The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) charged lion farmer Jan Steinman with contravening the Animal Protection Act this past weekend.
According to Conservation Action Trust, 27 lions were found with severe mange, two lion cubs were found unable to walk, and there were caracals so obese they were unable to groom themselves. Animals were forced to live in filthy, small enclosures with inadequate shelter, a lack of water, and severe parasitic conditions.
Steinman is reportedly a council member of the South African Predator Association (SAPA). The association insists no welfare issues exist on any facilities owned by members. SAPA has to adhere to norms and standards in the captive lion breeding industry for breeding and hunting.
However, the conditions many of the animals were found in starkly contradict this. Conservation Action Trust reports that some enclosures on the farm housed more than 30 lionesses – less than a quarter of the required minimum space set by SAPA. According to their website, a minimum of 400m2 per animal must be adhered to, with a maximum of 10 animals allowed per unit.
SAPA says on their policy document that failure to comply with norms and standards “will lead to disciplinary action and possible expulsion of the offender”.
Earlier this year, the department of environmental affairs (DEA) proposed that the captive lion breeding industry should continue, provided it could be regulated and prescribed legislation would be adhered to. This controversial viewpoint was challenged by many associations and organisations in South Africa and abroad in a parliamentary colloquium on the lion hunting and bone trade, held in August last year.
The DEA said that South Africa has over 3,000 wild lions protected in national parks and reserves, but more than 6,000 lions in captive breeding facilities across the country.
However, organisation Blood Lions and the Conservation Action Trust say that between 9,000 and 12,000 lions are being held in captivity in about 300 facilities.
When 227 breeding facilities were inspected in the Free State, North West, and Western Cape in March, almost 40% were found to be non-compliant.
(Compiled by Nica Schreuder)