Tourists to South Africa are being hoodwinked into making contributions to raising orphaned lion cubs with the aim of restocking them to the wild, when in fact the young lions are mass bred in captivity before being auctioned off for canned hunts.
This week the South African Environmental Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa highlighted the growth in illegal wildlife trading, saying it was now “rife.”
The South African Times reports the Minister admitting that the country is facing an uphill battle to contain rhino poaching, claiming there are 12 active poaching groups in Kruger Park at present.
However the way young eco-tourists are fooled on lion farms has led to calls for visitors to be careful with their money.
Environmentalist Pippa Hankinson said that when those contributors saw up to 30 cubs are in one enclosure and asked about it, they were met with aggression.
Keeton Hill, a volunteer from Britain, said his efforts to learn how cubs were dealt with received “rude replies,” and in one case was told to “mind his own business” when he asked about the future of one particular lion.
Tourists visiting these farms are charged to pet or walk with the lions – costing as much as R600 (€40) for 30 minutes – while volunteers also pay to help raise them.
However the reality is that when they reach maturity, the animals are used for hunting. When they are killed, the hunter gets their head and skin, while the bones are shipped China where their ingredients are much sought after as part of Chinese medicine.
Ms Molewa said there has been a 27% in poachers entering the Kruger Park to poach rhino. Up to last week, 749 rhino were poached in South Africa so far in 2015 with two-thirds of those occurring in the Kruger Park.