Inside a controversial South African lion farm- South africa

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Rotting chicken carcasses and cattle body parts littered the ground. Feces piled up in corners. Algae grew in water bowls. Twenty-seven of the lions were so afflicted with mange, a painful skin disease caused by parasitic mites, that they’d lost nearly all their fur. Three cubs lay twitching in the dirt, one draped over the blackened leg of a cow, its hoof visible. Mewling, they struggled—but failed—to drag themselves forward. A fourth cub looked on, motionless.
“Soul destroying.” That’s how Douglas Wolhuter, senior inspector with South Africa’s National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA), describes the scene at Pienika Farm, in North West Province, on April 11, 2019. The NSPCA is responsible for enforcing the country’s Animals Protection Act, and Wolhuter was conducting an inspection of Pienika, one of the more than 250 privately owned lion farms in South Africa.
“Ever since I’ve been a young kid, a lion has been known as the king of the jungle,” Wolhuter says. “And then you see it reduced to basically an intensively farmed animal—you’ve removed everything regal and noble about the animal.”
He says the sight left him feeling hollow.
Pienika surrendered two of the four cubs. A third was euthanized, and the fourth remained on the farm, along with the adult lions sick with mange. The NSPCA later laid charges against Jan Steinman, the farm’s owner, and his staff for violating the Animals Protection Act 71 of 1962, which prohibits keeping animals in “dirty or parasitic condition,” allowing them “to become infested with external parasites,” and failing to “procure veterinary or other medical treatment” for an ailing animal.

Although the number of captive lions in South Africa has been estimated at between 6,000 and 8,000, there may now be as many as 10,000, according to conservationist Ian Michler, the protagonist of the 2015 documentary Blood Lions, which goes behind the scenes to examine the country’s lion-farming industry. At facilities geared to tourists, visitors pay to pet, bottle-feed, and take selfies with cubs and even walk alongside mature lions. Critics say the cub-petting industry leads to abuse, commercial breeding, and discarding of exotic animals. As the lions age, they become too dangerous to pet, and they’re often sold to breeding and hunting ranches like Pienika, which are not open to the public. “It’s this whole macabre, grisly industry with all these little revenue streams, and it’s very, very lucrative,” Michler says.
Some ranches may offer “canned” hunts, in which lions are confined to fenced areas. Sport hunters may pay as much as $50,000 to kill lions so they can keep the skins and heads as trophies. The bones and other unwanted parts may be exported to Asia, where they’re used in traditional medicine. South Africa sets a quota for the number of lion skeletons that can be exported legally every year.
At Lion & Safari Park, in North West Province, tourists are invited to get close and “feel the breath of a lion.” In 2014, CBS’s 60 Minutes revealed that the park had been selling lions into the

For conservationists and animal welfare advocates, Pienika symbolizes everything that’s wrong with South Africa’s lion farms. The captive-lion industry has been criticized as being largely unregulated: South Africa’s Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries doesn’t regularly track the number of captive lions, demand for lion bone has grown, and monitoring animal welfare is left to the short-staffed and underfunded NSPCA. What started as a small industry has burgeoned to a size that some, including Karen Trendler, who manages the NSPCA’s wildlife trade and trafficking unit, describe as uncontrollable: “A monster has been created that now has to be fed,” she says.
Steinman, according to his lawyer, Andreas Peens, owns two facilities in North West Province for captive breeding lions, tigers, and other wild animals. Peens says that by allowing hunting at Pienika, Steinman is promoting conservation. “We are providing a lion that’s bred for hunting purposes to prohibit poaching,” Peens says.
This isn’t the first time Steinman has been in trouble. In 2015, he pleaded guilty to hunting four leopards in North West Province without a permit. He was fined 7,500 rand (about $500) by the South African Police Service.
Until May of this year, Jan Steinman was listed as part of the leadership of the South African Predator Association (SAPA), a pro-captive-breeding organization that requires members to “maintain high ethical standards.” But Deon Swart, the head of SAPA, denies that Steinman was in a leadership role at the time of the NSPCA’s inspection in April. In a press release on May 6, SAPA announced that it would “immediately institute disciplinary action against Mr. Steinman.”
SAPA declined to comment on what that action entailed, but in an email on July 30, Swart confirmed that Steinman is still a member of the organization. “He cooperated and addressed all the issues that needed attention,” Swart wrote. In August, SAPA released a more detailed statement, saying it had conducted an investigation of the farm, had met with Steinman, and would carry out another round of inspections “after a reasonable interval.”

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