01.03.2015 Our Earth

Say No to Canned Hunting

Canned hunting is a threat to lions that are now on critically endangered list, says Jeremy Ball

A repugnant trade continues in Africa, the birthplace of humanity, where inhumanity is still common. This trade is the cruel practice known as canned hunting which still flourishes and is encouraged through governmental support.

The lion, the globally accepted symbol of nobility and leadership, is now joining countless species from around the world on the endangered list. It is estimated that as few as 3,000 lions remain in the wild in their natural habitat while around 8,000 live in captivity, many of them bred for trophy hunting.

Trophy hunting was something the landed gentry of Europe used to do, pursuing a noble beast through the savannah with rifle in hand, led and protected by African trackers. To my mind this was unfair and unpleasant enough, pitting a long distance rifle against claw and tooth.

However, this practice has now become what is known (except to the rich Texans and Russian oil barons and shamefully Australians too, playing the dress up game of privilege, convincing themselves of their nobility and virility) as canned hunting.

A lion cub is bred in captivity, often taken from its mother at birth and bottle fed then raised in a tiny enclosure like a kennel. The cub is never able to roam free and experience the power in its body or in nature, with constant contact with humans, depending on them for nourishment and connection.

As the lions get older they are allowed to "roam" in an area the size of a tennis court. This remains their world, until the day comes when a rich foreigner lands with a rifle and a large cheque.

The lion, whose home has been a few square metres, is bundled into a truck or let out in a wider expanse of a few hectares, not to experience life but to become the target for the bullet.

In his defence, the "hunter" is often not aware that the lion he is being led to is tame as this would spoil the fantasy and the thrill of the hunt. If the lion shows too much spirit it is somehow drugged as well.

Frequently, the "hunter" is led close to where the lion lies under a tree nervous in his new surroundings. The unsuspecting animal is shot at close range, not to the head of course as this would spoil the trophy that will line the "hunter's" cigar lounge. It is shot to the body, often requiring many bullets before it slumps to a slow and painful death.

More common these days is the more "manly" and "fairer man against beast" experience of killing with a crossbow. If the lion were truly wild he would scent danger and be long gone, but this poor beast has known humans as his only source of food and is just as unused to the wild as the tourist hunter! The lion is also frequently aware of the fence behind the bush a few hundred metres away and knows escape is impossible.

The South African government and those of other African nations argue that the trophy hunting industry brings in vital financial resources. I am sure it does but this money finds its way into the pockets of a few disreputable people and to my mind does far more damage to a country's reputation and marketability than whatever it may earn in dollar terms.

Just as the late Steve Irwin pointed out that the whale watching industry is many times more lucrative than whale hunting, I am sure Africa's eco tourism would boom without the spectre of canned hunting. And even if it lost money it is just plain wrong. Businessmen in the canned hunting industry lobby the African governments and with twisted logic try and convince officials that their industry actually supports conservation.

Activists around the world are doing their best to stop this vile trade with a focus on the importation of animal parts into their home countries.

There are two main thrills to trophy hunting, the first being the thrill of the kill and the second being the return home with the lion's head for the wall, or elephant foot stool, to show off to friends and family. If it is illegal to bring the trophy back home, half the thrill is gone and the value of the "kill" greatly diminished. In Australia this has already been achieved for the rhino and is now being pushed for the lion, which is now on the critically endangered list. Imagine a world without lions! Imagine your grandchild looking at you in disbelief that you lived in a world where lions really existed. It would be almost as crazy to them as if you claimed to have seen a dragon or a unicorn. This is what is at stake.

Enter Donalea Patman, a former corporate executive from Perth, Western Australia who, having visited the White Lions Conservation Trust in South Africa, was both touched by the majesty of these beings and the plight in which they find themselves. Donalea was mentored by Linda Tucker, founder of the Trust and arch protector of the White Lions (Linda is to the White Lions as Jane Goodall is to primates).

Donalea was so touched by the desperate situation of all of the world's animals and lions in particular that she quit her job, sold her home and piled all of her love, passion and resources into their protection. From this was born Donalea's life work For the Love of Wildlife, a not for profit foundation (see www.fortheloveofwildlife.org.au)

In Donalea's words "For the Love of Wildlife is about restoring the essential connection between all living things to bring our planet into balance." She expresses the passion behind her insatiable drive to protect nature in this way: "to stay immobilised and silent whilst our natural world is under siege is a crime against nature. It seems that humans have lost their connection to the environment and the planet. If we're to change the demise, we have to be courageous to face ourselves, get real about what is happening and act from a place of deep compassion. It is no longer acceptable to "turn a blind eye". We are all in this together and it's our job to make a change, however small."

In March 2014 Donalea organised a march through Melbourne CBD that coincided with similar marches all around the world to end canned hunting. It was a great success attracting hundreds of people and resulted in motions being tabled in the Australian Parliament. On Friday March 13 this year there will be another great gathering in support of the lions, this time with an announcement of a major victory won, with great celebrations, African drumming and guest speakers. The event will take place in Melbourne's Federation Square from 6pm.

Find details on facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/events/1396824510610307/

Jeremy Ball

At 26, following a “shamanic intervention”, Jeremy closed his business and left London to visit sacred sites and elders, later creating Transformational Tours and SacredFire.

When not roaming mother earth, you will find Jeremy at home in Byron Bay's hinterland, playing with his children and planning the next adventure. jeremy@transformationaltours.com.au