Cape Town – The message South Africa sends to international tourists is vital, with a step towards ensuring that cub petting is not promoted in South Africa being taken at OR Tambo International Airport.
Conservationists previously raised the concern about irresponsible nature of a cub petting photo in the halls of the International Arrivals at OR Tambo which indirectly feeds into the unfortunate life cycle of the notorious canned lion industry in South Africa.
The image, which was part of South African Tourism’s (SAT) advertising campaign at the airport, shows a family playing with lion cubs - an unethical practice associated with certain organisations that offer cub petting and then allegedly supply the canned lion hunting industry when the cub gets too big.
SEE: SA's controversial lion bones quota: Home truth of the canned lion life cycle you have to see
However this image has now been replaced by a new one, officially supplied by Blood Lions - the hard-hitting documentary by conservation activist Ian Michler has been instrumental in exposing the industry that sees lions bred for the bullet the groundbreaking documentary that has catapulted the practice onto the global conservation agenda.
African free-range lions have declined alarmingly over the last few decades with only 20 000 remaining today, down from 30 000 just two decades ago.
ALSO SEE: SA airport to remove cub petting images that give tourists the wrong message
In January 2017, Blood Lions tweeted the airport and SAT CEO Sisa Ntshona about the image, and together with other organisations, urged the airport and SAT to have the image removed.
Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) admitted that the image sends the wrong message to arriving tourists and now a new image - supplied by Blood Lions, only showing the majestic King of the jungle – replaces the cub petting image at OR Tambo.
See the before and after images at OR Tambo Airport:
Old cub petting image in the halls of International Arrivals at OR Tambo. (Photo: Supplied).
New lion image in the halls of International Arrivals at OR Tambo. (Photo: Supplied).
Ian Michler, Consultant and Campaign Co-leader to Blood Lions told Traveller24 that "SA Tourism and OR Tambo must be congratulated for their swift and decisive action in removing the original image, one that portrayed an unethical and irresponsible approach to marketing South Africa as a tourism destination."
"For Brand South Africa to prosper, we all need to be true to the claims we make about the country offering ethical, responsible and authentic experiences," he adds.
SA Tourism Editor Dale Joost says, "South African Tourism remains dedicated to promoting sustainable, responsible and ethical tourism practices. We are continually reviewing and revising the content that is available on our online channels and welcome feedback, questions, complaints and suggestions on that content.
"Should members of the media or public find content on our channels that may not reflect these standards, we request that this is highlighted for review with our content editor who can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org"
SEE: #ShockWildlifeTruths: SA tourism industry urged to commit to help curb 'exploitative wildlife practices'
Wildlife is an integral part of SA’s natural heritage, and tourism practices must advocate ethical, wildlife protection. Which is why Blood Lions and Humane Society International recently asked the Southern Africa Tourism Services Association (SATSA) to join its international petition, with over 110 000 signatures and directed at the South African tourism industry, with the aim of curbing exploitative wildlife practices such as cub petting.
Further to cub petting being an unethical tourism activity that leads to canned hunting, international travellers are also now looking for ethical, responsible experiences abroad.
Circuses, petting zoos, animal rides and other activities where animals are kept solely for human entertainment and as tourism drawcards are no longer generally accepted thanks to a growing number of tourists who are aware of the consequences of such practices.
MUST-SEE: #ShockWildlifeTruths: Pressure mounts to ban wild animal interactions in SA
And due to decline in demand from tourists, as well as pressure from conservationists, organisations and tourists, tourism authorities and operators have shown some progress in scrapping animal interaction activities from their itineraries.
SEE: Oudtshoorn farms scrap ostrich rides in line with ethical tourism best practice
At the recent Southern African Tourism Services Association (SATSA) conference, how to craft a compliance process regarding animal interactions was discussed. However Michler believes that “This will allow many to continue with cruel and irresponsible practices under the veil of conservation or education.”
"Blood Lions and the coalition of responsible ethical operators will continue to lobby SA's tourism bodies to live up to their marketing claims,” says Michler, adding that Brand South Africa could be at risk if international disapproval over wild animals is ignored.
What to read next on Traveller24:
- #WorldLionDay: Awareness needed to double endangered lion numbers by 2050
- #ShockWildlifeTruths: Pressure mounts to ban wild animal interactions in SA
- #ShockWildlifeTruths: SA tourism industry urged to commit to help curb 'exploitative wildlife practices'