Shooting of Shamba: 'Lions are wild animals and should be treated with respect'

2018-05-03 14:24

The killing of Shamba, the lion who attacked the owner of Marakele Predator Centre, has highlighted the "shameful commercial exploitation of lions", activist bodies say.

"Whether they have been bottle fed from birth or not, lions are wild animals and deserve to be treated with respect, with no human interaction," the Blood Lions campaign said on Thursday. 

The organisation is among several activist bodies across the country that weighed in on what transpired when a lion attacked Michael Hodge, 72, over the weekend.

READ: Shamba the lion shot dead during attack on owner who raised him since birth

Hodge was attacked by Shamba, a lion he "bottle raised" since birth.

He is recovering in hospital after he broke his jaw and sustained injuries to his neck during the attack.

In a short video clip, Hodge can be seen walking behind the lion in a den. 

The lion quickly spots him and chases him as he runs for a metal gate. The lion then drags him into nearby bushes, where he lies motionless.

An onlooker can be heard crying and screaming: "Somebody help, please! Oh my God!"

Some gunshots can also be heard in the background. 

Shamba was shot dead during the attack. He had been owned by the family for 10 years.  

READ MORE: Shamba the lion shot dead during attack on owner who raised him since birth

According to the Blood Lions campaign, there are more than 200 predator breeding farms in South Africa, which hold about 8 000 lions in small enclosures and cages. 

The campaign's goal is to bring an end to canned hunting and the exploitative breeding of lions and other predators on farms across South Africa.

Nicola Gerrard, of the Blood Lions campaign, said incidents and attacks were often the cruel reality and outcome of cub petting, predator breeding and the canned hunting industry, which many tourists unknowingly participated in.

The campaign wants to bring a stop to predator breeding and their use in "this exploitative, commercial cycle", she explained.

"There is a global campaign to create awareness on these practices and ultimately bring an end to the exploitation of our wildlife," Gerrard said.

Wild animals should not be kept in captivity - NSPCA

The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) condemned the shooting of Shamba and added that it was opposed to the captivity of wild animals.

"This incident highlights the very reason why wild animals should not be kept in captivity and further indicates that the public should stop supporting facilities that keep wild animals in captivity," said Martie Rossouw, manager of the NSPCA Wildlife Protection Unit.

"Furthermore, we strongly discourage wildlife interactions as this could result in the same display of behaviour, putting the public at risk as well as compromising the animal's well-being and possibly resulting in their unnecessary death".

'Irresponsible and risky behaviour'

Audrey Delsink of the Humane Society International, added that it was sad that a "beautiful lion was destroyed because of what he termed irresponsible and risky behaviour taken by the owner".

"Whilst it is a relief that the victim was not killed, the real tragedy lies in the shameful commercial exploitation of lions, commonplace as a South African tourist activity. 

"The lion's behaviour shows why habituated lions such as this one, apparently bottle fed since birth, can never be released back into the wild. They have lost their 'wildness' and the boundary between prey and playmate is blurred," Delsink said. 

She added that the activities offered no conservation value and were not supported by the predator conservation or scientific community.  

'Concern over captive-bred big cats'

Delsink said the incident involving Hodge, highlighted the "complete disdain and ignorance around the keeping of captive-bred big cats in captivity".

Dr Kelly Marnewick of the Wildlife in Trade Program agreed and said captive-bred lions have lost their natural fear and respect for humans. 

Marnewick added that key threats to wild lions were human-wildlife conflict, poaching, a lack of safe space and insufficient prey numbers.

She added that none of these were addressed by the captive breeding of lions.

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