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Bred for hunting: South Africa’s Lion Industry

Hunting of captive bred lions is rejected by all animal protection organisations. But the cold blooded killing of lions is not the only reason to reject the lion breeding and rearing industry. The road to suffering for lions on South African breeding farms begins shortly after their birth.

FOUR PAWS is fighting to finally stop canned lion hunting in South Africa.

Separated from the mother too soon

Often the lion cubs are separated from their mothers only three days after their birth. This practice has horrible consequences. Apart from the mental suffering, due to the lack of milk provided by the mother, multiple deficiencies develop in the young animals. The cubs frequently suffer from bone deformations, breathing and digestive problems, thyroid problems, calcium deficiencies and many other illnesses.


The keeping conditions for the young animals are also often completely unacceptable: Water, food and shade are hard to come by in many of the enclosures. In the most extreme cases, female cubs are shot shortly after their birth as they are rarely in demand for hunting.

Petting is stress

Even when they are only babies, the little lion cubs are abused as tourist attractions. By being raised by hand, they are habituated to humans. Everywhere in South Africa you can find the offers to pat a lion cub, take your photo with a lion cub or to go for a walk with a young lion.


These activities cause a lot of stress for the motherless lion cubs: young animals need an environment with as little stress as possible, so the constant contact with people and the poor keeping conditions lead to massive behavioural problems. Even their physical development is strongly affected. In addition, over and over again, people are being attacked and injured by young lions.

Wealthy hunters from overseas pay for killing an innocent animal.

Lionesses as breeding machines

The breeding lionesses are ready to conceive again very shortly after their young cubs are taken away from them and are then instantly mated again. Abused as “breeding machines”, they are continuously exposed to the traumatic experience of losing their young.


Because they are giving birth much more frequently than they would be under natural conditions, their bodies are exhausted after only a few years. Cubs born to lionesses in such conditions also have weak constitutions.


In the wild, lionesses usually give birth once every two years – on the breeding farms they have to give birth every six months. It is not rare for exhausted lionesses that are deemed unsuitable for further breeding to end up as “special offers” for hunters.

Misinformation for tourists …

Lion breeders falsely describe themselves as “nature protectors” and portray an illusion to tourists that the animals are being bred to be released into the wild. Such claims are patently false. Big cats born in captivity, especially when they have been raised by hand, cannot be successfully released into the wild.

… and volunteers

Volunteers from all over the world love a hands-on experience with lions and are attracted to the breeding farms to help raising the lions. They are misled by the lion breeders' portrayal of the illusion that the animals are being bred to be released into the wild. This is a deliberate ploy to spread misinformation and attract volunteers to do free labour for the breeders. It is common for volunteers to pay a lot of money for a six week stay in a so-called “rescue station” or a “game reserve”.


These offers have nothing to do with the protection of species or animals. The young lions suffer on these farms. Anyone doing volunteer work or gaining work experience here is - often completely unintentional - supporting the horrific lion breeding and hunting industry.  Generally, the sad end-destination of South African captive bred lions is a canned hunting farm.

FOUR PAWS position

FOUR PAWS opposes the captive breeding of big cats and the hunting of lions. FOUR PAWS would like to see:


  • A ban on canned hunting in South Africa and other countries currently allowing the practice.
  • Inclusion of lions in South Africa's “Threatened or Protected Species Regulation” (TOPS List).
  • A ban on commercial lion breeding farms.
  • A ban on patting lions – with lions being raised by hand only when absolutely necessary.

What you can do

  • Send your protest against canned lion hunting directly to the South African decision makers:
  • Refuse to visit any breeding or hunting farms.
  • Avoid tourist attractions in which young animals are exposed to direct contact with humans.
  • Inform your travel agent, friends and family about South Africa’s lion industry’s background and canned hunting.
  • Be careful in the choice of jobs or work experience in South Africa (“Volunteering”). Make sure that you don't support the captive lion breeding and canned hunting industry.