A poll shows that South Africans disapprove of canned lion hunting. Picture: Mihai Vasile

During the first of a two-day South African Parliamentary inquiry into the lion breeding industry, a new nationwide survey of South African citizens reveals overwhelming public concern about the industry, with a vast majority agreeing it is harmful to the country’s international reputation. 

South Africans demonstrate a deep dislike of activities associated with this industry, including trophy hunting and canned hunting of tame lions. 

South Africans are concerned that another associated activity, the trade in lion bones, will stimulate market demand leading to increased poaching of lions and big cats. 

At the same time, a new report finds that captive lion breeding industry revenue is less than 2% of South Africa’s tourism revenue.

The survey showed that South Africans, by a more than three to one margin, agree that the industry is harming South Africa’s international reputation, with 65% strongly agreeing/agreeing, and 21% strongly disagreeing/disagreeing. 

More broadly, 56% of South Africans fully oppose - to some extent - trophy hunting, while 60% fully opposes to some extent canned lion hunting. 

The survey also showed that South Africans, by nearly a six to one margin —77%— strongly agree/agree with conservationists who say that the trade in lion bones will stimulate market demand leading to increased poaching of lions and big cats.

Results followed the recent local and global backlash against an announcement by South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs that it would allow 1,500 captive-bred lion skeletons to be exported this year, nearly double last year’s export quota of 800 captive-bred lion skeletons. 

South Africa’s lion breeding industry has been under the spotlight since the 2015 release of the award-winning film Blood Lions® and the eponymous Blood Lions® Campaign, of which Humane Society International is a partner.

“These polling results demonstrate that South Africans are overwhelmingly concerned industry is harming South Africa’s international reputation,” said Audrey Delsink, executive director of HSI/Africa. 

“The captive lion breeding and the lion bone trade is South Africa’s claim to shame. Last year’s bone export quota of 800 was shocking enough: the increase to 1,500 in 2018 has no scientific basis and is a blatant license to kill for the lion breeding industry”, Delsink added.

A new report from the South African Institute of International Affairs, commissioned by HSI, states that the revenues generated by the lion cub petting and lion walking tourist attractions, while highly lucrative for these businesses, constitute only a tiny portion of South Africa’s overall tourism industry, which is one of the biggest employers in the country. 

The attractions constitute roughly 1.85% of the total value of tourism to the economy. Yet, the study finds, the lion breeding industry as a whole, including these attractions as well as canned lion hunting and skeleton exports, may seriously undermine the international reputation of South Africa and harm the tourism industry. 

The study concluded that “the opportunity costs and negative externalities associated with the predator breeding industry may – along with other threats facing wild lion survival – undermine South Africa’s brand attractiveness as a tourism destination by up to R54.51bn over the next decade.”

The survey of 1,264 South African citizens, commissioned by HSI, was conducted by IPSOS on August 17, 2018. The survey-weighted data to a census. A margin of error is +/-2.71% with a 95% level of confidence.  The survey results can be viewed here.

Conservation Action Trust