A billboard designed to tackle “canned” lion hunting has been rejected by Airports Company South Africa Or Tambo International Airport, the gateway to South Africa.
The move came ahead of this week’s colloquium on South Africa’s predator breeding industry.
Aimed at deterring the brutal practice of canned hunting where tame, hand-reared lions are shot in confined area, the billboard shows a child holding a plastic toy gun with the message ‘skill level required to be a lion hunter’.
Donalea Patman, Founding Director, said the industry is all about a quick, cost effective and guaranteed kill.
“These so-called hunters buy the lion online before they arrive in South Africa and love to tell a story of how they supposedly shot a rogue beast that was threatening a local community.”
“What they actually shot was a tame animal that was likely to have been drugged and then baited to approach the vehicle, having being fed this way for much of its short life,” Patman said.
“It takes the skill of a child to shoot such an animal and that’s the message of our billboard which ACSA has rejected,” she said.
Recently Safari Club International and Dallas Safari Club, two of the biggest US hunting groups, stated they were distancing themselves from the canned hunting industry. The move comes amidst significant pressure from the Blood Lions campaign and global condemnation of the abhorrent industry.
The industry is also known for deceiving well-intentioned volunteers who pay thousands of dollars to hand-raise lion cubs, believing they will be released into the wild. Volunteers are often left distraught upon finding out their beloved cub has been bred purely for the bullet and they have been used as part of a shady supply chain.
“Hunters will shoot these lions with several bullets to the body and maybe then through the ear or eye to make sure the head remains a good trophy to stick on their wall,” Patman said.
“The intensive breeding of these lions is driving demand for lion products and impacting wild populations. We’ve been told of wild cubs being stolen to reinvigorate genetics of farmed lions and we know that the industry is also fuelling the lion bone trade.”
“Lions are one of the planet’s most iconic species and they are heading toward extinction. I think it’s absolutely appalling that staff at OR Tambo Airport have made an unfounded decision to block an ad that would play an important role in stopping their demise,” she said.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature currently lists lions as vulnerable (population decreasing) and indicates a 43 percent decline in lion populations between 1993 and 2014.
Staff at ACSA Or Tambo Airport said the decision to reject the billboard had no relevance to advertising codes of practice and was on the grounds of “not entertaining advertisements whereby children are associated with hunting and guns”.
Ms Patman said the response was unacceptable.
“The ad shows a child with a plastic toy gun and reality is children play with these toys. It’s not about a child engaging in violence or hunting.”
“They have asked us to redesign our ad but we’re not going to do that. It’s been designed to drive home the message that these so-called hunters aren’t hunters at all and they should feel embarrassed for shooting a tame, confined lion,” Ms Patman said.
The South African colloquium being held in Cape Town has heard evidence from economists who estimate that R$54 billion could be lost in tourism revenue if the barbaric industry continues.
“Many people we’ve spoken to will no longer travel to South Africa because of its consumptive and commodified approach to its precious wildlife, addicted to old paradigms including ‘if it pays it stays’, Ms Patman said.
“People are angry at poachers but we aren’t addressing the rich who pay to kill these animals for fun,” she said.
In 2015 Patman put the plight of Africa’s lions and the canned hunting industry on the Australian radar and worked with government to see Australia become the first country in the world to ban the import of lion trophies and body parts. The ban was implemented just months before Cecil the famous lion was killed.
Press in South Africa Traveller24
And the results from Traveller24 poll.