File picture: Supplied.

Johannesburg - The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve, situated in Gauteng's Cradle of Humankind, has said that it will no longer allow petting of lion cubs. 

The decision was taken by the establishment's new manager Mike Fynn.  

"The reason of course is the difficulty that tourist facilities run into when the cubs grow older; there is no market for them other than the canned hunting industry," said the reserve on Monday. 

"This ethical position has been taken before so this is not unprecedented. Some years ago, the Lion and Safari Park tried to abandon cub petting only to find that they lost so much tourist traffic that they were obliged to reinstate cub petting."

The cost of making the "morally courageous decision" should not be underestimated, said the reserve. It was expected that some tourist traffic would be lost, but it was hoped that numbers would be sustainable, so that the decision would not have to be reversed. 

Fynn was the manager at Lion and Safari Park when he tried to take the same stand. 

"For good measure, Mike was an active member of the captive carnivore working group, a broad cross-section of all sectors interested in lion conservation, which was seeking to fill the gap in government regulation by drafting suitable regulations which government could adopt and enforce in order to improve the conditions of lions at lion farms in South Africa," said the reserve. 

African News Agency (ANA)