Lion Hunting in South Africa

A Surprise Announcement
On Canned Lions


     The 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 point.

     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 captive-lion outing.