Wildlife often pay the price for lawlessness and corruption in places like South Africa, where animals are exploited in myriad ways. Caught in the middle, such animals suffer in the worst ways possible.
Tourist dollars create demand to see, hold, and take selfies with lion cubs; trophy hunters from wealthy, Western countries come to shoot fenced-in big-game cats; the Eastern traditional medicine industry pays money for tiger and lion bones.
An abandoned lion-breeding facility, Pienika Farm, in northwest South Africa, speaks to the levels of neglect that can befall these unfortunate animals. Of the 108 lions kept at the facility, 27 of them were rife with disease, parasites, and mange to the extent that they had lost all their fur. Some of them were near death.
HORRIFIC: Humane Society International – Africa received this shocking photo of severely neglected lions covered in…
Overcrowded enclosures that were meant for two lions were used to house 30 at a time at the breeding facility.
Three lion cubs were suffering a neurological condition called meningoencephalitis—which is essentially an inflammation of the brain. They were unable to walk, and one of them was euthanized by a veterinarian.
Tipped off from an anonymous source, journalists contacted the National Council for Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA), whose daunting task it is to enforce South Africa’s animal welfare laws.
Lions cubs found at squalid breeding centre too sick to walk https://t.co/rAlgvVkZSG
— The Independent (@Independent) May 5, 2019
When the NSPCA’s inspectors saw the facility, it was called one of the most shocking cases of animal neglect they’ve ever seen, National Geographic reported.
The NSPCA’s Douglas Wolhuter, who led the inspection, said, “It’s hard to describe because it leaves you feeling hollow, knowing that you’ve got the king of the jungle in conditions like that.
Shocking photos reveal neglect of ‘snuggle scam’ lions bred to be petted in South Africa https://t.co/IfkJqaEnvp
— Daily Mail Online (@MailOnline) May 6, 2019
There are thousands of such predators held in captivity like the ones at Pienika Farm, according to wildlife guide and photographer Ian Michler. They are often kept in unsatisfactory living conditions, according to reports.
The lions at Pienika Farm could likely have been bred to sell their bones in the Asian traditional medicine industry, which presents a horrifying prospect: “If you’re breeding lions for the lion bone trade, they don’t care what those lions look like,” Michler explains. “Because at the end of the day, all they’re going to do is end up in a sack, a bag of bones that’s going to go to Asia.”
Sadly, there is little reason to be optimistic for a just outcome for these lions. The Pienika Farm lions have known only captivity since birth and cannot be released into the wild, nor are there many decent sanctuaries for them to reside in.
Lions should be living wild and free. Yet, thousands are trapped in captivity in South Africa – exploited for selfies…
Nor is law enforcement or justice likely to curtail the captive breeding conditions in South Africa.
“If the lions had a voice, of course they would be roaring for the courts to come down and decide—say that, yes, we actually do need fair and first-world standards for welfare of our species,” Michler said. “But I can’t see any outcome ending the breeding practices or the lion bone trade.”