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Conservationist Ian Michler met European lawyers, politicians, NGOs and the media this month to discuss ways of introducing a ban on the importation of canned lion hunting trophies into Europe. Over 700 captive-bred lions are shot as canned hunts in South Africa annually.

© Ian Michler
© Ian Michler

Canned lion hunting, a sport where lions are bred specifically to be shot in enclosed areas, is legal in South Africa. “They are trying to reduce the stigma by using the phrase ‘captive hunting’ instead, but the fact remains there are over 150 facilities in South Africa that breed predators to be killed in confined or enclosed areas. They also use the lions for a range of other abusive activities,” says Michler.

Michler travelled to Switzerland and Finland and met with MPs, NGOs and environmental lawyers to discuss ways of having these practices brought to an end. “South Africa seems incapable and unwilling to do anything about these twin horrors – predator breeding and canned hunting. The fact that it’s actually legal here… this horrifies the European audiences.”

Despite being condemned by members of the public, local NGOs and individual hunters, canned lion hunting continues unabated in South Africa.

The South African Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has done little to address the issue stating at a roundtable meeting in July that canned lion hunting falls outside of its mandate to protect wild species.

According to Michler when he commenced research in the early 2000s, “there were 500-800 predators in cages in South Africa… in 2006 it was up to 3 500 and now there is anywhere between 6 000 to 8 000 predators in cages.” This figure is estimated to be nearly three times the number of lions in the wild.

In 2006 the then Minister, Marthinus Van Schalkwyk, created draft legislation to put a lid on canned lion hunting, however a successful legal appeal in 2010 by the Predator Breeding Association of South Africa, now called the Predator Association of South Africa (PASA) gave the industry a significant boost. Because of the money to be made, the industry continues to grow with the provinces of Free State and North West being the worst.

Michler says his message was well received in Europe. In October he will travel to Australia to meet with their Minister of Environment as well as other politicians and conservationists, and will be seeking support for a similar mandate – banning the importation of trophies from canned hunts in South Africa.


Read more about lions and canned hunting in our online magazine here.

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Martina Polley

Martina Polley is a freelance journalist living in Cape Town. Her work can be found in local publications where she writes about social issues, wildlife, conservation or the joys of travel. She spent two years living on a game reserve, a year surviving on baguettes through Europe and a month exploring India solo. Her favourite pastime is donning her Vellies for a trip into the bush.