Lion Hunting in South Africa
On Canned Lions
announcement this month (February 2007) was so surprising.
One theory making the rounds is, Van Schalkwyk is laying the groundwork for
a compromise with the anti-hunting community. By technically allowing the
continuance of captive-lion hunting, he may have opened a window of opportunity
that will ultimately result in the adoption of a six-month release requirement.
On the other hand, the minister's speech contains shockingly blunt statements
about captive-animal hunting, as witness the following: "To see people who are
half drunk on the back of a bakkie (truck) hunting lions which are in fact tame
is quite abhorrent." He goes on to call captive-lion hunting "a practice that
cannot be defended in any way."
The clear message may be that captive-lion hunting is simply over in South
Africa, as an obligatory two-year release period poses an economically
impossible barrier for lion breeders and game ranchers. Who could afford to keep
lions in a wild-like state for that period of time?
To be sure, there are many hunters inside and outside the South African
hunting community who agree with the move to end captive-lion hunting. They
believe that captive-lion hunting as it was being conducted in South Africa
amounted to blatantly unfair chase and as such has no place in hunting. The
Professional Hunters Association of South Africa has taken that position.
What is worrisome about all this is the threat it poses to all hunting in
South Africa. It's no secret that game breeders routinely move tens of thousands
of antelope around South Africa for the express purpose of hunting. If lions
have to be released for two years before they can be hunted, why not antelope?
The lion breeders, who had already threatened a lawsuit before the latest
announcement, plan to make that argument when they go to court. Faced with
financial ruin, they may be willing to bring the whole house down to make their
And there are other issues involved here. The fine print of the new hunting
regulations may outlaw the movement of antelope species into parts of the
country where they did not naturally occur before the intervention of man. That
may sharply reduce overall hunting opportunity in South Africa. Also, it appears
that the two-year release period mentioned above will also apply to rhino. Will
that mean an end to rhino hunting in South Africa? Indeed, there are things to
worry about in the new regulations in light of the minister's harsh speech.
But where does his announcement leave the would-be captive-lion hunter? In
the cat bird seat perhaps if he (or she) is willing and able to go to South
Africa this spring, before the new regulations are slated to come into effect
June 1. Faced with the prospect of euthanizing large numbers of lions (the
number could be as high as 5,000), you can bet lion breeders are going to be
offering bargains galore for the hunter with the stomach for an emergency