Michele du Plessis
For over a decade, the EWT has been calling for an end to tourist interactions with captive carnivores and, as recently as May 2018, wrote an open letter to then-Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, lobbying for these kinds of facilities to be closed down. “At the time of our writing to Minister Molewa, in May 2018, at least 40 people had been injured – or worse, killed – at South African captive carnivore facilities since 1996.”
“The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is shocked and saddened that yet another child has been badly injured while interacting with carnivores at a captive carnivore facility. Our concerns include serious welfare issues, that these facilities offer no conservation value, and pose risks to public safety,” the press release stated.
Captive breeding does not address any of the key threats carnivores face in the wild, and there is no conservation requirement or recommendation for any captive breeding or keeping of carnivores in South Africa. Cruelty cases continue to be opened against captive facilities across South Africa and the EWT will continue to call for the welfare of species in captivity to be properly addressed.
In addition to serious flaws in the regulation of captive facilities, the operations of most of these facilities fail to take into account the natural social structures of carnivores (for example, that Lions occur naturally in prides, while Cheetahs are naturally solitary), and fail to provide proper enrichment and living conditions for the captive carnivores. Further, the continuous handling of captive carnivores by multiple people results in stress for the cubs, who should naturally be spending large portions of their days sleeping or playing with their siblings.
“If our government continues to fail to take action and close these facilities down, the responsible choice is to keep our children safe and stop supporting predator parks or ‘sanctuaries’ that offer captive carnivore interactions. There is no justifiable rationale for the public to be interacting with carnivores in captivity, risking people’s lives.”
“The whole idea of rehabilitation within the captive facilities is to release the animals back into the wild. If the animals are exposed to so many visitors, how on earth are they supposed to be wild and to be rehabilitated? I believe that wild animals in a rescue centre must be exposed to a minimum of contact with people. Using these animals as a tourist attraction is a total misuse of these animals and there is a definite need for stricter regulations,” Jaco Klopper, owner of South African Bush Warrior Association said.