        BREEDING      &
bone production out of the public eye.                GENETIC ISSUES

                                              The poor and often unregulated
        BREEDING FEMALES                      management of breeding in some
                                              facilities; the repeated back breeding; the
                                              intensive breeding of females; and
The removal of cubs from mothers’ forces      allowing genetically compromised animals
the females back into oestrus and             to breed contributes not only to highly
increased breeding cycles where they can      questionable genetics but various welfare
give birth up to 4 times faster than          and health issues.
lionesses in the wild²⁶.
                                                                                             17

                                               Inbreeding, including the intentional and
                                                                                             Page

The physical demands placed on the            selective breeding of rare genetic traits to
Wild Animal Welfare                                              National Council of SPCAs ©

achieve colour morphs and variations such      natural wild instincts remain. Being in
as the white lion has been linked to a         captivity does not ‘domesticate’ an
number of deleterious effects that can         animal.         Domestication         defined
cause significant health problems,             scientifically requires selection for specific
compromise welfare and may even be             features and then many hundreds, if not
lethal. Animal welfare consequences of         thousands of years of selective breeding.
this practice include but are not limited to   Large carnivores have none of the
general poor health; decline in overall        characteristics that would qualify them as
fitness     and      fertility;   increased    suitable for domestication. The retention
susceptibility to disease and infection;       of these inherent wild characteristics adds
shortened lifespan; still birth; congenital    to the challenges and constraints imposed
defects such as changes in cranial             by captivity and confinement.
structures and skull development, and
cleft palate; mental impairment and high       Research has shown that carnivores that
cub mortality³⁹. In addition, an               naturally have a wide range in the wild
abnormality reported in white lions            and complex social lives are more
includes vascular ring anomaly around the      vulnerable to welfare problems in
trachea and oesophagus. This abnormality       captivity³¹. Failing to provide opportunities
leads to the inability to feed and swallow     for or restricting natural behaviour
effectively and requires an operation for      patterns in large carnivores in captivity
correction and survival³⁹.                     can lead to, in addition to the frustration
                                               and stress, stereotypical behaviours,
Whilst Section 35 of the TOPS Regulations      psychological dysfunction, poor breeding
state that registered facilities are subject   and increased infant mortality rates³².
to the condition to prevent inbreeding of      Impairment of certain brain functions
lions, inbreeding of captive lions remains a   brought on by this reduces the animal’s
well-known factor for the captive lion         ability to adapt to captive conditions.
industry²⁹.                                    Pacing is one of the most prevalent
                                               stereotypical behaviours and is observed
                                               in carnivores that naturally range widely in
                                               the wild and/or from territorial patrolling
                                               behaviour that is restricted or limited due
        EFFECTS OF A CAPTIVE                   to the constrains brought on from a
        ENVIRONMENT
                                               captive environment³².
Large carnivores in captivity are impacted
                                               The behavioural needs of a carnivore in
by a number of factors that result in poor
                                               captivity presents a challenge due to
welfare including constraints on natural
                                               limited space which is further increased in
behaviour, lack of space and stimulation,
                                               social captive carnivores. Whilst the
artificial diets and social challenges.
                                               enclosure design to meet the specific
                                                                                                18

Captive lions are not regarded as              biological and physiological needs of a
                                                                                                Page

domesticated large carnivores and their        specie does remain important (note:
Wild Animal Welfare                                           National Council of SPCAs ©

captivity can never replace free-roaming      Other studies have found that the feeding
environments), consideration of how           of whole carcasses reduces pacing levels in
many animals are kept together, including     captive lions³⁵. Carcasses require more
adequate space for each individual animal     manipulation      during    consumption,
is also essential³³. Failure to take into     allowing for more natural feeding
account      natural    social   structures   behaviors. Feeding of soft textures diets
contributes to stress. Maintaining large      and food provided in a manner that
numbers of male lions together and in         results in a lack of vigorous tearing and
overcrowded circumstances increases           chewing can lead to jaw and muscle
aggression and fighting. Subservient and      weakness, atrophy and dental problems³⁴.
bullied animals may suffer stress and
injuries, including being denied access to    Different    carnivore    species     adapt
food. All individuals in the group should     differently to captivity and whilst lion
have access to all food items provided        appear to adapt more readily and breed in
using the correct social groups, number of    comparatively well in captivity, the
animals and multiple feeding stations or      conditions under which lion are generally
use of scatter feeding³⁴.                     maintained in the captive breeding lion
                                              industry lend themselves to poor welfare
One study found that captive lions would      and both physical and psychological
engage more in stereotypical pacing on        problems. A study by Saragusty et al.
days not fed, when fed on a 3 day interval.   showed that lions in captivity exhibit a
Such pacing, as already mentioned is          high percentage of skull malformations³³.
indicative of compromised welfare. When       High occurrences of morbidity and
the feeding regime was altered to a daily     mortality has been reported in young
feeding routine, it led to an overall         captive lions, ranging from infanticide,
reduction in the level of stereotypic         stillbirth, unknown causes and bone
pacing, however most of the reduction         malformations, primarily of the skull, that
occurred before feeding, with post-           includes thickening of the tentorium
feeding levels of pacing remaining            cerebelli and occipital bone, and
unaffected³⁴. This is indicative that the     narrowing of the foramen magnum (FM)³³.
reduction in pre-feeding pacing can be        These changes apply pressure on the
explained by the animals no longer            nervous tissue at the caudal fossa, causing
anticipating being fed, whilst the post-      severe and potentially fatal neurologic
feeding pacing suggest that the food was      abnormalities. The study included a total
inadequate in a sensory manner or the         of 851 skulls of known captive and wild
food presentation was inadequate.             status, comprising of both tiger and lion
Effective enrichment techniques are           skulls, of which the results indicated that
required to improve natural feeding           the foramen magnum height (FMH) is
methods and sensory input appropriate to      smaller in the skulls of captive lions
                                                                                            19

the species. Feeding enrichment can           compared to the skulls of wild lions. The
reduce occurrence of abnormal behavior.       skulls of captive origin also showed FM
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