Four Paws warns of tourist attractions that cruelly profit off big cats

Four Paws advises against tourist activities that exploit big cats. Picture: Four Paws

Four Paws advises against tourist activities that exploit big cats. Picture: Four Paws

Published Jun 15, 2023


Cape Town - Global animal welfare organisation, Four Paws, is calling for a ban on the commercial trade of big cats in South Africa.

Four Paws says paid interactions with captive big cats fuel exploitative big cat farming in South Africa.

The captive big cat industry, that includes the keeping and trade of native species like lions and leopards, as well as non-native species such as tigers and jaguars, is a highly lucrative business in South Africa.

Four Paws maintains that SA is the biggest exporter of big cats and their parts to anywhere in the world and tourism to commercial big cat facilities encourages the breeding of animals for profit and contributes to the demand for the use of their body parts, in other parts of the world.

Big cats are used for profit across South Africa. Whether it is for tourists petting cubs at predator parks, ‘walk with’ opportunities with juvenile and adult big cats, snapping selfies for social media, or the trade of body parts,” Four Paws South Africa director, Fiona Miles said.

“Caging big cats for profit exploits individual animals and commodifies species.

“People are frequently not aware of the suffering they contribute to, often unknowingly, by visiting attractions that serve as a front for a cruel industry,” Miles said.

Miles further said before paying to see big cats in captivity, it is important to do proper research and find animal-friendly places to visit that do not allow harmful practices like interactions with big cats, facilities with lots of cubs or with overcrowded enclosures.

“Without legislative action and the public taking a stance against exploitative practices, big cats are threatened with an existence behind bars, for entertainment and profit. South Africa needs to take responsibility and shut down this industry to help prevent the decline of all big cats,” Miles said.

Miles said that captive big cats suffer immensely on breeding farms and in facilities claiming to be sanctuaries.

“Captivity is often marketed as conservation, but even without explicit signs of cruelty, big cats are often being exploited in numerous ways.

“Cubs are handled by visitors shortly after birth, in unnatural environments preventing their natural behaviours, meaning they cannot be released into the wild.

“Once they are too big to be handled, they may be sold off to other properties, used for breeding or killed for their skin, bones or teeth. Big cats have historically been portrayed as majestic and dignified, but there is no dignity in how these animals are kept,” Miles said.

She also said that throughout the breeding farms in South Africa, captive big cats often suffer from inhumane, dirty and overcrowded conditions.

“Intensive breeding leads to stress and susceptibility to diseases like ringworm, which can also affect humans. Overcrowded enclosures increase the risk of disease transmission,” Miles said.