Documentary joins fight against 'blood lions' killing fest

26 July 2015 - 02:00 By MATTHEW SAVIDES


A new documentary has sunk its claws into the controversial canned hunting industry in South Africa, claiming that as many as 1000 lions a year are "bred for the bullet". Blood Lions exposes lion hunting and breeding across the country. It says more than 6000 of the animals are in captivity.According to the producer, environmental journalist Ian Michler, the practice has become increasingly common - and is "about a quick, easy kill for the hunter and a large profit for the operator".The 84-minute film, which debuted at the Durban International Film Festival on Wednesday, exposes hunts at game farms and lodges in Limpopo, the Free State and North West.Michler, who has been investigating the industry for nearly two decades, said after a screening on Thursday: "It's about breeding as many [lions] as you can, as quickly as you can, for as much money as you can. It's just about the money."According to the documentary, lions can be hunted on many game farms for between $16000 (R200000) and $68000 (R850000). Males, particularly those with thick black manes, are the most expensive.story_article_left1The films shows how hunters go online and pick a lion. A hunt is then arranged to shoot that specific animal. It is claimed that the lions are generally in an enclosure with no chance of escape, and are less than 20m from the shooter.The film followed US-based hunter Rick Swazey as he arranged a two-day lion hunt at a South African game farm. He picked a lioness from pictures on the website, and booked the hunt. Before the kill was made, however, the owner found out it was being filmed and kicked the team off the property.Hunting associations and wildlife breeders have denied that they take part in the outlawed practice. They and the Department of Environmental Affairs said a week ago that while the industry was well-regulated, "rogue elements were operating within the lion-breeding and hunting industries".This followed a meeting to address widespread public concern about canned hunting.The release of the film came just hours after SAA announced it was lifting its ban on the transportation of animal trophies on its aircraft, saying the initial ban, in April, was put in place after false documents were submitted for the shipment of some trophies, and this situation had improved.Will Travers, president of the UK-based Born Free Foundation, said canned hunting was on the rise: "Ten years ago we were talking about only a quarter, or less, of the number of animals bred in captivity that we are now."He said Blood Lions would make a difference."It's hard to watch. But there cannot be a person, unless they have a heart of stone, that can see this film and not think something needs to be done."Meanwhile, the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa has made an apparent U-turn on its support for "captive-bred" lion hunting. In an e-mail to members on Friday morning, president Hermann Meyeridricks says public perception, even in the hunting fraternity, "is turning strongly against this form of hunting".The association would discuss the issue at its AGM in November as its support was "no longer tenable".savidesm@sundaytimes.co.za

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