• Poachers poisoned five lions and brutally mutilated one at a South African predator park this week. The horrific incident occurred on Monday night at Akwaaba Predator Park near Rustenburg, some 80 miles west of Johannesburg in the northeast of the country. 

  • Tourist attractions, trophies to be hunted and skeletons to be sold. This is what lions are used as in breeding facilities in South Africa, where they're not only mistreated but also endangered.

  • The impact of Kenya’s recent terrorist attack will be felt greatly by its tourism industry. Terrorism, and insecurity generally, is largelyresponsible for the sector’s poor performance over the last decade.

  • Reinet Meyer is the senior inspector at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in the provincial city of Bloemfontein, located in the central grasslands of South Africa. In April, she received a tip: Two adult lions had been held for two days without food or water in tiny transport crates on a farm called Wag ‘n Bietjie (“Wait a While” in Afrikaans) about 20 miles outside the city.

  • I was shocked to read about the sudden closure of a well-known luxury safari operation in the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania. My dismay was not only because I personally know the owners of this wonderful operation and know what a terrible blow this must be to them.

  • he growing appetite for 'conservation holidays' has shone a light on the dark – and poorly regulated – industry of lion farming, where felines are destined not to be 'released into the wild' - but to be shot by trophy hunters and their bones exported to Asia for use in traditional medicine.

  • It is never pleasant to see wild animals caged and abused. A new report by the NGO World Animal Protection suggests that captive-breeding operations for lions and tigers have expanded to meet an increasing demand for big cat products used in traditional Asian medicine. While this is clearly bad news for the captive cats themselves, confined in often horrible conditions, we are not convinced by the report's findings on what this means for wild populations.

    Animal welfare organisations often suggest that farming wild species will lead to an increased loss of animals from their natural habitats. Either this is because animals are taken from the wild to stock the farms, or because the sale of farmed products increases demand for the wild version, leading to more illegal killing (also known as "poaching").

    For instance, the new report found anecdotal evidence that wild lionesses were sometimes killed in order to capture their cubs and smuggle them into captive facilities to diversify the gene pool and reduce inbreeding problems. World Animal Protection suggests that by "sustaining demand for [big cat] products" these farming operations are "exacerbating the decline" of big cats in the wild.

    However, we argue there is insufficient data to prove that overall poaching of lions or tigers has increased specifically because of these farming operations. Even if poaching has increased since farming operations have expanded, there's not yet been a cause-effect mechanism found to prove that farming has contributed to an increase in poaching. To understand this conundrum, we would need to look at the counterfactual: with all other things being equal, what happens to overall poaching numbers when there is or is not farming?

    One study that looked at the impact of South Africa's lion farms found that the trade had negligible effects on wild lion populations. Another report found that seizures of illegal tiger parts were increasing, but attributed it to expanding tiger farm operations (so more supply flowing in the illegal trade) rather than increased poaching of wild tigers. It is also not clear if an increase in enforcement effort could partly explain this increase in seizures reported. Again, to really understand a cause-effect relationship, we need more (and better) data.

    Taking the pressure off

    In some instances, farming of wild animals has helped to reduce poaching. Crocodiles for instance were once regularly hunted for their hide and meat. The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation then provided assistance to set up crocodile farming operations, which took the pressure off wild populations.

    There is, however, one large difference between the crocodile trade and the big cat trade: many consumers of big cat parts say they prefer wild-caught individuals, whereas purchasers of crocodile leather products prefer farmed, as you generally get better quality hides. But people who say that they prefer wild animal products may not always then go on to buy them in real life, especially if it's easier, cheaper or more legal to buy from farms. To suggest that farming big cats increases poaching potentially is misleading without providing firm evidence that poaching of wild animals will decline without the farms.

    Though some may argue for the precautionary principle (that is, ban everything then work out what the best approach is), until we know more, closing these farming operations may have the unintended consequence of actually increasing the poaching of wild animals. In examples like the lion and tiger trade where farming already exists, we must first understand and tackle demand for these products before bans are put in place, to ensure we do not accidentally increase pressure on wild animals.

    It is tempting to act swiftly due to the widespread and alarming decline of biodiversity. However, we caution against rushed actions that, while well meaning, may not be based on firm evidence and could end up creating worse problems. What we really need first is better data on how captive-bred farming affects wild animal populations. The conditions for individual animals on many of these farms may be abhorrent, but if the main goal is to conserve wild species, we must act on science rather than emotion.

  •  Vusamazulu

    “If you can visualise hell on earth,” said the indigenous healer in the black and red cloth, “that is what our governing structures have created with the king of all animals.”

  • Many big cat cubs that are exhibited and petted at wildlife facilities end up being killed as a result of canned hunting.

  • Thirty-four lions were crammed into a muddy enclosure meant for three.

  • Evidence is emerging of the growing threat to wild lion populations of targeted poaching for lion body parts – teeth and claws.

  • Scientists have conducted one of the world’s first studies into the entire genome sequence of lions to reveal the evolutionary history of living and extinct lion species.

  • Lion, jaguar and leopard body parts are being increasingly sought as substitutes to tiger products by traffickers, a major UN report has found, but demand for ivory and rhino horn has shown signs of a sustained fall.

  • Human-lion conflict is a major issue for the conservation of wild lions. The Zambezi Region (formerly the Caprivi) is a small strip of land that fits like a Namibian key in a lock made of four other countries – Angola, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. This strip of land is near the centre of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA).

  • There are an estimated 12,000 captive lions in the country, while fewer than 10,000 wild lions roam the continent.

  • Today at a stakeholder’s feedback meeting in Pretoria, Minister Creecy of the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) took crucial and long-awaited steps towards changing the status quo of the commercial captive lion breeding industry in South Africa.

  • In the recent report provided by the High-Level Panel on the management of iconic wildlife species in South Africa, the majority of the panel recommended that the government of South Africa ban captive lion breeding.

  • A lion called Mopane was shot by a bowhunter on 5 August 2021 on a hunting concession bordering the unfenced Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. He was 12 years old and a breeding pride male.

  • A large nomad lion has settled in the remote Zinave National Park, Mozambique, and there is evidence that a lioness has joined him. This extraordinary story of Africa’s apex predator recolonizing a former range is being  hailed as a conservation success story.