In this social media campaign, Youth For Lions highlighted the Top 5 Red Flags to look out for when visiting a captive wildlife facility that keeps big cats, especially lions, tigers, cheetahs and leopards.

The campaign covered the many questions you should ask to help you decide which facilities to support. If any of the Red Flags are raised when you ask these questions, we recommend that you avoid visiting that facility because it cannot be considered a True Sanctuary. 

Remember: a True Sanctuary does not breed (have baby animals), trade (buy or sell) or allow any humans to interact with (touch, hold or feed) their animals, and they offer animals a home for their entire lives.

We recommend rather viewing lions and other big cats in a game reserve and in the wild where they belong.


Join us as we highlight the #RedFlagsForLions that you should look out for when visiting a wildlife facility.

We want to help YOU learn what questions to ask so you can equip yourself with the right knowledge to stay informed and be a VOICE for our lions.

Remember, a True Sanctuary does not allow any human interactions with their animals.

You can help by keeping it wild and not supporting any facilities that buy and sell, breed, or allow humans to interact with or take selfies with any ‘wild’ animals.

It is definitely a Red Flag if you can interact in any way with the lions, lion cubs or any other predators held in captivity at a tourism facility.

Cubs that are hand-raised and petted by tourists are taken away from their mothers when they are very young.

They are often passed off as ‘orphans’ or ‘rejected cubs’ and used for cub petting and bottle-feeding attractions.

Questions you need to ask:

  • Why do you allow interactions with your animals?
  • Why are these cubs not with their lion mothers?

It is a Red Flag if a tourism facility always has lion cubs and other baby predators to play with.

A constant supply of cubs means that the facility is either breeding the animals themselves, or they are buying cubs from other facilities that breed them.

Scientists agree that breeding predators in captivity and using them as tourist attractions is NOT conservation.

Questions you need to ask:

  • Why do you breed your animals?
  • What will happen to the cubs when they grow older?

It is considered a Red Flag if a captive wildlife facility is breeding their lions and other predators.

Despite what you’re told, captive bred and hand-reared lions can not be released into the wild for a variety of reasons.

Captive-bred lions are tame, they cannot hunt for or protect themselves, their genetics are too weak and there is no more safe land left for wild lions in South Africa.

Questions you need to ask:

  • Do you let the animals live here for the rest of their lives?
  • Do you have more information about your animals that were released into the wild?

It is considered a Red Flag if there are always baby predators, but not many adults that live at a captive wildlife facility.

If a facility does not give their adult lions, tigers, cheetahs and other predators a home for life, and if they are unclear on where their adult predators go, it is HIGHLY LIKELY that they sell the animals on to other facilities that will use them for breeding, or they could be involved in canned hunting or the bone trade.

Not having any adult lions also means that there is no normal social structure for the animals at the facility. In the wild, young lions grow up amongst other cubs, sub-adults and adult lions all living, hunting and playing together as they grow older.

A true sanctuary rescues animals and gives them a home for life.

It is a Red Flag if a captive wildlife tourism facility is trading (buying and/or selling) their lions and other predators.

If a captive wildlife facility is buying and/or selling their lions and other predators, they are contributing to the cycle of exploitation from cub petting and zoos to canned hunting and the bone trade.

They are earning money off of the animals by selling them. Predators are also sold to zoos and breeders overseas where they are often used for tourist interactions.

Questions you need to ask:

  • Why don’t you offer these animals a home for life?
  • Do you research the places that you are selling to?