Around 800 lions in South Africa have been taken from their mothers at a few days old, while still blind, and reared to be petted by fee-paying tourists as they grow up and then shot at three to four years old by brave fee-paying “hunters” at close range in a “canned hunt” arranged in a small enclosure so there is no actual hunting, just an easy kill. The “hunter” then takes home the skull and skin as trophies, while the bones of the lions are sold to China, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam where they are often described as tiger bones and made into jewellery, cakes, wine, medicines and supposed aphrodisiacs, with each carcass fetching up to £50,000 on the street.
The vile trade, legal in South Africa, is condemned by a number of charities, including the Environmental Investigation Agency which confirms that lions have now replaced tigers as a source of big-cat body parts. Wild cat protection group Panthera states that this has simply kept alive the demand from China and other countries for the highly prized body parts. And conservation group Born Free, which has campaigned for tighter rules on trophy imports into the EU and USA, states:-“The intensive breeding of lions and their exploitation for profit is completely unacceptable. It serves no conservation purpose and the animals all too often suffer short, miserable lives. The government has a responsibility to close this industry down and focus on protecting wild lions”.