Documentary reveals how lions are ‘bred for the bullet’ in SA
Blood Lions, a hard-hitting documentary that lifts the lid on canned hunting, premiered at the 2015 Durban International Film which completed its run last weekend.
In the film, Environmental Journalist and Safari Operator, Ian Michler, and an American hunter, Rick Swazey, put the focus on South Africa’s multi-million dollar canned lion hunting industry.
Michler, who with the film makers attended several DIFF screenings, said an estimated 800 to 1 000 lions were killed in canned hunts every year in South Africa. More than half of the hunters are from the United States with the balance from Europe and other countries.
Hunters pay up to US$48 000 (R580 000) to shoot a lion in captivity, with the highest fee being paid for male lions with black manes.
The film also reveals the distressing conditions the lions are kept in, and lucrative practices including cub petting, volunteer recruitment and lion walking.
Visitors from around the world pay about R24 000 to spend two weeks ‘looking after’ lion cubs - aged between a few days and a few weeks old - who have been taken away from their mothers.
The cubs are separated from their mothers to ensure the lionesses go into estrus (reproductive cycle), enabling another litter of cubs to be born quickly. In the wild, lion cubs spend up to 24 months with their mothers.
As these lions grow older, they are often used for canned hunting. ‘These practices have no conservation value whatsoever,’ said Michler.
The film includes distressing footage of lions being shot for sport and confrontations with South African lion farmers.
The film makers gave various role players in the industry, including those for and against canned hunting and predator breeding, a platform to air their views. Trophy hunters and breeders, lion ecologists, conservationists and animal welfare experts were among those who took part.
The film also documents steps taken by authorities in Australia and Botswana to combat the controversial practices. The South African government has so far not introduced any similar measures, according to the documentary.
‘This industry is damaging Brand South Africa and change has to come,’ said Michler.
Blood Lions was produced by Pippa Hankinson and CEO of Wildlands, Jeremy Nathan, while UKZN alumnus, Dr Andrew Venter, was the Executive Producer. The film was directed by Bruce Young and Nick Chevallier, and edited by Dave Cohen with Fabian Sing providing the scoring.