Big cats in South Africa are being intensively farmed and traded, both legally and illegally, driving the international market for traditional Asian medicine. The illegal wildlife trade is the fourth largest criminal activity in the world, and it is being fuelled by the trade in big cat products from South Africa.
The exploitation of big cats in South Africa continues to grow and includes not only indigenous species such as lions, leopards and cheetahs, but also exotic species like tigers, jaguars, pumas and crossbreeds between lions and tigers (known as ligers or tigons). There are roughly 12,000 lions and 1,500 tigers being intensively farmed in captive facilities across South Africa. The conditions in the facilities are poor and the animals are often kept in cruel, overcrowded environments. The rise in demand for big cats means that they are now bred and traded in huge numbers around the world.
While South Africa contributes to an illegal trade by supplying live animals to breeding farms in Asia and trading parts for traditional medicines, they also contribute to the shockingly legal commercial trade, where big cats are bred in captivity and exploited for profit.
These captive predators are exploited for profit at every stage of their lives:
- Cubs are torn away from their mothers within a few days of birth so that their mothers go back into an intensive breeding cycle, giving birth to two to three litters per year instead of one litter every two years in the wild.
- Within a few weeks, the cubs are put in petting enclosures to provide tourists with selfie opportunities and are able to pet the cubs.
- Once they are too big for this, they will be used for other tourist activities such as ‘walking with big cats’, or they may go into the advertising or film industry.
- Once these predators are too big and dangerous to interact safely with the public, they will either be used to reproduce, sold to other breeders, or killed in ‘canned hunts’.
- We cannot let this cruelty continue. Please help us protect big cats in South Africa by signing our petition today to demand an end to the commercial trade of big cats and their parts.