The truth behind lion cub petting is that these cubs are taken from mothers who are imprisoned to reproduce another litter every six months. These cubs are in truth, factory farmed animals kept in enclosures to be petted and played with. Human interaction with these cubs is doing one thing that we may be unaware of as we cuddle these little rascals, installing trust in these cubs. As they grow to trust humans, they become less fearful. When they grow up, they may be sent to become lions in the canned hunting industry. Canned hunting is the hunting of animals within an enclosed space without the possibility of escape they would have in nature. Often, they don't even try to escape because after all, they have learnt to trust humans.
Circuses can be a place for fun, laughs and clowning around. When the majestic big cats come out and impress us with their tricks, jumping through fire rings and parading around with pride we may even think this is harmless fun. This couldn't be further from the truth. These animals can be caged, defanged, declawed, imprisoned, abused and trained in brutal ways for the entertainment of humans. Even if circuses claim to treat their animals well, is this even the point? They are still prisoners for the purpose of entertainment. Rather than roaming the African Savannah freely they spend their days in cages only being let out for training and circus acts.
When I was in my second year of university studying conservation, I decided to spend a few weeks at a Lion sanctuary for abused lions, the Drakenstein lion park. My daily activities included feeding the lions, preparing special food for those lions who had been defanged and declawed in circuses, building gates, repairing lion shelters and even cleaning up the biggest cat poos you can imagine. This personal volunteer experience, although hard work bought me more spiritual and emotional growth than I had expected. Over the weeks, I learnt each of the lions stories and grew to love each one of them. Often volunteers seek projects that offer physical petting of animals but through my personal experience I learnt that you don't always need physical interactions with animals to form strong bonds with them. By helping with the daily needs of sanctuary's and projects, you are contributing in more ways than you know and your own personal growth can be significant.
This might be a good place to share some of the lions stories with you. Brutus was a big lion with the most beautiful mane, but he did have a bit of a quirky look to him. Brutus's jaw is permanently disfigured from being severely beaten and declawed as a cub in a circus. He was rescued from a French circus and arrived at the sanctuary in 2010. Circus animals will never be able to survive in the wild, rehabilitation and sanctuary's are their only options for a good life.
Ringo was born into an Eastern European circus, confined to a small cage with only a tiger as his companion. He endured barbaric training and living conditions before arriving at the sanctuary. Ringo was still not happy at the sanctuary and refused to eat or enjoy his new found freedom. As a last resort, the sanctuary brought in a lion whisperer. The lion whisperer claims to be able to communicate with animals and according to her, Ringo wanted to know what had happened to his best friend, the tiger. This was the first time the sanctuary had heard of Ringo being in the circus with a tiger and after some research discovered that there had indeed been a tiger. The tiger had also been rescued and now lives peacefully in another sanctuary. Ringo is now much happier since hearing this news from the animal communicator and is making the most of his new found happiness.
Loti was used to bred cub lions for the illegal Eastern European pet trade. Her stomach drags on the floor and she is very distrusting of humans, understandable with litters after litters of her babies being torn away from her. Her cubs would have been vulnerable to being drugged, beaten and defanged to be used as props for photos and petting. She was rescued from a life of abuse and misery where her only function was to be constantly pregnant and now lives happily in the sanctuary.
Dodo was born into illegal pet trading in Eastern Europe. His entire life was spent imprisoned in underground concrete pits until he was rescued. In Eastern European winters, temperatures drop to minus 20 degrees and it is unknown how he survived these winter seasons. The first night Dodo was released at the sanctuary was the first time he felt grass under his feet, smelt the flowers and saw the blue African sky. That night, Dodo sat staring at the sunset for hours. This was the first taste of freedom he had ever had.
Good Hope Volunteers supports a similar project, the Big Cat Rescue sanctuary. 33 big cats were rescued from South America. The rescue made headlines as it was the biggest animal airlift rescue. These 33 big cats joined other retired and rescued zoo, abused and circus animals.
Please think of these beautiful animals before you buy that circus ticket or enter the cub petting facility. What may seem fun to you, may hold extreme pain and suffering for others.
To be part of this project, please contact us.