Economic situation may cost lion lives

Sixteen lions on a South African game reserve are facing death because of a shortage of funds to feed them. The SanWild sanctuary, in Limpopo province, has issued an urgent appeal for donations to save the three prides of 14 adults and two cubs.

The sanctuary is home to a number of rescued lion that are held in large natural habitat enclosures in their respective prides. All the lions were confiscated from illegal breeding projects or intended hunts, the so-called ‘canned lion industry’.

Normally funded by mainly international donor funding The SanWild Wildlife Trust spends approximately €50.000 per year on food for the lions. Due to the economic situation, it is a battle to raise sufficient funding to continue the operation. Despite repeated local and international funding appeals no long term sponsorship can be secured. One of the sanctuaries main international animal welfare organisation donors have also cut funding with 30% and this has put even more pressure on the small organisation to operate effectively.

“Caring for these lions is an uphill financial battle and we have had to come up with some very ingenious ways for sufficient funding to ensure the lion’s next meal,” states Louise Joubert, founder trustee of the SanWild Wildlife Trust. “There have also been times when our financial situation became so dire that we had to consider putting the lions to sleep if we should fail to come up with the necessary donor funding. However with the support of our friends, we time and time managed to ensure the lion’s continuous welfare. Now again we have reached a point where we can’t do that anymore.”

The reality of the closure of the lion sanctuary can not be avoided unless long-term sponsorship can urgently be found. The only other alternative to secure the future of the 16 lions is to find at least adoptive foster parents or companies that are willing to take on the monthly expenses of feeding individual lions. Discounted accommodation specials are also currently on offer by SanWild in their two private bush camps to raise the much needed funding to continue to care for and feed the SanWild Lions.

Lions and other big cats under threat

Most of Africa’s big cats such as lions, leopards, and cheetahs could be facing extinction within the next two decades unless urgent action is taken by African governments. Leading conservation groups are calling urgently for increased efforts to save them. Internationally populations of lions, leopard, cheetahs and especially tigers have been decimated in the past half-century. Leading scientists report that tigers “have become so rare that lions have become their soup-bone substitutes, sought for Asian medicines and ‘tiger bone’ wine.”

In South Africa the captive lion breeding and hunting industry is already supplying lion bones to the Asian markets. The lions used for these practices have either been shot by ‘hunting’ in enclosed areas or deliberately euthanized. To provide for enough lions, lion cubs are constantly removed from their captive mothers to grow up under monstrous conditions on breeding farms. Untill now the South African government is unwilling to change this situation.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimate that over the last 50 years lions living wild on the plains of Africa have decreased from 450,000 to only 25,000. During the same period, leopards have decreased from 750,000 to 50,000 and cheetahs from 45,000 to 12,000. Tiger’s numbers have dropped from 50,000 to a mere 3,000 (of which only 1,200 are breeding-age females).

Editor’s note 

Readers who consider a donation -all amounts are appreciated, no matter how large or small- can find information on (choose ‘donate’ in the menu left). You can also e-mail SanWild for questions on sponsoring or donating:

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