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Harsh realities of lion-petting zoos

- By Schalk Mouton

The cute lion cub that you pet at a lion petting farm will most probably end up being shot in canned hunting.

That is the harsh reality of the message that the film Bloodlion attempts to bring across.

“Every single day in South Africa at least two to three captive bred or tame lions are being killed in canned hunts, and hundreds more are slaughtered annually for the lion bone trade,” says executive producer Pippa Hankinson.

Hankinson, who grew up in Swaziland and Malawi, was so shocked when she visited a lion-breeding farm in the Free State four-and-a-half years ago, that she decided to produce a documentary on the canned hunting and lion-breeding trade.

“Seeing the conditions and the inbreeding that takes place on these farms was quite a shock, and the more I spoke to people about it, the more I realised that very few people were aware of it,” she says.

She approached a group of filmmakers who visited a number of lion farms, mostly in the Free State, to film the conditions.

The film crew also got an American hunter to organise a lion-hunt at a farm. The intention, however, was never to actually kill a lion.

The American and his friends were thrown off the farm when the owners became suspicious of them.

Hankinson says that not all petting farms are bad, but the film aims to give viewers the option of making conscious decisions and asking the right questions.

“They (lion breeding farms) all say that they breed the lions to rehabilitate them back into the wild, but that is simply not true,” says Hankinson.

The film was screened at Wits for the first time on Friday, 14 August.

It will be screened in Cape Town over the weekend of 21 to 23 August and will then travel throughout South Africa.

It will also be shown at the Royal Geographic Society in London in November.

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View the trailer.

Photo credit: Ian Michler