Cape Town - Responding to recent talks that lion and other wild cub petting should be regulated in South Africa, the team behind the global award-winning documentary Blood Lions have spoken out, reiterating that there is "no place for tourism activities promoting the exploitation of animals".
"The links between the breeding farms, the petting and walking facilities, canned hunting and the lion bone trade are clear," they say. "To be suggesting that any of these activities should be regulated rather than stopped is short-sighted and irrational. It gives the green light to exploitation and would be a reversal of the gains achieved over the last decade."
Cormac Cullinan, an environmental lawyer agrees, saying that "by protecting the commercial interests of those exploiting lions instead of protecting lions, we are feeding the flames that threaten all wildlife".
SEE: Con or conservation: 6 Critical questions to ask about wildlife sanctuaries
The backlash comes as a group of concerned members from diverse areas of operations and interests initially established a Captive Lion Working Group, with an initial specific focus on lion breeding and cub petting.
The group, consisting of a mix of representatives, namely Onderstepoort, SA Vet Council, PAAZA, African Lion Working Group (IUCN SSC), Lion & Safari Park, SA Predators Association (SAPA), Campaign Against Canned Hunting (CACH), as well as independent specialists and consultants, met at the Lion & Safari Park on 21 January 2017 to discuss the subject of captive lions, and cub petting in particular.
The Department of Environmental Affairs and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries were also invited to participate in the discussions, and representatives from both departments attended the meeting.
"Under the facilitation of CBSG (IUCN Breeding Specialist Group)," the Campaign Against Canned Hunting (CACH) says, "constructive debate and input from this group of professional and experienced participants resulted in consensus that, despite differences in opinion and priorities, the working group would continue to operate and would pursue the drafting of an industry management plan for cub petting that can be circulated to the industry and key stakeholders for input."
The group broaden its spectrum as is now operating as the Captive Carnivores Working Group.
CACH believes that an agreement on regulations for carnivores in captivity, thus far totally unregulated, together with a universal welfare plan, would be a step in the right direction to ultimately place an entire ban on the industry.
The video footage below explains the link between cub petting and wild animal interactions, and how it affects the animals' overall well-being.
Blood Lions and CACH's sentiments are in line with those of SA's newly appointed Tourism CEO, Sisa Ntshona.
READ: New SA Tourism CEO hopes to 'eradicate' cub petting and animal interaction
In an earlier statement, Ntshona said that "South African Tourism does not promote or endorse any interaction with wild animals such as the petting of wild cats, interacting with elephants and walking with lions, cheetahs and so on.
He also said that conservation authorities' concerns about cub petting and other wildlife interaction practices are taken extremely seriously and that SA Tourism is in discussion with the "Sustainable Tourism Partnership Programme to see how we can work more closely with them to eradicate such practices".
ALSO SEE: SA airport to remove cub petting images that give tourists the wrong message
"Our marketing efforts promote an authentic and credible tourism experience to all our tourists, and this includes an authentic wildlife experience to keep it as “wild” and natural as possible," Ntshona says.
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