In South Africa, there are more lions living in “farms” than in the wild, and recently revealed undercover images provide a look into what life could be like for one of the world’s most beautiful animals.
Many of the lions at the breeding facility at Pienika Farm in the North West Province were found to be bald and suffering from mange, reduced to lounging on dry, dusty ground and eating scraps of meat.
Two lion cubs with serious abnormalities were displayed; it appeared that they were unable to even stand up for themselves. It was demonstrated that other lions were crammed into confined spaces without enough shelter or drink.
This establishment is only one in a network of roughly 200 that capitalizes on people’s desire to be near large cats. The cycle of abuse that is continued by these “farms” has a name, according to activists at Humane Society International (HSI): the “snuggle scam.”
That’s because tourists are duped into believing that they are helping support a totally different type of facility.
“South Africa’s captive lion breeding industry is a vicious cycle of exploitation, from cradle to grave,” Audrey Delsink, wildlife director of HSI/Africa, explained. “Lion cubs are ripped from their mothers at just a few days old, to be hand-reared by paying volunteers from countries around the world such as the United Kingdom, who are misled into believing the cubs are orphans.”
Things only get worse for the animals as they grow up.
“Once too big and dangerous for these activities, these lions are then killed for their bones which are exported to Asia for traditional medicines,” Delsink said, “or sold to be killed by trophy hunters largely from the United States in ‘canned’ hunts in which hand-reared lions are shot in a fenced area from which they cannot escape.”
There are less than 3,000 wild lions in South Africa, but there are more than twice that number living in confined spaces on these ranches.
Charges have been brought in this case against Pienika Farm. The two cubs that couldn’t walk were taken away and taken to the vet. There are over 100 lions living at the property, but it’s unclear what will become to them.
Because they were captive-bred and lack the survival skills necessary for the wild, these creatures cannot just be returned there, according to Delsink. “Sadly, there is no easy way to quickly find homes for more than 100 lions at once.
These lions are the innocent victims, which makes the scenario very terrible.”