Canned hunting

South Africa is a paradise for hunters. Thousands of hunting tourists from Europe and the United States travel to the region to shoot wild animals. Instead of pictures, they take home the dead animals as a souvenir. Almost all wild animal species are available, even protected animals such as elephants. As long as the hunters bring a big bag of money, the possibilities seem endless... And a very cowardly form of hunting is the so-called ‘canned hunting’.


Canned hunting mainly concerns the hunting of lions. For the hunter everything is made as easy as possible. The animals were born in captivity and are accustomed to humans. They are released in a fenced-off area, which means they cannot escape. Occasionally they are lured in with bait and sometimes the lions are even sedated, making it easier to kill them. This gives the hunter the guarantee that he can go home with a trophy that he shot himself, having to invest as little time and energy as possible.

Breeding farms

The lions are bred on special breeding farms, where they are raised by hand. That makes them far from shy towards people. In about 300 breeding farms in South Africa lions are bred for trophy hunting. Both brown and white lions, but sometimes also tigers and other (big) cats, are kept here to regularly breed. While cubs in the wild stay with their mother for two to three years, on a breeding farm they are taken away from their mother after a couple of days. In this way, the mother lion will soon be in heat again and will be able to give birth to a new litter of cubs after three months. This can result in a lioness giving birth to up to three litters a year, which leads to many cubs from the same mother! 


Many of the young lions initially serve as tourist attractions. People can pet the lion cubs, walk with them and take pictures of them. Unaware tourists visit the breeding farms and pay money to watch young lions and to touch them. That they support a gruesome industry, a branch that even many hunting clubs consider unethical, is something that most tourists do not know.

Canned hunting is mainly happening with lions.

A money matter

Between the fourth and seventh year of their life the lions reach the ‘trophy age’ and are then offered for hunting. In many cases the hunt does not take place at the same farm where the animal was bred. Instead, the lions are transported to other areas and shot there. Most of the breeding and hunting areas in South Africa are located in the provinces Free State, North West and Limpopo. In the approximately 300 farms an estimated number of between 8,000 and 12,000 lions are waiting to die. In South Africa 2 to 3 lions are shot every day in the canned hunting industry.


Canned hunting is a hobby for a well-off minority from rich industrialized countries. The thicker the wallet, the bigger the trophy. Shooting a male lion costs about €25,000 and animals with particularly dark, thick manes are sometimes even sold for €45,000. It is possible to get lionesses for €5,000 or less. In some breeding farms cubs are even offered for hunting!

Hunting a male lion can cost up to €45.000!

Threat to wild lions

Proponents of canned hunting claim that this form of trophy hunting serves to protect the species. Hunters shooting lions from the canned hunting industry will not have to shoot wild lions. But in fact, the opposite is true: the growing trophy hunting industry is increasing the pressure on lions living in the wild. More and more animals are caught from the wild to breed at breeding farms.


Moreover, the government of South Africa allows skeletons of lions to be exported. The lion skeletons, together with products from other endangered big cats such as tigers, are exported to Asia where they are used as ingredients for traditional Asian medicine. South Africa maintains a controversial export quota of 800 lion skeletons, which was based on cherry picked research and questionable deductions. This quota increases the pressure on living and other endangered big cats, by stimulating the demand for products from big cats. This is expected to have a negative effect on wild lions, which is emphasized by the recent increases in poaching of wild lions for their body parts.


FOUR PAWS launched a petition that allows people to call on the government of South Africa to ban the trade in and shooting of lions and thus protect endangered species from cruel exploitation. SIGN NOW!



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