In the early 20th century, around 200,000 African lions roamed the land. Today, there are only an estimated 20,000 lions remaining, living in fragmented subpopulations in West Africa, Northern Central Africa, and India.
In the past one hundred years, the population of African lions has decreased by nearly 90 percent, and in 2000, Panthera leo leo was listed as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Today, lions face many threats to their existence. Habitat loss and fragmentation, decrease in prey availability, human-wildlife conflict, bushmeat poaching, and canned hunting all contribute to declining lion populations.
What Is Canned Hunting?
The term “canned hunting” refers to the shooting of captive-raised wild animals on game ranches and hunting reserves. Patrons pay big bucks to hunt native or exotic species in confined spaces, guaranteeing them the kill and a new “trophy” to hang on their wall.
Sourced from breeding farms, proprietors hand rear animals to ensure that they are not afraid of people. These animals are then used for cub petting and pay-to-play schemes until they are deemed “ready” for the hunt.
No Conservation Value
Facilities that raise lions for canned hunting often claim they are raising the cats for “conservation purposes.” They will tell heart-rending stories of orphaned cubs or cubs rejected by their mothers, and coax patrons into donating their time and money for the cause. Easily convinced, the general public believes that what they are doing is genuinely helping the animals have better lives. In reality, it is impossible to release captive-bred big cats back into the wild. Negligent breeding practices, habituation to people, and lack of fundamental skills make these animals’ chances of survival close to zero.
Furthermore, proprietors will selectively breed lions for specific traits, such as darker manes or white coats. Unfortunately, selective breeding oftentimes equates to inbreeding, and many of these animals are born with debilitating health issues.
Proprietors treat these animals as props, rather than living, breathing organisms.
Where Is This Happening?
According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are over 1,000 exotic hunting ranches in approximately 23 states. Texas in particular has a lucrative canned hunting industry. There are currently around 500 ranches in the state that advertise “exotic animal hunts.” At this moment in time there are currently no federal laws banning canned hunting in the United States of America.
Business owners can make millions profiting off the exploitation of exotic and native wildlife. These facilities charge upwards of $22,000 per hunt, and each year, patrons shoot and kill roughly 600 lions.
There are more lions being raised on farms than there are remaining in the African wilderness.
Born Free Foundation
Protecting Lions for the Future
There are ways everyone can help protect lions worldwide. First and foremost, spread the word! Education and awareness are crucial in the fight against canned hunting. Second, demand a nationwide ban on canned hunting; sign petitions and write to local legislators. Finally, do not support places that breed wild animals in captivity. Leave breeding to AZA accredited zoos following the Species Survival Plan (SSP). Together we can make a difference and can canned hunting for good!
Update: I have a bit of good news for all you lion-loving folks! In May of 2021, South Africa officially banned captive lion breeding. However, the country will continue promoting trophy hunting.
Four Paws Petition Against Canned Hunting: https://youtu.be/tPoBqCntizw
Contact Congress: Tell them to support HR 1688: The Sportsmanship in Hunting Act (Canned Hunts) HERE.
HSUS Investigation: Cruel Hunting Practices (U.S.): https://youtu.be/XSHEeM4icLc
The Con in Conservation Part 1: https://youtu.be/Hav-1GuVcWQ
The Con in Conservation Part 2: https://youtu.be/2G3HX4Qq_84