Cub petting pays so it stays
We are probably all aware that the Lion Park in Johannesburg reintroduced cub petting after a short hiatus. The reasons given by the Park were several but can be condensed down to one overriding motive – money.
The Lion Park (or should it now be called the New Lion Park?) has hired new staff, has apparently invested about $7.5 million in a facelift, and owner Rodney Fuhr is due to retire. They claim that because of all those outlays, cub petting is necessary to make ends meet. Also, they claim that tour operators were sending their clients to places where cub petting was allowed instead of the New Lion Park, thereby eating into gate receipts.
So a return to cub petting seemed to be the only option. But surely we should be able to see through those justifications? Clearly, cub petting brings in the bucks in South Africa, but here was a chance for the New Lion Park to make a stance – out with the old, in with the new – and condemn the practice. They could have had a voice that might have made a difference with the tour operators – we don’t do it anymore, and nobody else should. Cub petting is unethical to begin with (remember that cubs have to be taken away from their mothers otherwise cub petting would have very few eager participants) and despite all protestations from the Old Lion Park that their excess lions (remember that to get cubs for petting you have to keep breeding to supply them) were never sold to hunting facilities, should we know different? Just look at the numbers of captive bred lions trophy hunted – latest data shows a 30% increase in 2014 over 2013, and a total of 4,723 trophies and 578 skins exported between 2010 and 2014. Those lions were all cubs once, and likely many of them were petted.
The argument that money was needed to furnish loan repayments holds no water. We all know that to get a business loan, the bank needs to be supplied with a detailed repayment plan. Surely gate fees would have been factored into this, and if such gate fees were so heavily dependent on cub petting, the Old Lion Park should have been well cognizant of this and not made empty promises to halt cub petting in the first place?
If the New Lion Park had taken a stand and convinced others to do so as well, perhaps the public would reward such an ethical position by visiting the New Lion Park in greater numbers? And the New Lion Park, out of an abundance of contrition for past activities, might have elected to become an institution speaking out against cub petting and canned lion hunting. The New/Old Lion Park seems now to be making promises to achieve a level playing field by organizing meetings to eventually achieve legislation outlawing private captive breeding of lions. Or so they told CACH who seemed to have swallowed the story whole and thereby placed themselves in the difficult position of being against canned hunting but allowing cub petting?
Picture credit – tripdavisor.co.uk