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Canned lion hunting increasingly under scrutiny in South Africa

Africa's lion hunting
South Africa rejects efforts to ban lion hunting 02:24

JOHANNESBURG Big game hunting is big business in South Africa. But, so far, the country is rejecting efforts to ban the controversial practice of “canned lion” hunting. 

These kings of the jungle are bred in captivity -- to be shot.

Inside Zimbabwe's business of big-game hunting 03:25

A whistle gets the lion’s attention just before the shots ring out.

“Shoot him again, shoot him again,” a trophy hunter says, as the lion tries frantically to escape. 

There’s nowhere to escape. Bred in captivity, and hunted in a confined area, trophy hunters pay up to $50,000 to shoot them. It’s called a canned hunt.

“Yoh, that’s a lovely lion - that’s a lion my boy - that is a lion,” says a hunter. 

Derek Gobbet filmed that hunt but was so appalled by what he witnessed that he felt compelled to speak out.

“Slaps on the back - you are such a hero - look at what you’ve done,” Gobbet described the attitude. “You’ve got your - your king of the jungle. Meanwhile it’s all just a lie.”

Canned hunting is a multi-million dollar industry in South Africa.  And it is completely legal. 

But it is increasingly under scrutiny.

“Eventually this poor animal is shot and dragged out of a hole-- it’s not something anyone can really be proud of in my book,” Gobbet says.

These lions were also destined for canned hunts. But they were rescued along with 24 others by Kevin Richardson. 

“Most people think lions are terrifying creatures but in actual fact it’s the lions who are terrified in a canned hunt,” Richardson says. 

Richardson used to work on a lion farm where these animals were raised. And he developed such an unusual bond with them -- they seem to regard him as part of the pride.

Richardson said he was horrified when he arrived at work one day and found they had been sold for canned hunts. It was a turning point for him, and he spent the four years raising several hundred thousand dollars to buy the lions back.

“We need to outlaw the practice of canned hunting,” Richardson says. “And make sure no-one crosses that line.”

Those who support canned hunts say hunting a lion raised in captivity takes the pressure off dwindling lion numbers in the wild. We called close to 60 lion farms for a comment -- but none would agree to an interview.

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