The Life Of A Captive Bred Lion In South Africa

Posted on April 13, 2014, 8:11 pm
7 mins

The life of a captive bred Lion in South Africa

My inspiration for writing this article is based on a couple of facts; in the past 20 years the wild lion population has decreased more that 80%. It is estimated there are only 2,800 lions left in the wild today and an estimated 6,000+ in captivity. According to the Red List of Threatened Species, the lion is listed as vulnerable and not endangered.

I’m tired of seeing hunters displaying their trophies on social media sites and it sadness me deeply when I see pictures of people petting lion cubs.

If you have been to such a place or are planning a trip to somewhere that allows interaction with lion cubs then you may not be aware of what the Lions have been through.

At Birth:

whitelion1In South Africa, there are over 150 Lion breeding farms. These farms make money from breeding lions and then selling them onto reserves and hotel industries. At these breeding farms when females produce a litter of cubs, they are immediately taken away from their mother and hand-reared by humans.  The farms do this for three reasons:

  1. If you take away the cubs from the mother she will then  go back into gestation so she can mate again (bear in mind females in the wild only produce one litter over a couple years)
  2. Some reserves attract paid volunteer to help hand-rear Lion cubs telling them that the mother Lioness had abandoned them.
  3. The cubs need to be “people friendly” for the hotel guest. Some guests actually believe that by petting or playing with the cubs your money goes towards conversation efforts to release these animals back into the wild.




The fact is these Lions can sadly never be returned to the wild as they have been in human contact for years and do not know how to feed themselves or fend for themselves against other lions. Also there is a huge amount of inbreeding at these farms as it doesn’t matter what kind of bloodline it has once it looks like a lion.



When the cubs mature and are no longer cute and cuddly the industry then advertises a “Walk with Lions”.  This basically is what it says you bring a lion or a couple for a walk around the property. This is a very sad existence for a teenage lion and is extremely dangerous for people who take part.

Fully Mature:


At this stage the Lion is too big to be brought for a walk and certainly too big to be played with so the Lions are sold mainly onto Breeding farms or Canned Hunting Ranches.

The majority of females are sent to breeding farms (when old enough) and will be placed with a male to start breeding straight away, as for the males they are sold to Canned Hunting Farms.


What is Canned hunting?

Canned hunting is when an animal (mainly Lions) are placed into a fenced area to be shot by a hunter with a gun or bow. By placing the animal in a fenced area, this guarantees the hunter a kill which they can pay €5,000 for.

Some South African laws state a lion must be released into the enclosure it will be hunted in four months before the initial  hunt but the truth is that Lion farmers cannot afford to feed that animal for 4 months so they release the lion a couple of days to a couple of hours before the hunt.

Sometimes  bait is placed in a certain part of the enclosure this ensure the animal is in a certain place allowing the hunter to take his shot more accurately and it also benefits most ranches as a lot of the have a No-Kill – No Pay policy.



In 2005, Internet hunting started to

be a big thing…in case you don’t

know what that is, it’s when a r

emote controlled gun is placed in t

he cage with the animal and from

anywhere in the world behind a

desk and a webcam the hunter

can shoot and kill the animal.







When a Lion is killed in the Canned Hunting Ranches there are two main outcomes as to what happens with the Lions body.

(A) The South African government can issue a permit to the hunter to take his/her “trophy” home.

(B) The lion’s bones are sold onto the Asian markets where they can be sold for up to $70,000.

It horrible to think most Lions hunted on these ranches end up as a floor mat in somebody’s sitting room, nailed to a wall or their bones shipped off in bags to the Asian market for somebody’s financial gain.

Traditional Chinese medicine has always used Tiger Bones to make their Tiger Wine but now there is a huge demand for lion bones as Tigers are so endangered and the Chinese market believes the bones of a wild lion are more potent than that of a captive breed lion.

The Lion Bone trade makes so much money that conservations are afraid it will encourage local people to hunt wild Lions and sell their bones also to the Asian Market.

How you can help:

Sign every petition on this planet against canned hunting. Don’t think for a minute that your vote doesn’t count!

Know that true sanctuaries do not breed animals. They rescue animals and give them food and a safe place to live out the rest of their lives. Animals homed in true sanctuaries are not bought, sold, traded or used for animal testing.

Please share this article on your social media sites.

2 Responses to: The Life Of A Captive Bred Lion In South Africa

  1. August 10th, 2015



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