You cannot come to South Africa without talking about or visiting a Game Reserve. So when I saw that the largest Game Reserve on the Southern Cape was about an hour away, my trusty Toyota Tazz and I set off last weekend to have a peek. I opted to complete a horse back game drive, which was challenge in itself as I have only ever ridden 1 horse, but was strongly advised it was the best way to see the reserve.

The reserve certainly didn’t disappoint. With 35 species of game, including lion, rhino, giraffe, hippo, crocodiles, buffalo and a large variety of antelope roaming free in their natural habitat which is also home to more than 101 different bird species. It is the biggest sanctuary in the area for the endangered white rhino.

Do you know how difficult it is to take good pics while trotting? I somehow managed to get a few decent shots more by luck than judement.

If you can spot the Hippo you win…..a blog mention.

You may remember from an earlier blog that Giraffe are without a doubt one my favourite land based animals, so here is a Fun Fact about Giraffes: A Giraffe’s tongue is so huge they can grow up to 45 cm long and are specially designed to accommodate leaves and bushes that are thorny.

I had a thoroughly enjoyable time, but did notice that there were 2 different breeds of Zebra. Now until 3 weeks ago I would not have even noticed the difference but I had attended a talk by Halszka Hrabar that was studying Cape Mountain zebra they have been working tirelessly to repopulate this breed that was close to extinction 25 years ago. They were determined to retain a clear genealogy pool to raise the number. Thankfully the below is not a Cape Mountain Zebra but a Quagga which is a sub-species of the normal zebra.

The Mountain Zebra has a thinner stripe pattern that does not extend to the leg
The Quagga Zebra has a thinner stripe pattern that does not extend to the leg

This really started to get me thinking about the game industry and while they provide an educational service to the masses on wildlife in their natural habitat is it possible that financial gain vs research vs ethics comes into conflict on occasion.

I actually delayed the publication of this Game blog because I was scheduled to attend a talk on the topic of Blood Lions this week and wanted to see what further information could be gained on the game industry. The talk was held by Ian Michler who is an investigative journalist who with a team of cameramen, ecologists, zoologist and conservational gurus collected the evidence required for the film. Blood Lions which has already been released in South Africa, and is already becoming a huge topic of discussion globally. I saw only a small clip of the film and it was enough to bring me close to tears.

You are all probably aware of the Cecil the lion shooting in Mozambique recently.  We are all aware of the hunting lobby that will go on-line buy a lion, tiger, cheetah and fly over to shoot it.

What I was not aware of until yesterday is the severity of the problem. South Africa has 2800 lions in the wild, Kruger and other well run national parks and establishments, who maintain natural habitat, feeding chains and natural breeding environments.

In captivity there is estimated to be 6000-8000 lions that are being held in breeding farms or “sanctuaries” who claim to be holding lions for “conservation” but once you dig under the surface you discover a trail of the following

  • Petting and Walking e.g. Cub cuddling
  • Traded for Shooting
  • Killed for Lion bone trade
  • Traded to oversea buyers as pets

These farms takes several keys facets away from the lion

  1. They human imprint which means they no longer see us as a danger.
  2. They are tame and can never be released into their natural habitat for feeding.
  3. Their genealogy is contaminated as lions are breed within families over and over again.
  4. Their core range of movement stagnates as they have lost their sense roaming and freedom.

There are 2-3 lions shot per day currently and I am sure as the breeding numbers grow that will increase. Volunteers are being conned into paying lots of money to help these breeding farms, come and “pet and walk our lion cubs”. In fact I myself almost fell into this trap when researching what volunteer program to join. They ask for thousands of pounds for you to attend their sanctuary to look after the animals, when in fact they are being breeding the animals for slaughter once they are bigger than the cuddly stage.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” Martin Luther King

Please like my blog and share this information with all your friends and family, the more people in the know the more that can be done to stop this atrocious breeding for the bullet.

I wish the Blood Lions team all the best for their campaign and I hope the South African government listens. The Blood Lions team are also building awareness to overseas countries to stop the importation of animals, bones and well as feeding the farms with their unsuspecting volunteers, who think that they are doing a service. For more information see the blood lions website below.
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