On Friday March thirteenth this year, a lion’s roar was heard in Melbourne Australia. The silent roar was heard during the global march for Lions at Melbourne’s Federation Square. The roar didn’t come from an actual lion but from Greg Hunt, Australia’s Environment Minister.
Speaking at the march, the 49-year old Hunt announced a ban on so called lion hunting trophies from entering or leaving the country.
He explained the motivation behind this ban.
“It is about raising the most majestic of creatures for a singular purpose and that is to kill them, to shoot them for pleasure and for profit.”
He tore into the cruel practice, “It is done in inhumane conditions. It is involving things such as raising and then drugging and in many cases, baiting. It is simply not acceptable in our day, in our time, on our watch.”
Why would anyone shoot and kill the king of the jungle for the sheer thrill of knowing that they have killed a lion? This question contains the answer – for the sheer thrill.
Someone gets down on one knee, closes one eye and points the gun at a fully grown lion about fifty metres away. Or someone stands behind a glinting gun tripod and directs the powerful gun on the tripod towards a lion that is minding its business less than one hundred metres away.
The lion has a distant gaze in its eyes, instinctively searching for gazelles, buffaloes, antelopes or any other herbivorous game that it can hunt. What it doesn’t know is that it is at that moment, it is being hunted and is about to meet its maker. As bullets rips through its priced golden hide opening the taps of its warm blood, the lion’s alert distant gaze transitions into an empty stare that soon becomes lifeless. The hunter’s eyes are blazing with that sheer thrill that has cost him thousands of dollars.
Hunters can pay as much as 30,000 dollars to hunt a fully grown male. Considering that a budget safari costs in the region of 300 dollars in countries like Kenya, it would take 100 tourists to generate a revenue of 30,000 dollars for safari operators. It’s no wonder lion-hunting remains as strong as ever in countries where it is allowed.
One thousand lions are shot in South Africa each year for the sheer thrill of hunting. One thousand lions! They are part of hundreds of lions that are raised in about 160 ranches. For several years, these lions are essentially raised in order to be killed.
Factory farming, hunting farms, trophy hunting, canned hunting, lion ranches, lion breeding... Professionals in this sector insist that these phrases mean different things. That may be so but what they mostly share are bullets and arrows that rip through lions for sheer human thrill.
The South African Predator Association explains on its website that ‘a male or female lion is hunted for its trophy, which is the skin that gets either tanned or mounted as a full size lion. The farmer/breeder remains with the carcass that is the flesh and the bones.’
The National Geographic quotes Pieter Potgieter, chairman of this Association, ‘For every captive-bred lion hunted, you’re saving animals in the wild.’ This argument is premised on the notion that hunting captive lions saves wild lions from illegal hunting. But some conservationists counter that South Africa’s captive lions, which number approximately eight thousand, are eight times as many as free, wild lions.
Ban captive breeding. These are the three words that conservationists in South Africa and beyond are echoing. But given the sea of dollars that underpins captive breeding are these three words just wishful thinking?
In this age where the gaming industry has grown by leaps and bounds, shouldn’t lion-hunting thrill seekers shoot digital lions instead of actual, live lions? If they are not digitally inclined, Africa is full of ‘thrill hotspots’ like hiking Mt Kilimanjaro, bungee jumping in Victoria Falls, watching the amazing spectacle of wildebeest migration in Kenya’s Maasai Mara Game Reserve, sailing along River Nile, savoring the regal gorilla’s in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and many more.
The king of the jungle once roamed aplenty across Africa.
But not anymore.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) notes that over the last few decades, lion population has been cut down by nearly half. There are now fewer than 40,000 African lions left in the wild. IFAW further notes that at least 5,663 lions were traded internationally for trophy hunting purposes. More than half of these lions were imported to the United States. The world’s sole superpower should follow the footsteps of Australia and ban such imports.
Trophy hunting is just but a fancy way of describing one awful word and act – slaughter. The slaughter of Africa’s lions should stop.