As soon as the lion cubs have opened their eyes, they are being handled by tourists for selfies and pictures. The lion cubs remain all day in an enclosure and are subjected to constant interaction. These lion cubs are often deprived of sleep and malnourished.
Seeing celebrities posing with exotic animals on various Instagram or Facebook pages has increased the demand for these “pictures” tremendously. Most tourists are not informed about the darker side of the lion breeding industry. Some petting zoos in South Africa do explain what canned hunting is, but claim to be in no way related to these practices. A question each tourist should ask is: “Where do the adult lions go?” If you are told that they will be released into the wild or go to a good place, be wary! Releasing lions into the wild is prohibited and every nature reserve is already populated with more prides than they can handle.
Apart from selfies with tourists, lion cubs are also (ab)used on various other occasions: opening of new shops and malls, as a „cute“ decoration for wedding pictures and even walking on a leash during fashion shows. The ideas for exploiting a small lion cub are infinite.
Tourists pay approximately 25 € for the opportunity to take a picture. With an average of 400 tourists per week, this represents an income of 520.000 €/year
Main image and image below courtesy of Stichting SPOTS