Canned Hunting. It is not a term that everyone will be familiar with and if we’re honest, it does sound a little odd. So, in case you are not aware, what is canned hunting? If we let our imaginations run riot for a moment, we might imagine some kind of giant tin can, where hunters are let loose, desperately searching for their quarry. However, coming back down to reality, it is actually an activity that is far more serious. Canned hunting, quite simply, involves the breeding of lions in captivity. They are bred and reared from small cubs until they are adults, all the while being kept in cages. Once they reach maturity and once a paying hunter arrives, they are released into the wild.
South Africa is known to be the main hub for canned hunting and many who wish to partake in this practice can often be found to pay anything between $7000 and $50,000. As you can imagine, these hunts are far from ‘fair’ to the animal. Lions involved in canned hunting have been subjected to practices such as drugging, in order to ensure that they are easy targets for hunters, whilst others are attracted with meat that is left out for them. Heartbreakingly, as these animals are so used to human company, some animals will even approach the very people who have come to kill them. As you have probably guessed, such hunts are almost a dead cert (pardon the pun), with an estimated 99% of all hunts being successful.
There are approximately 6000 captive lions held in 200 of these facilities across South Africa. In the 20th century, African lion populations were estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands, however, this number has now dropped dramatically to just 20,000. Both African and Indian lions are listed as threatened or endangered species and as a result of this, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service have declared that they are taking action. New laws will make it much more difficult for hunters to import their trophies (including heads and skins) into the USA. This is a big step forward in the fight against canned hunting, as according to a report by Humane Society International, a total of 363 lion trophies were imported to the USA in 2014, a staggering 85% of all South African hunts. In fact, 9 out of 10 lions killed in canned hunts are killed by Americans. Poland comes in second, with 20 trophies being imported in 2014, they were followed by Spain with 17, and then the Czech Republic with 10 trophies.
However, the new federal protection being brought in by the Obama administration could end the practice of canned hunts altogether. The new protection laws, which will be enforced in three weeks time, include the banning of trophy imports, higher fees for hunting and the refusal of some carriers, including Federal Express, to import hunters trophies. Due to the high number of Americans taking part in these canned hunts, with any luck, the new protection laws could put an end to the industry in South Africa. The ‘tagline’ of these canned hunts is that they serve as a solution to the falling numbers in wild African lions. However, lions bred in captivity often find themselves without the basic skills and behaviours that they need in the wild to survive. And of course, how can such hunts help numbers when lions are being shot on a huge scale, after all, 99% of hunts are successful.
Canned hunting has been condemned by many animal rights groups for a long time. Organisations such as Born Free USA, view such an activity as a ‘blood sport’, and one that is not concerned with the conservation of these animals. Countries such as France and Australia have already banned imports of lion trophies, with other countries such as Poland, Spain and the Czech Republic being urged to follow suit.
If you listen to the news or read the papers, it will have been virtually impossible for you to miss the case of Cecil the lion. Although he was not part of a canned hunt industry, his wrongful death caused widespread outrage across the globe. Cecil is only one of many lions that are killed for the sport of trophy hunting, and his case has brought much attention to the trade, and toward canned hunting. Canned hunting does little for conservation and does nothing to protect or preserve the population of African Lions. Canned hunting, needs to be stopped and with any luck, such a thing could be just around the corner.
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