Tourism heavyweights stop wildlife interactions at SA resort
Louzel Lombard Steyn
24 January 2018

Photo: Audrey Delsink

All wildlife interactions, including walking-with-lions and cheetah petting at the Polokwane Ranch Resort has been stopped.

Following an article highlighting the property’s involvement in the industry, Protea Hotels by Marriott sales director Danny Bryer said: “Protea Hotels by Marriott together with the resort can confirm that lion walks are no longer being offered to guests and that no guests interact with cheetahs at the conservancy.”

Protea Hotels had previously stated that the wildlife interactions would be halted, however research revealed that these activities were being continued via a neighbouring business on the hotel’s shared conservancy. 

“In view of recent reports around interactions with wildlife at one of our hotels, we have undertaken a full review and audit of our hotels,” said Bryer. “We have learned more and have become aware of additional measures we need to take to address this situation. We are currently in the process of ensuring that these are fully implemented and followed at all our hotels.”

Thompson’s Holidays, the travel agent responsible for sending the newsletter marketing the controversial activities at the resort, also distanced themselves from the hotel by removing the property from their portfolio.

Cullinan Holdings Ltd, parent company of Thompson’s Africa and Thompson’s Holidays, said the group could not be associated with any exploitative practices. Media manager John Ridler said: “We support sustainable tourism and strict ethical principles.”

Photo: Audrey Delsink

Following the group’s recommitment, the Blood Lions Campaign reaffirmed Thompsons Africa’s status as an endorsed company for the Born to Live Wild Pledge, saying it holds the highest ethical standards in the industry.

Thompson Holiday also said they will be working with the Blood Lions campaign to educate employees from all sectors, “exposing them to the reality of wildlife interactions”. Joanne Adolphe, Thompson Holidays CEO said the group especially wanted to reach out to the younger employees in order to establish a new generation of responsible tourism ambassadors.

Blood Lions said it would donate 200 copies of its award winning feature documentary to Thompson’s Holidays employees.

Campaign co-leader Ian Michler, said Thompson’s response would hopefully serve as an example to the wider tourism industry.

“There are close links between the wildlife interaction business and the canned predator and lion bone industry where about 200 facilities hold approximately 6 000 to 8 000 lions and other big cats in cages and captivity in South Africa. It’s a stain on SA’s reputation that’s not going unnoticed by responsible travellers. 

US traveller and big cat advocate Sheryl Schroeder cancelled a booking at The Ranch after news of their involvement in wildlife interactions.

“I cannot let a dime of my money go to anyone who supports captive-bred wildlife and human interaction for profit.” she said.

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