Tourists beware wildlife myths, warns the NSPCA

2013-09-09 08:29
Three white lion cubs are presented to the public for the first time at the city zoo in Buenos Aires. (Eduardo Di Baia, AP, file)

Three white lion cubs are presented to the public for the first time at the city zoo in Buenos Aires. (Eduardo Di Baia, AP, file)

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Cape Town - Tourists should be aware of the myths perpetuated around the care and management of wild animals in South Africa, the National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) has warned.

"Forget carbon footprint: The trail of destruction caused by the exploitation of wild animals should equally be cause for alarm," the NSPCA said.

Many tourists flock to SA to experience the wildlife in the local reserves.

The NSPCA said that unsuspecting tourists may contribute to the exploitation of wild animals by going on wildlife drives.

"Animals are sentient beings, and we have a moral obligation not to cause them harm in the name of our entertainment," said NSPCA executive director Marcelle Meredith.


Lion cubs presented as having been abandoned by their mothers is often a myth as the big cats are attentive parents, the organisation said.

"Although lion breeders and captive lion facilities may mislead the public into believing they have stepped in to protect the welfare of the cubs, as they are abandoned by their mothers in captivity this is rarely the case. In actual fact, lionesses by nature are very good parents and are fiercely protective of their offspring," said the NSPCA.

Lion cubs are often bred for petting at facilities and once the cubs grow up, are used in canned hunting practices, the NSPCA insisted.

According to the organisation, the mass breeding of lion cubs does not contribute to conservation, but instead is a money spinner for unscrupulous operators.

"It is unlikely that a facility will always have several baby cubs on hand for 'petting' due to parental abandonment. It is more likely that this is a result of the growing captive bred lion industry seeking the financial rewards and incentives from the unsuspecting public," said the organisation.

The interaction with predator cubs may have another significant negative.

"Unfortunately, supporting human interaction with predator babies encourages people to own them as pets because they are seen as cute, cuddly and safe. In reality, these are wild animals that can be both dangerous and destructive," said Ainsley Hay, manager of the Wildlife Protection Unit of the NSPCA.


According to National Geographic, exotic animals kept as pets in the US have resulted in 543 human injuries and 75 deaths.

Some of the deaths attributed to big cats are a consequence of the animals not being adequately fed or abused.

The NSPCA has warned of a growing trend where some farmers pluck feathers of birds before they are killed, resulting in additional trauma and suffering.

Porcupine quills that are sold as curios are often the result of poaching, rather than a consequence of animal moulting, particularly as demand increases.

"Any souvenirs made from animals: Tusks, ivory, porcupine quills, or fur indicates an animal is being harmed, and likely poached or farmed, to keep up with the demand," said the NSPCA.

While many people might be shocked by the treatment of animals to support the tourist trade, the Meredith said that having the information could help in making consumer decisions.

"We firmly believe that many people do not know the truth, and that if they did, they would use this newfound knowledge to make sound choices. Ignorance is certainly not bliss."

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Read more on:    nspca  |  animals

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