#ShockWildlifeTruths: Why foreign tourists like the B&B crew should stop cub petting

2017-10-25 18:00 - Unathi Nkanjeni
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Picture: Instagram

Cape Town - Wildlife petting and interactions in South Africa is a sore point. As with all industries that are counter-productive to the well-being of animals the world over, Thailand's elephant-back rides as an example, it takes time and effort to educate tourists and travellers. 

Central to the wildlife experience many tourists associate with South Africa and Africa is that of cub petting but it needs to stop.

Evidence suggests that it supports a bigger, more lucrative canned trophy hunting industry.  So when celebrity travellers visit SA you'd think they would be more inclined to share an ethical perspective on the matter. However this was not the case, with the recent Bold and Beautiful stars leaving conservationists shocked by their behaviour. 

The three cast members Karla Mosley, Jacob Young and Heather Tom were in the country to mark the 30th anniversary of the soapie.

Photos posted to Instagram, show them petting captive cub lions and cheetahs at Lion Park and Safari Park in Lanseria - an organisation that has previously stated they'd like to get rid of cub-petting but simply cannot afford to as their competitors keep doing. This speaks to the bigger issue of regulation overall. 

SEE: Before and After Pics: Positive change to OR Tambo advertising on SA wildlife

According to a tweet from the team behind the documentary Blood Lions, the cast members were sent to the cub petting facility by African Star, a public relations and event management company, and the SABC 3 channel.  However after being called out on social media, the cast members have since removed the pictures on their Instagram accounts.

Most recently, Blood Lions - the hard-hitting documentary that has placed the issue of lion cub petting firmly on the global stage - also helped to have the images at OR Tambo airport showing a family playing with lion cubs removed. Airports Company South Africa (Acsa) also admitted that the old image sent the wrong message to arriving tourists.  

"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," Ian Michler, Consultant and Campaign Co-leader to Blood Lions said at the time. 

Further to cub petting being an unethical tourism activity that leads to canned hunting, Michler says Blood Lions and the coalition of responsible ethical operators will continue to lobby SA's tourism bodies to live up to their marketing claims.

"Brand South Africa could be at risk if international disapproval over wild animals is ignored," he adds.

SEE: Con or conservation: 6 Critical questions to ask about wildlife sanctuaries

However, the B&B cast members aren't the only ones that have made headlines for unethical wildlife interactions. On Wednesday, 27 September Scott Baldwin, a rugby player for Ospreys and Wales, was caught on camera petting a lion through a fence before it bit his hand at Weltevreden Game Lodge in Bloemfontein.

WATCH: WATCH: 'Stupid' Rugby player bitten by lion - Blood Lions responds

'Another shocking example of lack of research' 

Paul Tully, a conservationist from Captured in Africa who took to Instagram after the lion cub petting pics appeared, says this is "another shocking example of lack of research and outright naivety of stars of this show and their management/tour organiser."

"NO they (cubs) are not "orphaned", they are forcibly removed and exploited and you have just supported it!!", Tully writes on Instagram

In a petition to stop supporting unethical wildlife interactions, Tully says "the sad naivety of these images and actions, is that it directly goes against a previous expose by CBS themselves".

"Coincidently it was also CBS 60 Minutes who ran the expose on Lion Park in 2014 for their exploitation and trading of lions. So for this to happen is appalling," he writes. 

SEE: Joburg Lion Park: We want to ban petting but we need the money

In the petition, Tully also asks, "why are people believing that such interactions with captive wildlife are ethical and responsible, particularly when the evidence is overwhelming?"

“Have these CBS stars been misled? Tricked into believing that these animals have been genuinely orphaned? Did the tour provider or management/agent research such unethical practices before these people participated in a widely condemned tourist trap?”

Tully has urged CBS to “act responsibly” and ensure these activities aren’t promoted, and that they help other tourists and innocent volunteers to avoid such "unethical practices" and abuses of animals in captivity.

WATCH: WATCH: Another alarming cheetah attack in SA highlights urgency to stop wildlife petting

Lion-cub related facts Tully asks tourist to consider are:

Lion cub petting and interactions are not promoted or supported by South Africa's official tourism 
Lion breeding and interactions are not supported by ANY wildlife organisation or charity
No lion at Lion Park is "orphaned", this is an industry term to describe the REMOVAL of the cub from mother to justify the exploitation through cub petting with tourists
8,000 lions in captivity in South Africa alone
Less than 3,000 lions in the wild in South Africa
No captive bred lion in South Africa has ever been released into the wild
Lion cubs are often forcibly removed from their mothers 2 weeks often days following birth
Their mothers are then bred again and again, only for the same thing to happen
Cub petting and interacting with wildlife by tourists is unethical, irresponsible and condemned by all leading scientists, conservationists, organisations and advocates

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