I’m A Celebrity And I’ve Been Duped

Africa’s lions require urgent attention. It’s estimated that as few as 20,000 are left in the wild, breeding them in cages and confined areas as happens in South Africa is not part of the solution as there is absolutely no conservation value.

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Network Ten’s popular Australian TV show “I’m a celebrity, get me out of here” are running a programme that includes irresponsible scenes exploiting wildlife including a 5 week old white lion cub.

Have they been duped into believing that the lion cub they used had been abandoned by it’s mother? Apparently. The production team had been told that the other two cubs had died, one drowned. Are they simply being grossly irresponsible in pursuit of viewer ratings?

IMG_0073 Ian Michler

Photo Ian Michler

South Africa believes that lions should be taken off the threatened list and this is due to the enormous number of predators in captivity. Canned hunting farms and captive breeders have around 8000 lions in approximately 200 farms. According to the recent statement from the African Lion Working Group (ALWG) posted on the Blood Lions website, “The estimated 8,000 lions in South Africa currently being maintained and bred on game farms as part of this industry should not be included in any assessments of the current status of wild lions. Captive breeding of lions for sport hunting, hunting of captive-bred lion and the associated cub petting industry are not conservation tools.”   

These big cats face enormous pressures as lionesses are treated like breeding machines, cubs removed a few days or weeks after birth which then forces her back into estrus. The cubs are rented out to tourist attractions for “pay and play” or where volunteers get the opportunity to raise these “orphaned” cubs believing they are contributing to CONservation efforts. But as the ALWG says, nothing could be further from the truth.

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It’s also disappointing to see Dr Chris Brown voice his concerns about canned hunting, telling us that the cub he was handling shouldn’t be “petted” yet celebrity Jo Beth was feeling this baby with her feet and also got to handle it. A 5 week old baby!  What these celebrities and Network Ten are doing is irresponsible. Baby crocs with their jaws tied shut?! What message does this send to their viewers?

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We’ve been told that the lion cub that appeared on the program came from Letaba River Lodge Eco Park. What a misnomer to be calling themselves an Eco Park; what is ecologically sound about breeding predators to be habituated and exploited? Dr Chris Brown stated that the cub was part of a breeding program as white lions are rare but what benefit does this cub offer wild lion populations who are endemic to the Timbavati area?

Dr Brown and the producers needs to do thorough research before they participate in activities that send an irresponsible message. If they had, they would have known that white lions are highly prized by hunters, private collectors, zoos and circuses around the world because of this rarity he speaks about. Where does he think these animals come from and end up? By handling cubs, this programme and Dr Brown are endorsing the cycle of exploitation these animals face.

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Australia banned the importation of lion trophies and body parts (months before the death of Cecil) as a direct response to the cruel and barbaric industry of canned hunting, a global first. Conservationists, lion ecologists and predator scientists have been desperately campaigning the South African Government to regulate the enormous number of captive lions and the increasing business of captive breeding which is now spreading to other countries. Is it too much to expect that at the very least, Australian networks and ‘celebrities’ follow the government’s responsible lead?

And for anyone who’s in doubt, watch the feature documentary Blood Lions.

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It is an explosive film that lifts the lid on the predator breeding industry and their murky array of exploitative commercial activities. What happens when it’s discovered that the cub you have raised as a volunteer or petted as a visitor or ‘celebrity’ ends up as a trophy or it’s bones sold to Asia for the lion bone trade?

It’s very disappointing that Network Ten didn’t do their research given that celebrity Dean Geyer has made Campaign Against Canned Hunting his designated charity.


To put a stop to these horrific practises, when travelling in South Africa or any place that has captive animals, please think before engaging. Resist the urge to handle, cuddle, bottle feed, play, walk or volunteer. Much needed conservation dollars are being channeled by these unscrupulous operators – all part of the conservation con.