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No lions left in Africa soon?


New study confirms dramatic reduction in lion numbers

An alarming new study by a research group at Oxford University now confirms what the international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS has been warning about for years: a dramatic reduction in the number of lions in Africa. Especially in South Africa an additional threat is so-called “canned hunting”, a particularly cruel form of hunting to order. Here, lions are the principal victims; they are shut into enclosures to be shot by amateur hunters. A hunting licence is usually not required. FOUR PAWS is calling for a ban on canned hunting!

FOUR PAWS calls for a ban on importing lion hunting trophies, and an end to canned hunting
© © FOUR PAWS | Mihai Vasile

Still legal trade with bones from bred lions

Supporters of canned hunting claim that it helps the conservation of species. But the truth is just the opposite: the growth in trophy hunting is putting increasing pressure on lions in the wild, as more and more lions are being taken from the wild to be used for breeding. Another factor connected with the South African lion industry is the still legal trade with bones from bred lions. In consequence, this poses another serious threat to the wild lion population as it increases the demand for lion bones used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Still around 6000 lions on around 250 farms

Our research shows that lions are being enticed away from national parks or other reserves, to end up being approved as hunting targets. Sometimes these lions are initially taken to breeding farms; in South Africa alone there are currently around 6000 lions on around 250 farms. Many of the cubs born there have to put up with being presented as tourist attractions; customers can stroke them, take photos, and go for walks with them. Naive tourists visit these farms and pay money to see or touch the cubs. Very few of them know that in doing so, they are supporting a cruel industry that even many hunting associations condemn as unethical.

This branch of the industry is extremely lucrative, and it’s the animals who bear the cost!

Money talks

Canned hunting is a hobby for a wealthy minority from rich industrial countries. The bigger the wallet, the bigger the trophy: a male lion with a magnificent mane costs around €25,000, and those with particularly dark and thick manes can fetch up to €45,000. A lioness can be had for €5000 or less. Some farms even offer young lions to be shot!

Complete hunting packages are sold on the internet, at hunting fairs, or by specialist travel agents. These packages include food, accommodation, and the ‘support’ of a professional hunter. Supplements are charged for transport, and for work carried out by the taxidermists.


We are calling for:


  • the prohibition of ‘Canned Hunting’ in South Africa.
  • the prohibition of commercial lion breeding farms and unethical practices like bottle feeding of cubs, cuddling or walking with ‘lions.
  • An end of the legal export of lion bones for TCM and the prohibition of euthanizing lions for the lion bone trade.
  • For countries outside South Africa to introduce national legislation that prohibits importation of trophies following the example of Australia and support an uplisting of lions within CITES to Appendix 1.
  • For important stakeholders like conservationists, travel companies, airlines but also hunting associations to take a clear and public stand against the unscrupulous lion industry and Canned Hunting.


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