Can the death of a lion ultimately save the species?

The world woke up with a start following the death of the well known Zimbabwean lion named Cecil.

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In an unprecedented outpouring of rage, his death at the hands of a trophy hunter circumnavigated the world and educated the masses into the “sport” known as Trophy Hunting. The most intriguing observation was the sheer number of people who were unaware this happens on a daily basis, particularly in South Africa.

South Africa has over 160 Canned Lion Farms. These are facilities which breed lions with no regards for genetics or the welfare of the animals. In fact, welfare is the last thing on their mind. Exploitation from birth to death is the objective. Lionesses are forced into breeding. Cubs torn away from their mothers at a few days old, only to be petted and fed by tourists who think they are helping the poor orphaned cub. They are not orphaned, and any facility that tells you they are, are frankly lying to you. These are the kind of facilities that take in unwitting youngsters looking for a gap year experience by volunteering. In fact they pay good money for the experience whilst unknowingly abetting canned hunting.

The problem with cubs is that they grow up. They become too boisterous to handle in an enclosed space, so they are moved into the world of “Walking with Lions” experiences. Here the dear tourist pays a lot more money for an experience where they walk in a controlled environment, carrying sticks and having their photos taken by the guardians walking alongside them. Do you truly believe this lion cannot kill you? Your stick will not protect you against an animal with an instinct for killing.

However, the lions are so used to human interaction (since birth) they do not really see humans as a threat. Following their growth during the walking with lions phase of their miserable lives, they are put out to pasture to mature. I use the word pasture rather cynically as the reality is these lions are kept in caged enclosures, sometimes 30 or more lions in one pen, fed, watered and allowed to grow to maturity. In any other country the way these animals are treated would be legislated by animal anti cruelty laws. The respective SPCA would step in and ensure their well being, or close down the farms where lions are being reared on an industrial scale.

This is where their worth really comes into fruition. A fully grown male, with a great shaggy mane will fetch anything up to £35,000 to a trophy hunter. This is the reality. This is the despicable act of lion farming. This is the rampant disregard for an animal with no legal protection, a government who sees lions as a commodity and a hunter who murders his prey in an enclosed compound (hence the canned hunting term, as the lion kill is in the can).

This brings me back to Cecil. Yes he was murdered and the world was shaken awake. For decades numerous organisations (not for profit) have been trying to get lions the protection they need to survive and mostly to educate the world to this industry and stop the cruelty that ensues. In the blink of his dying eye, Cecil did this for every lion left on the planet. He died for the last few remaining wild lions, he died for every lion being bred on canned hunting farms and he woke the human spirit in all of us to stand up and say “We are not prepared to live a life where we allow an entire species to become extinct” Not on my watch!

Education was they key. It is with most things in life. If you learn about something, you have a conscious awareness of it for the rest of your life. Every child is in wander when they learn natural history and the ways of our planet. Not everyone is an activist, not everyone can march for justice but every one of us HUMANS can make a difference one way or another by acting upon our knowledge and educating others along the way. We are the messengers, the silent prayers in the drifting winds, the ones with compassion and a love of life itself.

These past few weeks have been incredibly frantic but worth every minute of every day as we take strides to helping protect the apex predator, the king of the jungle, the symbol worldwide of power, royalty, regal status and family bonds.

As Global President of Protecting African Lions Foundation (PAL) I have been quite taken aback by the support and responses we have had across the globe. Our iconic PAL bracelets are being shipped worldwide to those wishing to express their solidarity, to make a difference, to show support and to drive the changes in laws worldwide that are required to protect lions. Our ambassadors work relentlessly building the relationships that can drive real change, our collective intellectual connectivity.

I am pleased to have initiated the campaign for #CecilsLaw which is now a global reference to any legislation passed in the protection of lions. Cecil has a legacy that will live on for generations to come and without him our planet may just have allowed the lion to fade into extinction. Support from the world of conservation, social media, sport, music, celebrity and government is helping drive #CecilsLaw and shall be the catalyst to ban canned hunting and trophy hunting on our planet.

Until next time

Steve

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United pride to ban canned hunting

Friday 13th may be a bad superstitious day for some, however in London’s Trafalgar Square incredible things happened this week. The Global March for Lions 2015 (GM4L) was a unified voice for change demanding an end to the canned hunting trade, the ban of trophy hunting imports or exports anywhere in the world and an opportunity for mankind to protect the lion from extinction.

The GM4L was collectively supported by a number of NGOs and a fantastic vocal army of Lion Warriors.

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Our united voices were heard loud and clear by representatives in the South African Embassy across the road. Not since the call for the end of apartheid have so many congregated, chanting, calling for South Africa to make amendments to their laws, in this case, to ban canned hunting in their country.

There are a range of activities which aide and abet the canned lion hunting and breeding farms that are rife across the African continent. We are urging all international tourism operators to South Africa not to promote;

  • Cub petting
  • Walking with lion experiences
  • Volunteer experiences (unless these operators have been fully vetted and their practises scrutinised meticulously)
  • Tours that include any of the above
  • Any of the above in airline in-flight magazines

We make a further call on all airline operators to take a stance in agreeing NOT to carry Wildlife Trophies in their air freight.

These barbaric practises have no place in our world today. They are 19th century “sports” being played out in the 21st Century using the last remaining populations of a number of species as bait. To permit a species to be driven to the point of extinction is irresponsible of us as a race – This is not humanity’s finest hour.

Australia has taken the brave step of becoming the first country on the planet to ban the import of animal trophies. This precedence is a very clear message to other countries that they should follow suit.

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A petition calling for a ban on canned hunting in South Africa was hand delivered to an official from the South African High Commission. “It was powerful, hearing the chants of the crowd outside echoing right through South Africa House!” said Paul Tully from the Campaign Against Canned Hunting.

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Under the watchful gaze of Britains most iconic lions, campaigners from NGOs and fellow lion warriors shared their passion, their achievements and their beliefs in a future without canned hunting.

Click HERE to experience the day in our own words.

For a full transcript of the speech by Steve Travis – President of Protecting African Lions Foundation click HERE

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