So what is canned Hunting?
The term "canned hunting" stems from a 1997 edition of the BBC’s "The Cook Report”. The programme featured an undercover expose of Sandy McDonald. McDonald claimed he arranged hunting trips for wealthy clients to shoot a real lion - all be it drugged and in a small enclosure. He claimed to have arranged such ‘hunts’ on many occasions. Canned hunts are perceived by most people as being lion hunts - but that really isn’t true. Lions are certainly hunted in this way, particularly in South Africa, but many other animals are also hunted in confined conditions in a number of countries around the world.
The Cook Report programme was recorded in South Africa which is the centre of the ‘Canned hunting’ industry. We say, industry, because that accurately describes what is happening. Canned hunting is a commercial operation, from the captive breeding of lions through their youth is petting centres onto their brief life in cages before being hand selected and shot by a hunter. Finally, the body parts, unwanted for ‘Trophies’ are sold into the traditional Asian medicine trade.
Around 5000 captive bred lions are thought to be in South Africa’s 160 plus breeding farms - far more than the 2000 or so that remain in the wild.
Many of the breeding farms offer ‘cub-petting’ experiences for tourists, locals and volunteers. For around 100 rands (£5) you can sit and ‘pett’ a small lion cub. Volunteers are drawn from Europe and around the world to help run these petting days. They believe they are helping the lions and the conservation of the species - but this isn’t true.
What they don’t see is - mum’s being forced to abandon their cubs by staff with bells making a lot of noise to drive them away - whilst the cubs, less than an hour old, are removed to be hand raised and fed by humans on bottled milk. No colostrum, no nurturing - no contact with their parents ever again! The Cubs have entered the ‘production system’ and Mum, will now be forced into having another litter - most females have five litters within two years before they to, enter the production system.
As cub’s get older they leave ‘petting school’ and join the lion ‘walks’ - semi-natural walking tours through the veldt. From here, they enter the holding enclosures at the breeding centre before being sold to licensed dealers.
It’s these dealers who advertise and organise the ‘Canned hunts’ for rich European, American other clients from around the world.
Canned hunts are attractive to hunters for a number of reasons. Firstly, they guarantee a kill and therefore a trophy. Secondly, price, A wild, black-maned lion, such as Cecil - who was killed on private land having been lured from Hwange National Park by Hunter, Walter Palmer in 2015 - might cost $150,000 dollars - a similar ‘canned’ lion would cost around $50,000 with a female costing less than half of that and third, they simply cannot miss! The chosen lion is brought to them, sometimes drugged or tranquillised, most times though, the lion has not been fed for a couple of days so goes to the food in the cage - from there, it’s simply a matter of sticking the gun through the cage and pulling the trigger - no reference to the hunters tracking and stalking skills - nothing - but a cold-blooded murder!
The lion is then taken away and prepared. The head is generally all the hunter wants for their ‘collection’ so the rest of the body is left with the dealers, who sell it, legitimately or via the black market to countries such as China, Laos and Vietnam - where the trade in ‘traditional’ Asian medicines (TCM) from tiger body parts has now largely been replaced with lion body parts as they are readily available - but hardly traditional in Asia.