Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Etiam in volutpat magna. Curabitur in tortor dolor. Mauris ligula ligula, rutrum at massa sit amet, maximus viverra eros. Vestibulum sed molestie nisi. Sed et condimentum ligula. Pellentesque hendrerit lectus mi. Proin id consequat libero. Maecenas luctus molestie magna ut tempus. Vestibulum ultrices lorem diam, vel malesuada velit dictum vitae. In ut turpis nec ante vehicula placerat ac eu arcu. Maecenas eleifend, erat a placerat ultricies, ante nisi consequat libero, vitae efficitur est dolor nec felis. Donec et sem vitae mauris tempus lobortis. Praesent id risus leo.

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Lions

Lions, the so-called “King of the Jungle” have nothing to roar about when it comes to their Vulnerable classification on the IUCN Red List. There is no surprise that the lion population in the wild has decreased by 43% alone within the last 20 years with all the factors that are stacked against them. Some include habitat loss, trophy hunting, poaching, human-lion conflict, and the illegal bushmeat trade. This is in the natural world, in captivity life is equally horrific which centers around the cycle of the canned lion and more. In the end, the common denominator for wild and captive-bred lions comes down to humans, the most dangerous threat of all.

Lions play some key roles in the food chain that should not go unnoticed. Regardless of whether one cares if they exist in the wild or not, let’s look at what would happen should they go extinct. Lions control the herbivore population. If there are no more lions, herbivores would overgraze natural foliage depleting the ecosystem, which is home or needed for other species to survive as well. Further, should there be a world without lions and the herbivores are left with no natural predator, there would be no natural disease mitigation among their population. Noting the staggering amounts of herbivores in the wild, there is no doubt that should the lion’s role become obsolete, it could lead to severe consequences for all species, including man.

The rising population of people in rural parts of Africa is a threat to the lion population. In these same rural places, humans rely on agriculture to survive. Lions fight to simply exist with humans. In the past century, lions have lost 80% or more of their original habitat, leaving them to survive on the little land which is designated as protected areas. While locals have learned in recent decades to co-exist with lions, the concern of human-lion conflict and habitat loss will always be a contributing factor to the demise of the lion species.

Bushmeat (consumption of wild animals) is an age-old method of protein intake in most African cultures, it has somehow managed to be popular in international markets. The problem with bushmeat hunting is that simply in its majority, it is hunted illegally without permits while hunting in restricted areas. This method of hunting is left unsustainable and overexploited, thus leaving a huge impact on the survival of lions. The animals which are targeted for the bushmeat trade are the Apex Predators' means to exist. The illegal hunting that exists on the borders of protected areas themselves, leaves the stench of carcasses where lions themselves fall victims to snares or worse.

Like illegal bushmeat hunting, poaching is yet another illegal practice of trespassing on another’s property to hunt or steal game without the landowner’s permission. The poaching of lions has sadly been on the rise in recent years. Poachers simply douse meat with poison, while they die a very slow and painful death, the poachers hack off faces, paws, and more for the increased interest among the Asian markets. Making matters worse, it is much easier to poach a lion than it is an elephant or rhino.

A further blow to lions, is the rising demand for their bones. Since the Asiatic markets have severely depleted the tiger population for their bones to make wine, use for medicinal purposes, and common trinkets, lions have become the new victims. Lion poaching is an epidemic that South Africa knows only too well. South Africa has more captive lions than they do wild lions.

Trophy Hunting is hunting wild animals for trophies. Trophies mean something different to all, but they can be for a specific part/s or the whole animal. These trophies can be skins, horns, bodies, heads, feet, or hands of any species. Typically, hunters like hunting the males as they are more ornamental, having the largest body or horns. One of the world’s largest outcries to date was back in 2015. Where a collared and researched lion studied by the University of Oxford, was hunted, and killed by a trophy hunter. Cecil was his name and primarily lived in Hwange National Park, but was lured by a private hunter, hired by an American dentist that had the desire to kill a large dominant male lion. Cecil was lured off the property, and shot with a bow and arrow, many hours later, he died a slow painful death on July 2, 2015. By the time researchers found his collar cut off and laying in a tree, the trophy was already taken, and Cecil was no more.

Lions born and bred in captivity have zero chance of being reintroduced into the wild, leaving all the captive-bred lions that are in zoos, circuses, roadside attractions, private ownership across the world, with no value to the conservation efforts of their species. Simply, they will never go back into the wild to stimulate the necessary gene pool to prevent lions from extinction instead, exploited by humans for their own greed.

In South Africa, there are more than 300 private farms where lions are bred behind fences and bars to specifically facilitate the hunting industry. This is the start of the canned hunting industry, currently legal activity. At a mature age, they are chosen by a hunter at one of the private farms, which are then released from the caged area of the mass population of lions onto another fenced property where there is no chance of escape and can be shot instantly or for a more exciting experience of a hunting process can take hours or more. Regardless, the hunter chooses their approach.

Lions in such places are treated as a piece of machinery, they simply exist to produce as if they were on a factory farm. Once born, the cubs are torn away from their mothers at around two to three weeks old so the mothers can go back into estrous to produce more cubs. Once the breeding lion has exhausted their purpose, they are either killed for their bones or sent back to the hunting farms to be trophy hunted. Their cubs are then rented out to other non-breeding farms that facilitate cub-petting. At these temporary holding places as cubs, the farms advertise to attract clueless volunteers to help feed and care for them. Here they pay hefty fees for the privilege of caring for these innocent cubs that are essentially marked for death.

Once the lions are too big for petting, which is often around one and a half years old, they are then rented out to the private farms around South Africa to have the experience to walk with the lions. This will pretty much become the beginning of the end for the lions as they are then placed back into the hunting farms, where they are all crammed together, not being fed properly or cared for, often leading to various diseases leaving them unhealthy as they wait to die as a trophy or sold for their bones.

There are so many places around South Africa that tourists become exposed to where the establishments proclaim a lot of false information such as lion cub petting and walking with the lions are good for conservation. The lion gene pool is not affected by hunting, canned, and/or otherwise. As mentioned above, hunters want the biggest or most robust of males, whereas canned lions are bred for quantity and not quality. This is a money-making business where the industry relies on and preys on people’s natural desire to care for a cub and more. They will say anything to get you to pay for this experience. One then becomes part of this vicious cycle without even knowing it.

Another term "sanctuary" is used loosely by tourist places that call themselves sanctuaries, and many of these places exist in South Africa. This term confuses the average person as it means a safe haven or a refuge, a place that is protected from danger. Often, these places are breached leaving the animals that inhabit the land subject to poaching and or hunting. There are many places within South Africa that call themselves a sanctuary yet lack the proper criteria to be one. Only a few of the places which call themselves a sanctuary in SOuth Africa are genuine sanctuaries.

WAF's personal experiences with sanctuaries have ranged over the years, yet we are fortunate enough to end up supporting the top ones in South Africa. Through our history outside of WAF, a founder of WAF aligned with a handful of strangers (now friends) to raise funds to relocate abused lions from a circus or substandard zoo-like conditions in Ukraine. Out of a total of 12 lions relocated to sanctuaries in South Africa, Love Big Cats Alive Sanctuary homes 7 of the twelve lions that have been relocated. Of these 7 lions that exist here, the last three lions to be translocated took place under WAF's fundraising campaign in early 2020. Through the arduous efforts over the years to get these lions to their fur-ever home, we have gained imperative knowledge of how to care for lions once they reach their destination and for them to live comfortably and as close to the wild as they possibly can. These lions will live the rest of their lives in peace and die with dignity intact. The way it is meant to be. Of the toughest lessons we have learned is that once funding a relocation process, the average person will feel a sense of accomplishment and the need to fund the next rescue for yet another tortured being someplace in the world. Where in fact, this is truly just the beginning for these battered souls. Upon Cecil, Xanda, and Joy’s arrival in 2021, we have fundraised and campaigned for the necessary funds for these lions to have extensive vet care. All know that vet care for any animal is not cheap, let alone lions that not only need the much-needed vet care, they, in fact, must learn to walk, jump, and eventually run, while they are placed on the proper nutritional diets. All these lions have been neglected for years, some more than others leaving them with extensive deficits.

While we understand that these lions in sanctuaries play no conservation value to the gene pool of their species, we have become attached to the cats we have rescued and further uphold a moral obligation that they are well cared for until the end of their time. We continue to be a part of their daily life, and some of our directors will be visiting them at the end of 2022. We feel privileged to co-exist amongst these magnificent beasts.

Less speaking of the circus and zoo life that exists at human hands in captivity, our end goal and part of WAFs mandate is to raise awareness and education for the Endangered Species of Africa and feel passionate about spreading the word of the plight of the lion in the wild as well as in the captive industry in South Africa. We have learned a lot on our journey thus far and do hope that for the potential novice lover of lions, we have broken down some disturbing yet real facts that exist within South Africa and hope you think twice before choosing your next tourist attraction to visit within beautiful South Africa itself.


Saving the Last Rhinos

Grant Fowlds, an ambassador for Project Rhino, and Graham Spence have co-authored the book "Saving the Last Rhinos - The Life of a Frontline Conservationist" which was publised towards the end 2019.

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