Dear Mr Des Parker and Mr Mike Fynn,
We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve on their brave and bold move to stop offering cub petting with immediate effect.
Our Lion Coalition “to Stop Captive Breeding and Keeping of Lions and Other Big Cats for Commercial Purposes”, an alliance of 35 national and international organisations and NGOs, understand only too well the links between the captive breeding of big cats, tourist related wildlife interaction activities, canned hunting and the lion bone trade.
We applaud your vision to refocus on animal welfare and be willing to restructure the financial operation of your business as a result. We fully support your notion that it is “not necessary to touch an animal to connect with the importance of wildlife conservation”. South Africa urgently needs to get away from this false educational mantra used by so many facilities to justify their business model of animal interaction.
Some of our coalition members, Linda Park (Voice4Lions), Drew Abrahamson (Captured in Africa Foundation) and Carl Thornton (Pit-Track K9 Conservation & Anti-Poaching), have already visited your facility and came away feeling very positive. Linda was especially impressed with your 3-year plan and the changes already in place, showing vast improvements to some of the animal enclosures and therefore the well-being of the wildlife in your care.
It is imperative for South Africa to have a financially viable captive wildlife facility that has made the move from hands-on to hands-off that can serve as an example to the wider industry. We are confident that the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve can be that role model and we would like to offer our full support to achieve such a position of best industry practice.
We do however hope that you will vasectomise your male lions, so breeding is no longer a possibility, as captive breeding is not necessary for the conservation of wild lions in South Africa.
We would further welcome to see your facility work towards a sanctuary status, so that some of the 10,000+ lions currently held in captivity in South Africa for commercial purposes can be given a forever home, when the captive breeding industry is finally shut down. Unfortunately, the few true sanctuaries in South Africa are already struggling with capacity.
Furthermore, we need more facilities nationally that can serve as a “halfway house” for big cats seized by provincial nature conservation authorities, so that they will have at least a decent life while waiting for court cases to play out.
Our Lion Coalition consists of 35 diverse organisations and individuals with wide ranging expertise, from true sanctuaries to animal welfare practitioners, as well as carnivore researchers. If you ever need advice or support, please do not hesitate to contact us and we would gladly connect you to the right person(s) in our Lion Coalition.
Wishing you all the best in your future endeavours and hope to stay in touch.
Signed by the Steering Committee.