Australia plans to ban import of Lion trophies from South Africa
Martina Polley
17 October, 2014

A permanent ban on the importation of lion parts, including trophies is planned by Australia. This was announced after South African conservationist; Ian Michler met with Australian Environment Minister, Greg Hunt and other MPs in Canberra earlier this month.

Canned lion hunting, or ‘captive’ hunting as the breeders and hunters refer to it, is a type of hunting where lions are bred specifically to be shot in confined areas. Despite widespread public outrage, killing predators under these circumstances continues unabated in South Africa, with over 700 captive-bred lions shot annually.

“I think if Australians knew more… then they would be rightly horrified…It’s not fair, it’s not humane, it’s not 21st century and on my watch, it’s not acceptable,” said Hunt.

Michler says canned lion hunting and breeding facilities are shaming South Africa’s reputation as a responsible tourism destination.

There are now over 100 facilities, containing 6000 to 8000 predators in South Africa. Here, predators are bred to be killed or to supply, what is another fast growing sector, the petting and ‘walking with lions’ industry.

These facilities offer visitors the opportunity to interact with lion cubs and sub-adults under the pretence of conserving them.

“Gap year students are being lured to these petting facilities under false pretences,” says Michler. “They pay big money to participate in “conservation initiatives”. “This is false marketing and it’s a complete misdirection of conservation funds and conservation priorities.”

If the ban is implemented, Australian hunters will no longer be able to take their trophies home. Since 2010, Australia has imported 144 lion trophies and lion parts.

“South Africa seems incapable and unwilling to do anything about these twin horrors. The fact that it’s actually legal here…this horrifies international audiences,” says Michler.

Despite widespread public outrage, government has taken little action to put a lid on the industry. In 2006, then Minister of Environment Marthinus Van Schalkwyk, created draft legislation to protect lions, however this was overturned by a successful Constitutional Court appeal in 2010 by the Predator Breeding Association of South Africa.

At a July roundtable meeting, the Department of Environmental Affairs announced canned lion hunting falls outside of its mandate to protect wild species.

Seeking alternative methods to end the practices, Michler is now galvanising international support to disable the industry through legislation: to restrict importation of trophies from SA.

“Some (hunters) come from Australia; a lot come from Europe, Middle East, North America and Central America. The killing is taking place in Africa, but the killers are coming from outside the continent – so they are part of the problem,” Michler points out.

Australia has taken the lead with their proposed ban and  an announcement is expected  before the end of this year. Michler believes Australia’s ban will spur on other governments to act accordingly.

Main Photo: Cubs and volunteers: thousands of volunteers are being lured to South Africa under the belief they are contributing to a legitimate conservation cause.(Ian Michler)