In a joint scientific study, researchers from Blood Lions, World Animal Protection and Monitor Conservation Research Society investigated the extent of the captive predator industry in South Africa. Using the right for public access to information legislation known as PAIA (Promotion of Access to Information Act), we gathered data to determine the extent of captive breeding, keeping, hunting, and trade of big cats across South Africa’s nine provinces.
Explore our research findings below to learn about how South Africa’s varying national and provincial legislation has created blurred lines and a lack of regulation.
Let's Unpack the Research
Between 2005 and 2013, the number of lions in captivity more than doubled from 2500 to 6200.
This enormous increase in captive lions was due to an increase in demand for interactive activities like cub petting, canned hunting, and skeletons for the bone trade.
In 2019, Minister Barbara Creecy stated that there were 7979 lions being kept in 366 registered facilities. Even so, it is difficult to gauge the accuracy of these figures due to the possibility of unregistered facilities and those operating without the necessary permits. However, we still do not have accurate numbers for other indigenous and exotic species (like tigers) living in captivity in South Africa.
TAKE ACTION: Don’t support facilities that allow you to interact with captive wildlife. Rather #KeepItWild
Many conservationists have expressed concern that if South Africa continues to breed lions and other predators in captivity, it could cause serious harm to the country’s reputation as a wildlife destination focused on genuine conservation.
This would mean that any income South Africa gains from interactive activities, like cub petting, as well as canned hunting and lion bones, would not justify the damage the industry can cause to Brand SA.
TAKE ACTION: Don’t support facilities that breed wildlife in captivity for commercial purposes. Rather #KeepItWild
We used a public participation tool called PAIA (Promotion of Access to Information Act) which is essentially a national regulation that allows the public to request information from government bodies.
This tool is incredibly important because your voices matter and all South Africans have the right to access information of public importance for the sake of transparency and accountability.
TAKE ACTION: Sign the Petition to support our Open Letter to Ministers Creecy and Didiza.
Understanding the legislation that governs the keeping, breeding, killing and trade of big cats can sound a little complicated, so let’s look at some common names that we often use:
NEMBA: The National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act is South Africa’s primary biodiversity conservation law designed to regulate how plant and animal species can be conserved and used.
TOPS: The Threatened or Protected Species Regulations govern restricted activities that involve certain wild species, including indigenous big cats. It also regulates the permit systems used by those who want to breed, keep, and hunt lions.
CITES: The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora governs the international trade in wildlife with the aim to ensure that such trade does not threaten the survival of the species
EMI: Environmental Management Inspectorates inspect captive facilities to ensure that they are complying with provincial and national regulations.
TAKE ACTION: You can read about how we conducted our research and the findings here:
Part of an Environmental Management Inspectorate’s (EMIs) duty is to inspect captive facilities to ensure that they comply with provincial regulations relating to any restricted activities they engage in. This means they need to inspect aspects such as the security of the fences and camp size, whether or not facility owners have the right permits in place to breed and keep captive wildlife, and to enforce regulations especially where facility owners may not be complying with regulations.
The welfare of captive animals and big cats falls within the responsibility of DALRRD (Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development) and national and provincial authorities, even though EMIs do not have the necessary training in welfare issues.
TAKE ACTION: It’s time to #cancelcaptivity.
TAKE ACTION: Learn more about what makes a genuine sanctuary different to captive facilities below.
- An industry which intensely breeds lions and other predators for profit.
- A vicious cycle of wildlife exploitation that starts with interactive tourism, to “canned” hunting, bone trade and live trade.
- A lifetime of suffering for wild animals that should not be kept in captivity.
- An unregulated industry that does not always fully comply with regulations in the keeping and breeding of wildlife, especially when it comes to the animals’ welfare and well-being.