Our front cover for March is dedicated to the lion (Panthera leo) − one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera.
Wild lions currently exist in sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia (where an endangered remnant population resides in Gir Forest National Park in India) while other types of lions have disappeared from North Africa and Southwest Asia.
Until the late Pleistocene epoch, about 10,000 years ago, the lion was the most widespread large land mammal after humans. They were found in most of Africa, across Eurasia from western Europe to India, and in the Americas from the Yukon to Peru. The lion is a vulnerable species, having seen a major population decline in its African range of 30–50% per two decades during the second half of the 20th century. Lion populations are untenable outside designated reserves and national parks. Numerous private game reserves are attempting to preserve the species survival but there are privately owned wildlife reserves and game farms whose sole intention is to breed lions for canned hunt profits.
A canned hunt is a trophy hunt in which an animal is kept in a fenced-in area, increasing the likelihood of the hunter obtaining a kill. According to one dictionary, a canned hunt is a ‘hunt for animals that have been raised on game ranches until they are mature enough to be killed for trophy collections’.
This edition is also dedicated to the Campaign Against Canned Hunting (CACH), an animal advocacy organisation who maintain that there is no legal definition for ‘canned hunting’, but that the absence of fair chase is key to the term. With no legal definition, anyone can claim that canned hunting is either banned or permitted, whichever suits the sellers or buyers purpose.
CACH has been formed by Chris Mercer and Bev Pervan, the motivation for which is related in their book ‘Kalahari Dream’ (www.kalahari-dream.com).
According to Chris and Bev, “Canned hunting only exists because of a failure of government policy, and then it is ferociously defended by wealthy vested interests. Canned hunting can only be abolished by a sustained campaign to raise awareness, and to change policy. Only then, can an informed public persuade governments to ban the import of lion/predator trophies, and in this way, the supply of dollars can be cut off, and the industry closed down. All sources of income need to be challenged, especially cub petting, whereby lion farmers are able to externalise the costs of rearing their living targets. The extortionate fees charged to volunteers, who pay to work at lion farms in the naïve belief that they are assisting conservation, also needs to be abolished.”
Spearheading this awareness campaign, South African wildlife activists have initiated a Global March for Lions that will be held in various cities throughout the world to highlight the plight of lions caught up in the canned hunting industry.
Readers who are old enough to have been around in the 60’s might recall a band called ‘The Tokens’, who are known for their number one hit song ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight‘. The original song was composed in Zulu as ‘Mbube’ by Solomon Linda and recorded in 1939. In the mid-90’s, the song gained popularity when licensed to Walt Disney for use in the film ‘The Lion King’, which prompted a lawsuit in 2004 on behalf of the impoverished descendants of Solomon Linda.
“Thanks to June Stoyer, the Executive Producer of ‘The Organic View Radio Station, CACH has been given permission by Phil Margo of ‘The Tokens’ to use the song as the campaign’s theme tune and will even be giving a live performance at the March For Lions event in Los Angeles, USA on the 15th,” says Chris.
If the tourism industry in South Africa needs a reason to back the CACH initiative, then consider that ‘ethical’ tourists are already boycotting the country, causing losses to the legitimate tourism industry. Avaaz, with over 113 million members in 194 countries, raised more than a million signatures for their petition against the trade in lion bones, while a typical anti-SA tourism petition at Causes.com already has 13,410 signatures. These boycotts will increase over time.
For more information on CACH, visit www.cannedlion.org
Tourism Tattler will be Marching For Lions on the 15th, will you?
Yours in Tourism, Des Langkilde Executive Editor.