Updated: Aug 23, 2019
It’s unsettling that in this day & age some businesses still profit from exploitation.
Touching, feeding, walking with wild animals - it’s still a major draw card in South Africa & a serious money spinner for the businesses who sell these “experiences”. Usually labelled as sanctuaries, they claim to be helping animals who have been hard done by in the wild. The most common stories are that infants were rejected by their mother at birth & would otherwise have died or that the animals were rescued from private owners who couldn’t look after them anymore.
There are of course many legitimate sanctuaries doing good work for animals who have found themselves in peril at the hand of humans and it's tragic that the few have painted the many in the same light. I'm not suggesting that no sanctuaries should be supported but rather that you need to do your homework before supporting one so as to ensure that their work is in fact sustainable & in line with conservation rather than just making a quick buck. And when you find a true sanctuary, support them, promote them & help get their message across.
finding the wolf The best way to recognise a dodgy sanctuary is to educate yourself on animal behaviour in the wild. Mothers rarely reject their young & if they do it’s not because they don’t fit in - it’s usually due to an injury or illness which the young one sadly will not survive. So if a young lion cub has been taken from the pride due to illness or injury, why are the ones you see in petting facilities healthy, why are there so many there & why is there a pride on the premises?
The truth is that they are bred for this industry, taken from their mothers & hand reared so that they are familiar with human interaction & then they are put into enclosures where humans can touch & play with them. By taking a cub away from mom it forces her into oestrus again & she will breed sooner - it keeps the mill going. Money is exchanged, photos are taken & little Johnny gets to go to school on Monday & tell his class about how he got to pet Simba.
the true cost of animal interactions Most people are blissfully unaware of the long term impact that these interactions have. Using the lion petting example, when cubs get a bit older they graduate to the walking with lions industry & then when they reach sexual maturity & are less docile, they end up in canned lion hunting farms. Interactions are tantamount to animal abuse, you wouldn’t dream of intentionally hurting your cat or dog so why do we accept this with a wild animal? It all comes down to education & human trust - we see someone in an official looking uniform & we trust their judgement because we aren’t educated enough to know better.
learn more, know more Arm yourself with knowledge, do your research & ask real questions before supporting any sanctuary. If it feels wrong it probably is - trust your gut. Legitimately sustainable sanctuaries will offer information freely & transparently because they have nothing to hide. Businesses such as White Shark Projects, Camp Jabulani & Monkeyland, (to name but a few), are all doing good work to ensure the conservation of wildlife & ecology while maintaining transparency about their practices. They aim to educate their guests & work hard to bring positive change into the world. These are the kinds of businesses who deserve your support.
do no harm The future of our planet’s wildlife rests firmly in our hands. As a species, we dominate the Earth & impose our wants & needs on everything around us. We have the power to change the direction in which we’re going; we can decide if we’re going to exploit our Earth to death or if we’re going to actively change our outlook & ensure Her longevity. Let’s make the right decision today.
Chantelle is an avid conservationist who works hard to educate on sustainable practices so that we can enjoy the beauty in the world for generations to come.
I petted a lion cub once. It was the mid-nineties & I had no idea what impact I was having on that animal or how I was funding a dodgy industry. Looking back on that day, I still cringe in shame & while I can’t change the past, I’ve vowed to change the future. Barking Wild has signed the Blood Lions Pledge - one of many conservation causes that we proudly support.