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Lion hunting business in South Africa: Fair game?

Lion hunting business in South Africa: Fair game?

The guide whistles as the large, dark-maned lion walks just a few metres from the car.

It looks around to face the American hunter and a single shot rings out in the South African bush.

The lion cartwheels from the force of the bullet – shocked and confused it roars, turns and quickly limps off into the bush.

“Shoot him again, shoot him again, shoot him again,” the professional hunter frantically urges, as the hunter reloads, firing into the trees.

The video cuts to see the lion lying dead and the American walking up to him. “Hey you,” he says, “I’m sorry, but I wanted you,” before leaning down and kissing the lion.

The video was shot by Derek Gobbett, a safari cameraman brought in to make a souvenir for the 10 American hunters who had paid thousands of dollars each to shoot a lion.

But he says the way they went about was neither fair nor legal – that it was something known as “canned lion” hunting – more of a duck shoot than a lion hunt.


‘It’s all just a lie’

Every year hundreds of lions are bred in captivity across South Africa for the purpose of being placed onto private game reserves for hunting.

In total, trophy hunting was worth $70m (£50m) to the South African economy in 2013, according to figures from The Department of Environmental Affairs.

“Eight lionesses were released [from captivity] literally the day before the clients arrived – in fact four were released as the plane was landing just down the road,” Mr Gobbett told the BBC.

“We shot that first lion probably within half-an-hour,” he said.

He explained how the lions appeared to be used to humans – how one was shot while hiding in a hole, another up against a fence.

A new report by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) says in the decade between 2004 and 2014, 1.7 million animals were killed for their “trophy”.

At least 200,000 of them were threatened species such as elephants, rhinos or lions.

IFAW found that the US was the biggest importer of stuffed animal heads, while South Africa was the biggest exporter – and lions were by far the most traded.

“Right from the start, the guys are told it’s very dangerous – that these are wild animals… and of course they take it all in,” Mr Gobbett said.

“It’s all: ‘You got so lucky, that was such an amazing shot.’ Slaps on the back: ‘You’re such a hero, look at what you’ve done – you have got your king of the jungle.’

“Meanwhile, it’s all just a lie.”


Arguments in support

The IFAW report says there are between 6,000 to 8,000 lions kept in captivity in South Africa, in up to 200 ranches.

“Canned” lion hunting is illegal in South Africa, but captive-bred lion hunting is allowed. Amid a raft of regulations there is a fine line between the two – and something which differs by province.

“All the lion hunting in South Africa is supposed to be with permits, and those are regulated hunts that have to be done to a certain criteria,” said Carla van der Vyver, chief executive of the South African Predator Association (SAPA).

“If such an activity has happened and it was not done to permit regulations it is definitely not a thing that SAPA will support,” she said in reference to the video footage.

SAPA does support captive-bred hunting, unlike the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa, which voted to ban the practice last year.


Source: BBC

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