Australian environment minister Greg Hunt made a bold and important move for the welfare of lions by signing an order banning any import or export of any trophy body part of a lion.
Hunting of lions for sport, show, and profit has become a major problem for wild lion populations over the past 25 years especially. A practice known as “canned hunting” has become unfortunately widespread in which lions are intentionally bred in captivity only to be more or less handed over to international hunters for sport. Often times in these circumstances the lions are drugged or baited, further adding to the gruesome inhumanity of it.
Due to a multitude of factors, the lion population has fallen to 40,000, 50% less than it was 25 years ago, according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare. There are many factors contributing to this such as habitat loss, human conflict, and skewing of the genetic balance within lion communities by removing large male lions for illegal hunting purposes.
Hunt announced the new policy during a “global march for lions” at Melbourne’s Federation Square and said the practice of canned hunting was “cruel” and “barbaric.”
“It is about raising the most majestic of creatures for a singular purpose and that is to kill them, to shoot them for pleasure and for profit,” Hunt said.“It is done in inhumane conditions. It is involving things such as raising and then drugging and in many cases, baiting. It is simply not acceptable in our day, in our time, on our watch.”
The maximum penalty for wildlife trade offences in Australia is 10 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $170,000 for individuals and up to $850,000 for corporations. Between 2010 and 2013 the bodies or parts of 91 lions were imported by hunters.
It is hoped that Hunt’s decision will provoke change internationally and prompt other nations to consider instating such bans to protect the threatened lion population.
“This decision reflects the Australian public’s abhorrence at the inhumane practice of canned hunting, in which lions are reared in captivity and hunted in enclosures,” said Isabel McCrea, IFAW’s regional director.
“We congratulate the minister for standing up for lion conservation and condemning the farming of lions for a thrill kill. We are now hopeful that New Zealand, the EU and USA will take similar steps.”