Animal Planet Comes Under Fire for Promoting Canned Lion Hunting in South Africa

Animal Planet has come under criticism in South Africa for promoting canned hunting as "conservation. According to Chris Mercer of "Campaign against Canned Hunting," Animal Planet has "not done its homework" and is promoting hunting reserves adjacent to the Kruger National Park as conservation organizations

Wilderness, South Africa (PRWEB) December 6, 2006 -- Animal Planet has come under criticism from animal rights activists in South Africa for promoting canned hunting as "conservation." Wildlife author Chris Mercer, spokesman for "Campaign against Canned Hunting," says the Animal Planet has "not done its homework" and is inaccurately promoting hunting reserves adjacent to the Kruger National Park as conservation organizations. At issue is the recently aired program, "White Lions: King of Kings." According to Mercer, the broadcast features Timbavati, one of the hunting conservancies on the western border of Kruger National Park in South Africa, and erroneously portrays the organization as a haven for wildlife, when, in fact, the lions are shot by hunters who pay a premium for the opportunity. In addition, Mercer says, the Association of Private Nature Preserves (APNR), of which Timbavati is a member, has been allowed by South African Conservation authorities to take down fences, so that protected Kruger Park animals can lose their protection and roam freely into the APNR.

Mercer says that the White Lions program on Animal Planet has done "incalculable harm, not only to the 3,500 lions caught up in the dreadful South African canned hunting business, but also to animal welfare generally."

Mercer's claims are supported by a May 2006 edition of the Cape Argus Press, as well as coverage in other South African newspapers. There was national concern and extensive press coverage of the killing in the APNR of one of the "Sohebele Brothers," a pair of tourist-habituated lions, and the Cape Argus article mentioned the killing of another lion in Timbavati, where the hunter shot the wrong animal out of a pride. Mercer says, "This is not conservation. Rather, it is the asset stripping of our wildlife heritage."

The Animal Planet program features Marius Prinsloo, a lion breeder, who is portrayed as a conservationist doing work to preserve the white lion gene. The Campaign against Canned Hunting released photographs of three captive lions downloaded from Prinsloo's website, where he advertises the hunting price for each lion.

Captive lions are often baited, darted and captured in the wild. Breeders then keep the captive lions in "factory farm" conditions. The lioness is usually driven out of her cage shortly after giving birth so that she can come into estrus and start breeding again. Mercer charges that the mother's "distress at being separated from her cubs is callously ignored." Sometimes cubs are rented out to tourist resorts as part of a petting zoo. When the cubs are six months old and too boisterous for tourists they go back to their cages. Tame, hand-reared lions and lionesses are turned out into fenced enclosures to provide targets for hunters from Europe and the U.S.A.

Mercer is appealing for support from USA animal rights organizations to persuade Animal Planet to drop the White Lions program. "If hunting is accepted as conservation, then so is whaling, seal clubbing, and fur-farming," he says.

Chris Mercer co-founded and helped to manage a wildlife rehabilitation center in the Kalahari for seven years before establishing the Campaign against Canned Hunting in South Africa. He was recently awarded the prestigious Marchig Trust Award for Animal Welfare for 2006.