When we imagine lions, we think of majestic beasts, the kings of the jungle. What also comes to mind are cases of ill-treatment, poaching, and trophy-hunting.
Undercover photos show more than a 100 lions suffering from mange (a skin disease leading to the loss of fur) and yet being held in horrible conditions at a breeding facility at Pienika Farm in the North West province.
To understand better, you should first know what a 'breeding farm' is.
As per another story from The Dodo, there are more lions in captivity in Africa, than there are wild lions in the open.
Reduced to neglected beings in captivity, lying on dusty fields, eating scraps of meat - many of these lions will suffer their entire life and will probably die a slow and sluggish death at this very place.
27 out of the 100 odd lions are suffering from mange, caused due to mite infestation. Other than that, there are two lion cubs with disorders so severe that they cannot even stand on their own. Other lions are forced into crowded places and have little or no access to water.
The irony here - these lions were supposedly being brought to the farm so they could have a better life, but that's certainly not happening.
Revealing an ugly side to South Africa's lion breeding business, it has been very clear that the farm is anything but a 'welfare home' for these lions and cubs, with them living in consistently deteriorating conditions despite strong protests.
Calling it a 'snuggle scam', activists from Humane Society International explain why they get away so easily. Audrey Delsink, the wildlife director of HSI explains,
Tourists are duped into believing that they are helping support a totally different type of facility. South Africa’s captive lion breeding industry is a vicious cycle of exploitation, from cradle to grave.
He also added some disturbing details,
Once too big and dangerous for these activities, these lions are then killed for their bones which are exported to Asia for traditional medicines or sold to be killed by trophy hunters largely from the United States in 'canned' hunts in which hand-reared lions are shot in a fenced area from which they cannot escape.
South Africa is home to approximately 3000 wild lions but sadly the number of lions being held captive in such facilities is usually twice that of those in the open. A saddening figure for animal lovers, both in South Africa and in other parts of the world.
Though the conditions for lions in captivity has been miserable, there's always light at the end of darkness. Two deformed cubs were rescued and taken to a veterinarian, giving some hope for others suffering from a similar plight.