OBI the lion survived the captive breeding industry and currently resides at Panthera Africa, also referred to as The Big Cat Sanctuary, in Stanford. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)
OBI the lion survived the captive breeding industry and currently resides at Panthera Africa, also referred to as The Big Cat Sanctuary, in Stanford. Picture: Tracey Adams/African News Agency (ANA)

Call for end to captive lion breeding in SA

By Amber Court Time of article published Dec 13, 2020

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Cape Town - Animal welfare organisations recently presented letters to the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) which called for an end to the captive lion breeding industry.

The Humane Society International-Africa (HSI-Africa) animal welfare organisation and Blood Lions, a global campaign to end captive predator breeding in the country, hosted a virtual meeting about captive breeding earlier this week.

They were backed by other NGOs, scientists and the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (Satsa), which presented five separate letters to the department.

In their letter, 41 international and national animal welfare organisations stated, “... the captive lion breeding industry lacks regulations, enforcement controls and standards. Industry-generated Norms and Standards are voluntary and are not enforceable. As a result, there are pending cruelty prosecutions of lion breeding facilities for contraventions of the Animals Protection Act 71 of 1962.”

A survivor of the industry, which lived through the captive breeding, is nine-year-old lion named Obi, who lives at the non-profit big cat sanctuary Panthera Africa in Stanford.

OBI the lion, pictured here before being rescued, survived the captive breeding industry and is now at Panthera Africa, also referred to as The Big Cat Sanctuary. Picture: Panthera Africa

Founded by Lizaene Cornwall and Cathrine S Nyquist, the two decided to rescue big cats from exploitation and to raise awareness about the reality of the captive big cat industry.

She explained that when you take cubs from their mother they get no milk, no motherly love and young Obi had nothing.

Obi was born at a breeding facility in the Free State. The place has since shut down.

“Obi nearly passed away he was so little and fragile,” Nyquist said.

Nyquist described Obi as the softest, sweetest, most gentle big cat that one can ever think of.

“He is calm and when he speaks you listen, he doesn't speak all the time. When you see him, he has the longest eyelashes, softest of brown eyes and a slow walk,” she said.

She said he represents the typical lions in the industry: bred at a breeding facility, taken from its mother to be used for tourist and volunteer interaction.

At three years old, Obi could barely walk.

“We had to rush in with a veterinarian in 2014. Weekly, they got a friend of theirs to give him chicken livers in the Free State to boost his vitamin A levels as he had developed a severe vitamin A deficiency,” she explained.

When he came on a 15 hour drive from the Free State, he nearly slept for the whole drive, when he went to Panthera Africa in 2015.

HSI-Africa said South Africa has 400 plus facilities with approximately 10 000 to 12 000 lions in captivity for commercial use in cub petting, canned hunting and the lion bone trade.

The organisation said there should be an immediate stop to any further breeding through mass sterilisation, use of contraceptives and/or separating of male and female animals.

They added there should be no captivity permits for new breeding and their preferred option would be for owners of captive lions to be closely monitored by the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) and law enforcement inspectors.

Audrey Delsink director at HSI Africa said: “In 2019 the NSPCA made a discovery of more than a 100 neglected, diseased, overcrowded and near to death lions in a single captive breeding facility.”

Dr Louise de Waal, campaign manager for Blood Lions, said that from the late 1990s the commercial captive breeding and keeping of lions in the country has been allowed to grow substantially.

“These own unregulated spaces are from about 50 facilities with less than 2 500 lions in 2005 to 366 facilities holding nearly 8 000 lions in 2019,” she said.

A recent study by Blood Lions and World Animal Protection identified 63 pathogens recorded in both wild and captive lions, as well as 83 diseases and clinical symptoms associated with these pathogens.

This included pathogens that can be passed from lions to other animals and to humans.

Meanwhile DEFF’s spokesperson Albi Modise said: “On 10 October 2019, Minister Barbara Creecy appointed an advisory committee, also known as the High Level Panel to review policies, legislation and practices related to the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling of lions and other iconic species.”

Weekend Argus

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