Lion Encounter/Walk with lions, etc. Update

Dec 20th, 2007, 01:40 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
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I am a bit late into this thread but as one with questions on VeeR's original thread I need to ask the question I asked on that thread as I am still unclear:

On the website it says:

Q: So why don’t you only use cubs from Stage 2 and not have the Lion Encounter or Walk With Lions?

A: The controlled breeding and research enclosures at Antelope Park enable a variety of tests and research observations to be carried out. It is here that the lions are DNA tested and assessed in terms of their various characteristics. Eg. Are they good hunters? Are they dominant, aggressive, independent and a host of other points that help us select what we believe will be the best lions for the rehabilitation programme.

My question is, what happens to the lions that don't make stage 2?? David can you clarify this??


OnlyMeOirish is offline  
Dec 20th, 2007, 02:23 PM
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Hiya - rickmck, sorry didnt mean to offend in any way - was asking for this very reason! I'm new here and didnt think i could post direct references to links on other forums, and couldnt see any way of sending you a message direct, sorry. I was just very interested to read your post as we have been discussing this project in detail elsewhere. Q

QuentinJones is offline  
Dec 20th, 2007, 02:32 PM
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sorry, should have said 'commercial forums' - I thought the others would be ok as they are non-commercial information sites...
QuentinJones is offline  
Feb 10th, 2008, 12:28 PM
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African lion encounters: a bloody con

From The Sunday Times
February 10, 2008

Chris Haslam reveals the gruesome truth behind big-cat conservation projects that are championed by British tour operators
QuentinJones is offline  
Feb 10th, 2008, 12:47 PM
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I think this link is better:
Nyamera is offline  
Feb 10th, 2008, 03:36 PM
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I completely missed this thread until today.

Bill - thanks for starting this thread. It is important that people be aware of the situation and inform themselves, whichever side of the issue they end up on. I find it admirable that you kept your condemnation of the program to yourself until you were able to cite experts in the field.

Rickmck - wonderful insight, particularly since it's first hand from notes taken during your trip.

Quentin and Nyamera - thanks for the recent link, and for topping the post or I would have missed it.
Dana_M is offline  
Feb 14th, 2008, 02:50 AM
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To: [email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]
[email protected]

Date: 11th February 2008

Contact: Marleen Lammers, PR Manager, Antelope Park, Gweru, Zimbabwe Email: [email protected]
David Youldon, Chief Operating Officer, ALERT, Gweru, Zimbabwe Email: [email protected]
Sarah Raine, PR Manager, Real Gap, Kent, United Kingdom
Email: [email protected]

The article “African Lion Encounters: A Bloody Con,” which was written by Chris Haslam, and published in the Sunday Times on Sunday February 10, is full of inaccuracies. We feel that this article strongly misrepresents ALERT, a trust that is dedicated to ensuring the future of the African Lion, and Antelope Park, where the programme is based.

The article claims that “as many as 59 lion cubs raised at Antelope Park have been sold to big-game-hunting operations to be shot for sport.” No lion from Antelope Park has ever been, and never will be, intentionally sold for canned hunting. African Encounter is completely against canned hunting. Our freely available information clearly states this. A total of 39 lions have been sold by Antelope Park since the current owners acquired the property in 1987. 37 of those lions were sold, in two groups, one in 1999 and the majority in 2002 to a captive centre in South Africa. There was a pre-condition on the provision of an export permit by the Zimbabwe Wildlife Authority that those lions could not be used for canned hunting.

Furthermore, the lions that were exported were to be monitored by the relevant wildlife authorities within South Africa to ensure that the provisions of the sale were upheld. Two further lions were sold to a private breeder within Zimbabwe, not associated in any way with hunting, in 2005. No other sales of lions have ever taken place.

The article also states that tourists and volunteers “are told that the lion cubs are being raised for release in the wild,” and that “captive-bred, hand-reared lions have the potential to become man-eaters, and thus can never be allowed to roam free.” At no time are any visitors to the project informed that the captive bred lions will be released into an unfenced area. We are fully aware of the fact that captive bred lions without a natural fear of humans can become man-eaters, and this is why this form of release has never formed part of the release programme. All the information provided by Antelope Park and ALERT clearly states that the captive lions are rehabilitated into a fenced, managed eco-system, free of humans, where they will have offspring. These cubs are raised by the pride (stage 3 of the programme), in a natural environment free of any human contact. They will therefore be able to be released into the wild with the same avoidance behaviours towards humans as any wild born lion.

Furthermore, the article states that Antelope Park employs tourists and gap-year students as guides. Antelope Park does not use fee-paying tourists or gap-year students as guides. These self-funded eco-tourists pay for the opportunity to work alongside our guides and lion handlers to further the conservation, research and community work that we undertake.

As a specific example of these eco-tourists, the article mentions “agencies such as Real Gap.” David Stitt, Managing Director of Real Gap comments: "As market leaders in the gap break market, Real Gap's policy is to endorse responsible conservation programmes. Antelope Park is an ethical, well-managed programme. It is clear in all our correspondence with our volunteers that the lions that they work with are part of a captive programme. Our volunteers do not have physical contact with those lions in the stages of the programme where the aim is eventual release into the reserves and national parks."

In addition, the Sunday Times article quotes two scientists, Dr Sarel van der Merwe and Dr Luke Hunter of the Wildlife Conservation Society, on the pitfalls of releasing lions into the wild. Antelope Park has actually received a letter from Dr van der Merwe advising us and supporting us on the work and research that we were doing. In an email that was sent on June 12, 2004, he told us the following: "Generally speaking, the feeling amongst scientists is that captive bred lions cannot survive in a natural environment. I beg to differ. I have reviewed too many reports to the contrary…I believe one can rehabilitate the lions." Additionally, we have also received the following from Dr Pieter Kat, a senior lion expert, in June 2005:

"…we can begin programmes of lion reintroduction in a wide variety of depopulated areas. Such programmes will not only be immediately positive, but will also place lions squarely in the category of animals like rhinos whose plight seems to be better appreciated by the international conservation community. This is why I am appreciative and excited to be involved by the initiatives taken by Antelope Park. Through years of self-funded and determined effort, they have developed a program of re-introduction that has a very good chance of success. Predators of any description are notoriously difficult to reintroduce, but now we have at least a workable plan. As I said, the future of African lions is in African hands. Let us salute those who have been steadfast to ensure this future, and recognize that any action is better than the currently looming extinction of an African icon if we do nothing."

In August 2007, we released our first pride of lions into stage two; a managed ecosystem where the lions have been successfully hunting for six months now. They have brought down prey from warthog to adult giraffe, which is a remarkable achievement from the captive cubs that they were. The ALERT and Antelope Park programme is also involved in conservation of other species, research and community development in order to provide sustainable programs to the benefit of Africa's wildlife and its people.

With regards to the treatment of our lions, a letter we received from WWF Southern Africa Regional office (written on January 10, 2005) following visits by independent ecologists, Zimbabwe Park And Wildlife Authority, and Society for the Protection of Animals, states that the Antelope Park programme is "highly ethical and extremely well managed." Keith Dutlow BVSc, MRCVS and Lisa Marabini BVSc, MRCVS, two vets we have been working with during the past two years, complied to this in a reaction to the article, stating that “as independent consultant vets to Antelope Park since February 2006, we can attest that since that time, no animal has ever been de-clawed, de-fanged, or drugged for entertainment purposes. Also, every lion at Antelope Park has been micro-chipped and no lions have been sold to other operators nor removed from the program under suspicious circumstances since our involvement.”

Furthermore, according to the article, “[n]either the Alert programme nor Sir Ranulph Fiennes could be reached for comment.” Neither Antelope Park nor ALERT are aware of any attempts of the Sunday Times to contact them for information. In fact, the email below sent to us by Sacha Lehrfreund from the Sunday Times Picture Desk, on 6th February, requesting photographs was responded to immediately with an offer of furnishing The Times with details of our lion rehabilitation and release programme, but no such offer was accepted. When no response was received, our marketing department placed a call to the picture desk on Thursday February 7th, but this was rudely dismissed. The paper’s representative claimed to have no time to talk to us, and refused to transfer us to any of her colleagues.

From: Evans, Sara [mailto[email protected]]
Sent: Wednesday, February 06, 2008 1:46 PM
To: [email protected]
Subject: Walking with Lions - Pictures for the Sunday Times, London


We are running a feature in the Travel section about 'Walking with Lions' and I'm hoping that you could supply us with some photographs from Antelope Park, preferably of people walking alongside lions. We will of course credit your organisation. The article would appear on 10th February and we go to press tomorrow, so I'm hoping that you are able to help at such short notice.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sacha Lehrfreund
Sunday Times Travel
Picture Desk

Contrary to the article’s claims, Sir Ranulph Fiennes was never contacted by the Sunday Times either. His response to the article is as follows: “I am proud to be a small part of ALERT and I am ashamed of the uninformed Sunday Times article “African lion encounters: a bloody con” as an example of the worst type of libelous, inaccurate writing. This by a journalist bent on thrashing ALERT, a highly worthwhile body of individuals, black and white, in Zimbabwe whose sterling non profit efforts to protect the endangered African lion deserve praise not lies.”

Anyone is free to visit Antelope Park to see for themselves how we operate, and how our various conservation, research and community programmes are benefiting Africa. We feel that anyone wanting to make comment about the voracity of our aims should at least make an effort to find out about the programme and read the freely available literature.
LionALERT is offline  
Apr 5th, 2008, 11:37 PM
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An article “African lion encounters: a bloody con” printed in the Travel Section of the Sunday Times newspaper on 10 February 10 2008 said that as many as 59 lion cubs raised at Antelope Park had been sold to big game hunting operations to be shot for sport.

Antelope Park filed a complaint with the newspaper as well as with the Press Complaints Commission as well as publishing a press release refuting these claims. Evidence to corroborate our position was provided to both the newspaper and the commission and also made available to other interested parties.

Today, the newspaper has printed a retraction of that allegation

"We accept that the owners of the park never have and never will intentionally sell lions for “canned” hunting....We regret any impression that Antelope Park co-operated in the supply of animals for hunting."
LionALERT is offline  
Apr 6th, 2008, 07:38 AM
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i don't take into consideration whether this lion encounter is in zim or somewhere else..........
- breeding lions in captivity for captivity is highly unethical!
- for at least 5 (!!!) years now the ZIMoperater tells people who question the operation that "national geographic is going to do a program on it"
- reintroduction in to the wilds is impossible for lions who walked with humans
- what about the "surplus" of older lions who are too dangerous to conduct the walks anymore
- if something bad happens it's always the lion who pays the price: death penalty!
- there is no such thing like education of humans simply because they did a lion walk.
- demand and offer/offer and demand
it's just producing lions for captivity which is imoral.
anybody who has seen these powerful and awesome cats in the wild won't appreciate the idea of seeing them behind bars conducting walks with their only enemy!
Feb 6th, 2009, 02:11 PM
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Posts: 6
Latest news from ALERT is that 10 lion cubs have been imported into Livingstone, Zambia, for use in its expanded 'Walking with Lions' project.

The cubs come from a breeding facility in Orange Free State, South Africa, raising concerns over their suitability for use in the 'Walking with Lions' and yet again exposes connections between ALERT and the canned hunting industry in South Africa.

The captive breeding industry in SA mainly exists to feed the canned hunting industry - and if ALERT are sourcing lions from these breeders, then they are supporting the whole industry.

If ALERT have bought these lions for use in their captive breeding and reintroduction programme where are the genetic pedigrees of these animals? Where have they come from?

If ALERT are merely hiring these cubs, and they are to take no part in the rehabilitation phase, then ALERT are exploiting these lions purely for commercial gain, with no cloak of conservation merit or reintroduction claims to cloud the view.

Quentin Jones
QuentinJones is offline  
Feb 6th, 2009, 02:28 PM
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Thank you for confirming our scepticism!

In my view it is not only unethical to take away tiny lion cubs from the lioness in order to hand raise. The lions which grow out of this "walking" age are most probably sold to hunting farms.

There is not one conservationist who deals with lions who supports the lion walks and especially the theory of getting outgrown ones back into the wild!

Not only to us it's absolutely weird to expect hand reared lions to sustain themselves in the wild.

This lion encounter is not only questionable - it's unethical and solely serving one purpose: Greed!


spassvogel is offline  
Feb 8th, 2009, 12:23 AM
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It's below the board, canned hunting fuelled by greed.

How exactly is it helping the destitute Zimbabweans? People always hide under the pretence of helping the "locals" It's a good marketing tool to say you are helping them, all the companies do it to attract visitors who think they are doing a good deed. In fact all you do is attract people who have large families to support out of rural farming areas where there homes are and closer to wildlife areas which in turn feel more pressure than the tremendous amount they already do creating even more of a clash between humans and wildlife.

I fail to see how breeding lions captively and selling them benefits lions in any way? They must surely be genetically inferior (inbred) to those in the wild. They are not as capable of surviving out in the wild and will be the first lions to go and raid village cattle or kill somebody because: (
A) they can't catch real prey and(B) they aren't scared of human interaction.

I think wild lions are less dangerous to people than the semi-tame hand reared ones.

Mkhonzo: why always refer to tourists in a derogatory manner calling them soft bellied / one timers and various other defamatory names you have used on previous threads? In case you haven't realised these are the people keeping the animals alive. Perhaps you are the one who needs to come down a peg or two?
nanzana is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2009, 08:09 AM
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I came across the site because I wanted to contact Paul Hart/ which saves lions from mostly european zoos and grant them a save haven for the rest of their lives.

I sent the link to Chris Mercer, founder of the campaign against canned lion hunting in SA and asked for confirmation whether is the animal abusing company. Christ has been doing for years on end research in view to farms involved in the bloody business of canned hunting, big cat abuse etc.. Chris confirmed!

So please be aware of not mixing up Paul Hart with that ZIM company.

Here is the correspondence:

Yes they are. And they have been in the business of exploiting lions for years.
We would have nothing to do with them.
Kind regards

To: 'chrisandbev'
Sent: Saturday, February 28, 2009 5:44 PM
Subject: what is this?????????????

Dear Chris

I hope my mail finds you well and Bev is back from NZ!

I came across that site:

Isn't that the company which does the lion walks in
Vic falls?

I would love to hear what you think!

Thank you and have a fantastic weekend!

Warmest regards
spassvogel is offline  
Apr 27th, 2009, 11:49 AM
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Posts: 6
Slowly but surely attention is focussing on the conservation value (or lack of) for the ALERT lion captive breeding and 'reintroduction' project in Zimbabwe.

Science magazine ( have recently (17 April 2009) published an article entitled 'Will Captive Breeding Save Africa’s King of Beasts?', written by Jerry Guo.

A PDF version of the article is available at -

The article again quotes leading scientific lion experts as stating that the project has little scientific or conservation merit. Some selected quotes:

“There’s no sound science behind what they’re doing,” charges Paula White, a lion ecologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, Center for Tropical Research.

“In most cases, lion reintroductions are poorly thought out, do little to benefit conservation, and use valuable resources that could be used to benefit existing populations desperately in need of protection,” adds Andrew Loveridge, a research fellow at the University of Oxford in the U.K. who studies lions in Zimbabwe.

With some 23,000 lions in Africa, the most pressing need is habitat preservation, not adding to an ample population, argues Luke Hunter, executive director of New York City–based cat conservation nonprofit Panthera. “Reintroduction of captive-bred animals as a means to establish wild carnivores is probably the last resort,” he says. “Even if ALERT was going to succeed, so what?” Hunter asks. “It’s not an answer at any scale that’s going to matter.”

ALERT however are still a registered charity in the UK, based on the conservation value of their work, and they continue to recieve paying volunteers and tourist clients who 'walk with lions' in the belief that they are actually contributing something to lion conservation.

To date there has been no response from ALERT to the article or its content.

Thanks to everyone who is still following this complex and confusing issue. Please keep spreading the word on this highly dubious project.

QuentinJones is offline  
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