A wild lioness in the savanna

World Lion Day: An opportunity to spotlight South Africa’s cruel lion industry



Lions are the kings of the savanna but World Lion Day is also an opportunity to spotlight the horrific realities of the captive lion industry in South Africa.

Did you know that…

🦁 Commercial lion breeding is still legal?

The current situation within South Africa's lion farming industry is disconcerting. Due to unclear regulations and weak enforcement, illicit activities are able to flourish. This poses a risk to the well-being of animals and jeopardises the country's reputation.

Notably, in 2019, the High Court's decision to deem the lion bone export quota unconstitutional was a response to the industry's blatant disregard for lion welfare. Despite the government's publicly stated intention to close down this industry, the legality of commercial lion breeding remains intact, operating in conjunction with the ongoing illegal international bone trade.

🦁 There are currently more lions in captivity in South Africa than in the wild?

There are an estimated 8,000 lions farmed in more than 350 facilities across the country.

🦁 Farmed lions are used for a variety of industries?

Lions are bred and then exploited as entertainment attractions for tourists. This can include canned trophy hunting, wherein the animals are pursued within confined enclosures and no possibility of escape. Additionally, they are used for interactive encounters such as cub petting and 'walk with the lions' experiences that are sadly still so popular.

🦁 Their body parts are used for traditional medicine and luxury goods?

Captive lions are also engaged for traditional medicinal purposes, with their body parts, particularly bones, being exported to Asia for use in traditional Asian medicine.

Moreover, various other body parts like teeth and claws are transformed into jewellery, while their skins are sold for luxury fashion and goods.

🦁 Hundreds of captive live lions are exported annually?

Hundreds of captive lions are shipped away annually, mainly to China, Pakistan, Vietnam and Bangladesh where they end up in zoos for commercial purposes or are used for breeding in captivity.

A male lion laying behind bars

So what can you do to celebrate lions and help protect these wonderful animals?

We can all celebrate World Lion Day by taking steps to reduce and hopefully one day completely eradicate the exploitation of lions. Here are a few tips on how you can make a difference:

💚 Be a responsible tourist

Do your research and avoid booking your holidays with travel companies that actively offer experiences with captive lions. Explore our Real Responsible Traveller report to identify companies that demonstrate a genuine commitment to animal welfare and protection.

📸 Never take selfies with wild animals Selfies

Taking a selfie with lions really isn't a cool Instagram shot. Help raise awareness of the terrible cruelty that the animals have to ensure so that tourists can take their snapshot with them. Instead, opt for ethical experiences with a responsible guide where you can observe lions in their natural habitat.

📚 Take part in educational initiatives

Support educational programmes that focus on the importance of wildlife conservation. Share with your network Share some of the above facts with your network to raise awareness and encourage more people to celebrate and protect lions.