By: Sabrina Berg
The lion must have thought, “As I look across the grassland, I see you standing there and I feel like I know you or have seen you before. Hmmmm… It seems to me that you used to feed me and take care of me when I was little and you were extremely gentle and caring so you cannot be that harmful. This means that I can get close and play with you without there being any danger to me.” Next thing you know the same human who has taken care of and nurtured them their whole lives is the one at the other end of the barrel. These poor lions and tigers are being betrayed by the ones they put all their trust in. When they have either been raised in a ranch facility or have been sold into another place that does captive hunting or canned hunting.
Canned hunting is a form of hunting where hunters will pay money to shoot captive animals on game ranches. For example, there was a video online of a lion being hunted that while held in a medium size cage enclosure. He was displaying stressful behavior, obvious from his repetitive movements of pacing back and forth. It became immediately apparent that the lion was trapped, making him an easy target for the hunter. These animals, usually large cats, are typically taken away from their mother just hours after birth and are handled and bottle fed by humans. Thus, the cubs become accustom to human interaction and they ignore their natural fears. Because of this, when it comes time to be “hunted” they no longer fear humans as they should, but instead, accept the potential hunters. The young animals even begin to enjoy human company given that humans play, feed, and take care of them (2).
Canned hunting is unethical and not a fair fight for the lion because the shooters are actually picking out and paying for a specific domesticated lion that is friendly to humans. Clearly this type of hunting is not for sport or sustenance, it is purely for the trophy. The hunter is not working at outwitting their prey and all he gains from the experience is a massive credit card payment and an animal carcass to show off to his buddies over a cheap bottle of scotch. The definition of hunting is the practice of pursuing any animal and trapping or killing it and canned hunting is not that. The only similarity is the killing of the animal. Canned hunting could also pose a threat to the conservation of important top predator species such as lions, cheetahs and jaguars. If action is not taken against hunting practices like canned hunting, it may lead to the extinction of several endangered species.
A very important point I would like to bring to the table is how a lion’s behavior is influenced at an early age. Previously, I mentioned how cubs were taken away from their mothers in the first few weeks of life; this action could potentially contribute to the behavior of the animals because they are becoming accustomed to the lack of natural predators and don’t develop avoidance behaviors. Skills like this are important because they need them to survive in their native area. Animals that are used for canned hunting are raised elsewhere, brought in, or purchased from individuals who are trafficking. The animals can come from zoos, where they are unwanted or surplus, or possibly circuses who have no use for the animal (1).
Another issue that is misleading when it comes to canned hunting is the fact that game farms (ranches) mislead the public into thinking that the lions are being raised for conservation and reintroduction purposes. We see this a lot when vacationing in places like Mexico or South America. You see a photo op with a lion cub, or you pay to visit a farm to bottle feed baby cheetahs. Once you get to the farm, it is apparent that the cubs have no mother. The owners create a sob story about how the cubs were rejected or orphaned at an early stage (3). They quote the visitor a fee which allows an individual to help bottle feed the cubs (3). The owners make you believe that the money you are giving them will help the young cubs get a second chance to live free in the wild. In reality, once the cubs get too big to be exploited for their “cute factor”, they are sold to hunting facilities. It is in these facilities that people pay to ‘hunt’ and kill large exotic carnivores. So, in the future, if a farm or facility allows you be in contact with a big cat, you may want to question if it’s a legitimate facility. Keeping lions captive in this way is not a means of conserving them, especially not the ones that are allowed to be handled by humans. These lions are considered “human imprinted” and viewed as dangerous and will most likely be sold to a hunting facility (4).
Link to the video: http://www.theguardian.com/profile/patrickbarkham
- www.cannedlion.org. Campaign against canned hunting. February 25,2015.
- Barkham, Patrick. Canned hunting is a fast-growing business in South America, where thousands of lions are being bred on farms to be shot by wealthy foreign trophy-hunters. June 2013. February 25,2015.
- Bigcatrescue.org. Williams, Evan. Killing tamed wild animals in fenced areas for sport, petting cubs in Africa supports the canned hunting industry. November 26,2013. Website. February 25,2015.
- www.whitelionshomeland.org. Tucker, Linda. Canned Hunting. Assessed March 23,2015.