As a child, my favourite animals were always elephants and lions, so growing up and seeing constant news about the ever-lowering population rates my heart would sink. At the time I took it upon myself to learn everything I could about what was happening to wildlife. As I’ve grown up I have always adopted or given charity to animal organisations and it’s always been something I’m particularly passionate about. 

Canned lion hunting was something that a few years ago even I had very little knowledge of. It sounds like something that used to happen in the stone age, something that can’t and shouldn’t be relevant to us in the 20th century. But here we are and many of you still probably don’t know what canned lion hunting is.

Canned lion hunting is where sport hunting companies take some lions from the wild and breed them. After breeding them, the lions are let out to roam in a designated area. Then people, who are looking to hunt, pay money to the breeders and arrive at the farms to go through with the kills. 

These hunts are extremely expensive and participants look to spend around $9000 for a female African lion and upwards to roughly $35,000 for a male Black African Lion. Despite the huge price tag, this is a much cheaper alternative for hunters as compared to ‘wild’ lions which can cost up to $80,000 a lion. 

The breeders drive them around in the area they know the lions should be, and allow the hunters to participate in this fake ‘hunt’ to shoot the lions. After the hunt is complete, hunters would receive a trophy and often take photos with their ‘prize’. Some hunters see this as a huge benefit to ‘canned’ lion hunting as there is a guaranteed chance that the hunt will be successful with only 1% of hunts ending without a kill.

The lion cubs are raised by humans till they reach adulthood. This is to encourage the cubs to become more comfortable with humans so that when they are released into the enclosures they do not elude the hunters. This reduces the ‘fair chase’ (where the animals being hunted are given the opportunity to escape). Furthermore, this type of hunting does not show any ‘skill’ of the hunter, therefore it is simply a practice done to ‘check something off a wishlist’ and not really a professional hunting experience. 

Over time the preference of hunters has shifted from wild lions to ‘canned lions’. This shift in ‘preference’ has led to this current situation. Where in canned lion captivity organisations solely there are between 6000 to 8000 lions just in South Africa, to meet the demand of international hunters. Over the years little has been done to reduce this trade and therefore at this point in time, we can see no possible solution unless countries band together to create action.