‘We don’t breed’

2015-11-28 10:30
A still from the movie Blood Lions, a documentary which follows South African conservationist Ian Michler and Rick Swazey, an American hunter, on their journey to the lion-hunting industries.

A still from the movie Blood Lions, a documentary which follows South African conservationist Ian Michler and Rick Swazey, an American hunter, on their journey to the lion-hunting industries. (supplied)

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Pietermaritzburg - The producers of a documentary against canned lion hunting, Blood Lions, have questioned the credentials of Zanchieta wildlife sanctuary, which is seeking to distance itself from the activities in the film.

The film-makers denied having defamed the sanctuary and sharpened their claws yesterday in defence of the right to freedom of expression.

Zanchieta launched an urgent application in the Pietermaritzburg high court this week to halt further screenings of the documentary and asked the court to order the film-makers to remove images of two of its lions that appear in the film, as well as associated websites.

Despite a further screening being scheduled in London last night, Judge Fikile Mokgohloa said she could only give a ruling next week after considering all aspects.

Philippa Hankinson, sole director of Regulus Vision (which produced the documentary with the Wildlands Conservation Trust) said in court papers it is “quite astounding that Zanchieta does not consider itself part of the industry of breeding lions in captivity through its hand-rearing of lion cubs in an active nursery to support breeders in the surrounding area”.

She was referring to court papers stating that the farm “acts as a home to wild cats that are not able to be released back into the wild, as well as a nursery for cubs that are brought to the farm by neighbouring breeders to be hand-raised before they are relocated into reserves”.

She also referred in her affidavit to excerpts from the documentary quoting an employee of Zanchieta, Jeana Gous, saying: “We don’t breed … maybe once every second year we will let her get a litter, but we do not breed because of all the speculations and people saying you are just breeding for hunting. And we don’t, that’s not what we want.”

Gous also allegedly said the cubs were taken from their mothers 10 days after birth. In the wild, cubs stay with their mothers for two years but when forcibly removed the lionesses go back into oestrus to facilitate “multiple breeding cycles”, said Hankinson.

She alleged the inescapable conclusion was that Zanchieta took the cubs away “for this sole purpose”.

Hankinson said images of volunteers hand-rearing and playing with cubs at the nursery on the farm appear on YouTube.

She further alleges that in “raw footage” not included in the documentary, Gous allegedly acknowledged that Zanchieta raised lion cubs for breeders, which were sent back to the breeders to be sold to reserves; confirmed that one of Zanchieta’s lionesses, Princess, had three white cubs of which two were sold to a private reserve in Denmark, and spoke about servals (Sylvester and Malan) being sold or given to Letsatsi La Africa game lodge, which has been linked to the bone trade and “wildlife trafficking”.

These allegations made by Hankinson are vehemently denied in replying papers by Gous and the owner of Zanchieta, Lizette van Schalkwyk.

Van Schalkwyk says she asked Gous if she remembered any conversation with Ian Michler (lead character in the documentary) and she denied having made the statements alleged, or maintained she was quoted out of context.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  court

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