Cape Town - The road to hell may be paved with good intentions. But in SA, with the current canned lion crisis, there is no excuse to be ignorant anymore.
You might view it as an innocent interaction... a fun, family-friendly activity where you can teach your kids about SA's wildlife.
You can even believe the organisations that say they doing it in aid of conservation. But do not be fooled - petting a lion cub directly leads to its canned killing later on.
That's why lion conservation campaign Blood Lions urges visitors, tourist, volunteers and businesses in SA to ask the right questions about conservation.
"There are only a handful of authentic wildlife sanctuaries in South Africa and they do not BREED, TRADE (they mostly receive animals rather than going out to acquire them) or INTERACT with the animals in any way," warns Blood Lions conservationists.
Parks that allow these activities are typically ones that supplies grown-up lions for canned hunting.
Check out this informative Blood Lions video to see how the cub petting industry plays out:
The footage above makes up part of a series of nine clips that highlight key factors in the canned hunting industry.
The short films reveal some new footage not seen in the Blood Lions movie. Despite ill practice, there are sanctuaries in SA that work for conservation.
If you'd like to make an educated and informed choice, these are some of the questions to ask at a predator facility:
1. Do they offer any activities based on animal and human interaction? If yes, then why?
2. If it claims to be a sanctuary, do they offer life-long care for the animals?
3. Are they trading in animals?
4. Where did all the animals come from and where do some of them go?
5. Who is their recognised predator ecologist or scientist?
6. Have any of their animals been released into the wild? And if so, where and when?
The only way to ensure lion cub petting - and canned hunting - is stopped, is to stop the demand for the 'product'.
This issue was once again highlighted earlier in August when the Joburg Lion Park backtracked on a decision to stop lion cub petting at their new sanctuary, after saying they would stop the practice for good.
Lion Park General Manager Whin Booyens said, "We had every intention running the new park without cub petting and we tried to replace this with other activities. Unfortunately, this led to a dramatic and unexpected drop in the number of visitors and tour operators."
It's a case of, 'we can't beat them so we'll join them until it all gets banned'. And that would only happen if demand from the general public stopped.
What to read next on Traveller24:
- Joburg Lion Park: We want to ban petting but we need the money
- PICS: Lion cub in the club? Baby animals are not toys!
- PICS: Roar! First pitter-patter of lion cub paws in Mountain Zebra National Park