If you were sickened by the untimely and unnecessary death of Cecil the Lion, prepare to become even more enraged at how widely practiced the “sport” of “canned hunting” has become. South Africa is home to facilities with thousands of lions who are bred into captivity solely for the purpose of being hunted by rich patrons. Americans are responsible for 9 of 10 lions killed in canned hunts – a statistic which may be coming to a halt, thanks to the Obama Administration recently cracking down on wildlife poaching and shipping slain animal trophies into the country.
“If you thought Walter Palmer’s killing of Cecil was deplorable, what happens to nameless lions at these facilities is even more appalling and unsporting,” stated Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States. South Africa, from which most American lion trophies are shipped, currently has 6,000 lions in captivity. Awareness of the practice of keeping the lions in cages up until the moment they are released for a “hunt” has grown. Most appalling may be the betrayal of the creatures’ trust, as some are reported to feel comfortable approaching the visitors there to end their lives.
The HSUS has voiced support of the efforts of The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plans to make the import of hunting trophies much more difficult. After African and Indian lions were added to the threatened or endangered species list these measures, as well as increasing fees for hunting permits, lead to hope that fewer lions will be preyed upon.
Unfortunately, canned hunts are not only an international luxury for Americans. “There are more than a thousand captive hunts in at least 28 states,” says the organization Born Free USA. African antelopes, red foxes, and elk are among some of the species bred locally for these facilities. Born Free USA, as well as the Fish and Wildlife Service, emphasize how Americans make up the overwhelming majority of domestic and international canned hunters.