The South African government just announced its decision to ban its multimillion-dollar captive lion facilities; a victory animal rights advocates and conservationists have been fighting for tirelessly for years.
With this announcement, the government will stop issuing permits to breed, keep, hunt, or interact with captive lions and is revoking current breeding permits. A number of factors are thought to have influenced this decision, including growing public opposition to the industry for being inhumane, possible links between legal and illegal trade in lion bones, and greater understanding of the diseases that animals can pass to humans, reports National Geographic.
According to Mongabay, there are 366 captive lion facilities in South Africa holding about 8,000 lions, according to official government estimates. But according to Blood Lions, there could actually be 450 facilities holding up to 12,000 lions.
Other animals, like elephants and rhinos, are also included in this critical ban.
“This is a significant shift in thinking, and it’s far, far greater than anyone would have thought a year ago, or even six months ago. And it’s the first time we believe that we have a ministry or government that is really committed to dealing with these issues,” says Ian Michler, director of the nonprofit organization Blood Lions.
While the process of shutting down these facilities will be a process, this first step is a huge victory.
“It’s a real win for wildlife. I think commitment for change is the most courageous step and the most important one. [There’s] going to be difficult steps along the way, but with that majority percentage, everyone’s working towards the same goals. It is about making sure that this is the last generation that was born in this system in those conditions,” says Neil D’Cruze, global head of wildlife research at World Animal Protection.