South Africa is ending their lucrative captive lion industry, citing the “risks to the sustainability of wild lion conservation.” The announcement comes after the release of a 600-page report by a special government-appointed advisory committee that was created to evaluate the country’s policies and legislation around the breeding, hunting and trading of elephants, lions, leopards and rhinos.
“The panel recommends that South Africa does not captive-breed lions, keep lions in captivity, or use captive lions or their derivatives commercially,” South African Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Barbara Creecy said in a statement. “I have requested the department to action this accordingly and ensure that the necessary consultation in implementation is conducted.”
South Africa is known for holding captive lions throughout their lives, with hundreds of breeding facilities in the country. Cubs are separated at birth and kept at petting attractions. Adults are bred continuously and when they’re no longer of use, they are sometimes sold to facilities to then be gunned down and killed for bones or used on trophy hunts.
South Africa also said it will not oppose an international ban on the trading of rhinoceros horns and elephant ivory. Creecy added in her statement that the new recommendations are not being made to hurt the hunting industry, but to make the country a “competitive destination of choice for ecotourism and responsible hunting.”
Some critics have said that if the captive lion trade was shut down, wild lions would be in danger, as some may to obtain the lion parts from the wild.
“Thousands of farmed lions are born into a life of misery in South Africa every year in cruel commercial breeding facilities,” Edith Kabesiime, Africa wildlife campaign manager for World Animal Protection, a global animal welfare nonprofit organization, also said in a statement. “This latest move by the government of South Africa is courageous — taking the first steps in a commitment to long-lasting and meaningful change. This is a win for wildlife.”