Poem for Tumbo

When I was born, I was not strong

I tried to run, but my legs were wrong

My mother, my siblings had to say goodbye

The predators would kill them, if for me they had to fight

I sat in the grass and night time fell

Shaddows moved, a friend? I couldnt tell

In the morning sunshine, I heard children talking

So I sat up high, I began calling

They carried me gentley to a house nearby

A kind lady smoothed me, and looked into my eyes

“Hello little one, help is on its way”

Now I had a home, a safe place to stay

As I got older my legs became more bent

But I still swam and rolled and leapt

These things that walk around on two legs

Were pretty nice and made sure I was fed

There was a favourite place where I could be king

On top of the anthill, I could see everything

I might have been bent and strange in shape

But I galloped, not ran, through all the landscape

When my legs got tired, two hands carried me

The pain would ease, until I would sleep

These strange two legged things it seems

Was what I had for my family


One morning I woke up and the Lady was crying

There were three other people, a small cage, I felt I was dying

They took me away, I feel so ill

I look out the cage to see my last anthill

Where am I now, where is my home

My river, my grasses, my mountains are gone

Im crying now, my legs hurt so bad

What did I do that made them so mad

Now days and nights flow endlessly

I try to be quiet, but my legs hurt greatly

Where are two hands to comfort me

I wish someone would help me

We hear you calling Tumbo, we’re trying hard

Please be strong, the world hears your heart

If you get lonely, look to your left

The two Mara boys will be your friend

You see, some people dont understand that animals feel

They dont know a small cage is not what you need

There’s thousands of people who love you Tumbo

We will be your voice, we promise, we wont let go

Please sign and share Tumbo’s petition – http://www.thepetitionsite.com/962/725/234/tumbo-this-disabled-cheetah-cub-of-kenya-cee4life/

Anonymous Kenya

Earlier this afternoon, I recieved this letter from “Anonymous Kenya” Someone who has been inside the Nairobi Animal Orphanage in Kenya in some capacity and someone who obviously distraught at the taking of the 3 wild Cheetahs.  I was asked to post it up and share this persons accounts and thoughts.

This relates to the 3 Cheetah Cubs of the Mara Conservancy who were being cared for to be released into the wild.  They were on the road to freedom, when they were unethically and without thought to conservation, taken to live a life in captivity just hours ago on 12 May 2012.

To whoever you are Anonymous Kenya, I thankyou for your words, for sharing them with me and revealing that quality in humans which is becoming so rare, humanity.  I can feel your aching soul through the pages of this letter.  The cry for freedom is in your words, maybe a freedom that is not afforded to you in Kenya. Yes freedom is something that too many people take for granted.  Thankyou for your heart and compassion to these precious cubs. I wish more people were like you. Maybe one day you can let me know who you are, but until then please accept my sincere humbled gratitude for these words of the heart and I hope that you will write to me again one day.

Thankyou dear soul, Sybelle xox

This  is from an Anonymous Kenyan citizen.

Anonymous Kenya

Three Cheetahs, a fight for freedom from within.

When one sits knowing not too far away, the freedom of another is being taken away, there are no words, there is no hope, there are only tears. I never knew of a greater injustice in keeping the law. Freedom denied is the greatest disservice the ‘system’ has committed. but, we must understand, we must accept, and now, we have no choice but to work at a better future, and a stronger system that allows for the one thing that so many of us hold dear, that one thing that so many of us weep for, that one thing that some will even bleed for… a chance…

Have a safe journey little ones, I know you will be well cared for. I am sorry for your older years, when you will understand and be forced to resign to your fate. I apologise, that those of us who tried to help you, could not.

To those who are responsible, knowingly or unknowingly, I say silent prayers for your pride, and your egos, that in future they do not end up being the root cause of a similar event. May you learn the art of humility, and may your conscience kick in and let you know what you have done. I pray you never know the darkness of confinement, as do I, because it is the deepest pit you could ever imagine.

To those who think there is such a thing as a ‘happy enclosed animal’ you are wrong. I have seen what I too thought were ‘happy animals in cages’, until the day I stayed on and all the visitors had left. I heard their cries in the night, trying to reach out to those that are free in the park wilderness just metres away, speaking to them. And I saw the begging in their eyes, as I looked into them under the soft moonlight. Never have I told a soul what happened that night, I have never found the words; but today, I will try.

… they broke me. Those happy-seeming animals in those elaborately designed almost natural enclosures, broke me. Just how was this happening, the same animals I smiled and posed with and cuddled and kissed and even dressed up on Christmas with fancy hats that looked so cute… broke me! How?

They showed me their true life, pacing, even trying to escape. (yes, I personally witnessed this). That was when I could take no more of the sufferance and I left. Funny things, we humans are, we come in and everything is dandy in the daytime, but the dark cloak of the night revealed to me what few can comprehend. I would like to thank my dear friend in conservation, whom I shall not name, for sharing in my anger, frustration and grief during this time. If there is one person on this earth who understands the zoo like I do, it is her.

As I write, my tears flow endlessly. I can imagine what is happening, and I can foresee the hours to come. This is not about conservation anymore. It is about egos, pride, tiffs, meddling, and a mistake. Once you lay your hand on a wild animal, you seal its fate. At least in this time. Until the day Kenya sees a rehabilitation program approved, this will continue. I appeal to the ‘big’ organizations, to give some focus on this pertinent matter. I realize that we are fighting ‘bigger things’, CITES is in March. Our elephants are dying, rangers are fighting daily to protect our wildlife.

Please, do not ignore the little orphanage in the corner of our park, please, do not turn a blind eye to the animals in there that cry out for your help. Please, think of them, before you think of yourself, I know what your worries are, some of you worry of being deported, some of you worry that your cozy relations will be severed with the authorities, some of you even worry that you will not get approvals for further projects. I too, have similar worries, I have sacrificed many things many times for the plight of these animals, and others, so I understand you. But the time has come for you to ask yourself, are they worth it?

To Born Free, and IFAW, you claim to care so deeply about wildlife in captivity. Where are you when we need you? Why do you never speak out? Why isn’t the facility here on your zoocheck list?

Are we not important? Do we not also deserve international attention and assistance to improve the lives and living conditions of the captive wildlife here?

Why do you ignore us?

I write from the bottom of my heart as my desk is wet with my tears, please, hear me, please, hear them. I am a simple person, I fight with the little I have and all my heart. You have cars, gym concessions, resources, personnel, high-tech equipment, you have so much… yet you refuse to even try to assist these poor incarcerated souls…

People like me look to people like you for help, because you tell us you can help! You show us that you are capable of saving these animals from dilapidated conditions, you show pictures and videos of rescues and stories of restored freedom. Thank you for all you have done, but I do not live in Europe, and neither did Elsa. Your birthplace needs your help.

What more can I say…

I am torn to pieces at the new cubs slated for life in captivity. Soon they will be the ‘face of conservation’, as they begin to be put up for adoption schemes, and the cash will roll in. Everyone wants a cheetah at their event, it adds value to the audience. To some the big cats love the ‘attention’ and purr a lot, but when they come back home after a hard nights ‘work’, they are shamed, degraded, and sad.

No one sees that, but I do. I have. All the dollars going into adopting them are yet to show their green. The cages are still the same, the space is still small, they don’t get an improved or even varied diet, they get no enrichment.

..and no one cares. But I do. That is why I am writing this. I have entrusted this to someone I do not know, but whose passion for this case I have seen, and I hope she will share this with as many people as possible. To many it would seem like a ‘small issue’, but for me, it is the world.

For each animal in one of those cages, it is the WORLD!

The Nairobi animal orphanage is no place for any animal, and it is the one place I have stood against and will continue to stand against it until such a time as the animals in it receive proper round the clock care and attention, respect from visitors, better living conditions, better food, enrichment, and a chance for rehabilitation and restitute.

For the 3 new cheetah cubs from the Mara, there is no turning back. They will now be listed as ‘exhibits’. I hope those who care for them, and those who claim to care for them will come together and create the big change we need in this country. If miracles could happen…

See you at Christmas, there should be a free entry day, so come one, come all, I will be there, dressed in my santa outfit, to match the santa hats on the animals too. Incase you’re late, I’ll still be there, cleaning up the biscuit and sweet wrappers from the irresponsible visitors.

With all my heartache and tears,

The saddest volunteer on earth.

“You don’t have to be a man to fight for freedom. All you have to do is to be an intelligent human being.” Malcolm X.

The Sacrificial Cubs – Cheetah Cubs of the Mara Triangle

Photo taken of cubs following their mother in the wild

On the morning of March 1st, 2012 three young wild cheetah cubs of 2 months old played with their mother in the grasses near Mara Triangle situated in the Western section of the Masai Mara and managed by the Mara Conservancy.  The mother left her cubs and was observed hunting in the core of lion territory, a high risk and dangerous place for a lone Cheetah to be. As dusk arrived she did not return to her cubs.


By the morning of March 2nd, the mother had still not returned and the three cubs were found alone and calling out for their mother. The Mara Conservancy rangers quickly sent a report to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Veterinarian Dr. Dominic Mijele stationed at the adjacent Masai Mara National Reserve.  Dr Mijele then called the Mara Conservancy (MC) asked MC directly to go out and rescue the cubs. The MC relayed that their five patrol vehicles were out looking for the mother in the surrounding area and would not capture the young cubs until last light – if the mother was not located, the cubs would be rescued. In the event that the mother was found in the days following, the Conservancy would attempt to reunite the cubs with their mother.At last light, MC patrol vehicles still could not locate the missing mother.

Once widespread across the African plains, the cheetah has lost 76% of its historical range state and has continued to be threatened by further habitat loss, competition with rival carnivores and persecution by farmers.  The cheetah is listed on the IUCN Redlist as a vulnerable and are a CITES Appendix 1 species meaning they are the highest protected and endangered of species.  Population estimates place between 9000 to 15,000 cheetahs remaining in Africa, and in 2012 it is estimated that there are just eight cheetah in this particular area of the Mara Triangle.

Every wild Cheetah counts.

After searching and waiting for the return of the mother for a few more hours and as the death of these cubs was imminent if left to fend for themselves in the wild surrounded by carnivores, the rangers rescued the cubs and transported them to Mara Conservancy (MC)Headquarters.  From the outset, MC’s goal was to raise the cubs with as little human contact or interaction as possible and return them to the wild when they reached 12-18 months and are able to hunt for themselves.  Mara Triangle is a gazette “protected area” and cheetahs were kept in a manner where cubs were prepared to be released.

A program was designed for this re introduction into the wild in conjunction with Kenyan Wildlife Service in line with previous successful cheetah release programs. A safety specific enclosure was made of predator proof cattle fencing to protect the cubs from the nightly visits from the surrounding local hyena, leopard, lion and baboons, and human exposure was restricted to 3 people who fed and cleaned the enclosure.

During the first month of the cub’s rehabilitation, KWS vet Dr. Mijele, came to inspect the young cheetahs and to assess their health.  They also discussed the steps and program of rehabilitation and release in to the wild. He noted that the cubs are in good health condition and the ensured that the enclosure was correct. It was agreed between MC and KWS Vet that when the cubs reached 6 months old they would be moved into the next stage enclosure.  A 100 hectare area of cheetah prime habitat was identified and consisted of savannah grasslands, water sources and plenty of prey. In the meantime they would be released into progressively larger enclosures.
This is documented on the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust website. http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org/mobilevet/vetfielddetail_new.asp
It was also noted that MC would maintain the cub’s wildness as much as possible and restrict all visitors. The cubs have never been bottle-fed in order to avoid human dependency and have retained their naturally wild nature.

On the 3rd May 2012 when the cubs turned 4 months old, for reasons unknown, at the time, KWS contacted Mara Conservancy and informed MC that they would be coming to pick up the cubs for relocation to the Nairobi Animal Orphanage. The Nairobi Animal Orphanage currently keeps 12 cheetahs and 26 lions and is over crowded with little room left. Its alledged that no animals that have arrived in the Nairobi Animal Orphanage have ever been released back into the wild. The Mara Conservancy CEO requested a meeting at KWS HQ and an agreement was reached that Mara Conservancy will submit a official proposal to the KWS director Julius Kipng’etich for the rehabilitation of these cheetah cubs.

The proposal was sent on the 5th May 2012.

On the 6th May 2012, Mara Conservancy was informed that the submitted proposal will apply for future incidents and not for the current three cubs. In a further statement, KWS Senior Assistant Director (Head of the Species)sent a the letter stating that the movement of orphaned cheetahs to Nairobi Orphanage is authorized.  On 7th May, the reply from the KWS director stated that cheetah rehabilitation back to the wild is not scientifically proven to be successful and until the day the science does prove this, the cheetahs will kept at the orphanage for educational purpose.

However, the scientifically documented cases of Africat’s cheetah and cat release programme is very well known world-wide, 1000 cats rescue and a 86% successful release rate, addtionally stated on Africat website.
Mara Conservancy was notified by KWS that the cubs will be taken to the orphanage on 8th May 2012.
Mara Conservancy was reliably informed by the Head of Hyena Research Project, that one of their students had taken photographs of the cubs soon after they had been rescued and while the initial enclosure was being built.  An informant came forward and alledged that this information was sent onto Mary Wykstra of Action for Cheetah who then wrote to KWS Carnivore Committee and forwarded on a news letter stating her views on private owners with cheetahs asking for reform.  She claims that she has been informed that people were letting visitors to see the cubs and allowing them to play with the cubs, when in reality cubs are wild and not even approachable by human.  It was confirmed that Ms Wykstra has never been to the Mara Conservancy in 6 years.  Hyena Research Project apologised immensely to Mara for this students, innocent/unknowing behaviour and resulting outcome.

On the evening of the 7th May 2012, Australian Conservation organisation Cee4life CEO, Sybelle Foxcroft, wildlife biologist and cat specialist, was contacted and informed of the situation.  Cee4life was asked to assist in any way possible to allow the cheetah cubs the opportunity to be released into wild. The Cee4life CEO contacted IFAW HQ USA and forwarded on all information.  IFAW responded immediately and Cee4life was informed that this information was passed onto IFAW Nairobi who had begun discussions with all relevant parties involved with the decision to cage the cheetahs. Cee4life issued an urgent plea to KWS for the cubs to be left in the Mara Conservancies release program.


On May 11th 2012, Mara Conservancy received a phone call from KWS stating they would be taking the cubs to the orphanage on 12th May.
In the last two years, there has not been a single surviving cheetah cub in the Mara Triangle. A total of 16 cubs have been killed by hyena, leopard and tawny eagles. If these three cubs survived to adulthood, they would be the first to contribute to the Mara cheetah gene pool in almost three years.
Along with Africats successful releases, there has been the release of other well known cases of cheetah release into the wild which has been unofficially scientifically documented and the successful methods of rehabilitation are now well known. These cubs are now four months old and they have passed through the first step in rehabilitation back to the wild and were readying to be released into the next stage 700 m enclosure.

As this article goes to press there is ongoing investigations into the alleged conduct of Ms Wykstra as alleged information has come to hand from reliable sources that includes the following points:

• Ms Wyskstra’s Action for Cheetah Kenya is funded by organization called Cat Heaven in the USA.

• Cat Heaven is planning to build a “Cheetah Center” in an area across from the Ndarit gate of Nakuru National Park.

•Cheetah Center is proposed to decongest the already full capacity orphanage cheetah population.

• The Cheetah Center is planning to start a cheetah cub rearing facility and in need of cubs.  On this point, Wendy Wichelman-Debbas, the president of Cat Heaven (Project Survival), has denied this is true.  Many will hold Ms Wichelman-Debbas to her word.

• And most worrying alleged information is that misleading  information was/is being sent to KWS to favor cubs in certain places/facilities for stock. 

An informant alledged that Wendy Wichelman-Debbas, the president of Cat Heaven (Project Survival) stated in and email  communication with a source as follows:
“As we do at the Cat Haven, interaction with a cheetah will grab the hearts of the visitors. Guests will be told of the sad plight of the remaining cheetahs in the wild. The money that is raised at the Cheetah Center will go directly into conservation projects such as Soysambu Conservancy, Action For Cheetahs Kenya and to pay the salary of the Kenyan employees. We have pledged only to take cheetahs that would otherwise perish in the wild due to being orphaned or injured. The cheetahs will be exercised daily and you can read more about how we do that by going to animalark.org. I can assure you that we have full capability and resources to raise the young babies who have lost their wild mother.  Re-release into the wild is not an option at this time…..The cheetahs that end up at the Cheetah Center will be well cared for, exercised, fed a proper diet, and will be great ambassadors for their wild cheetah cousins….Here in the U.S., we can talk to people about endangered animals and some will get excited to help. But I can tell you that if they can actually see the animal and observe, they will fall in love and make a monetary contribution. They can double their life span in captivity and touch the emotions of even the hardest hearts. As you know, they are affectionate and wrap themselves around your heart. You can see the world in their eyes. When I look into the eyes of our cheetah “Tango”, I see future generations of cheetah running free on the African plains. Because of him, we have been able to raise tens of thousands of dollars that go directly back into the work being done to make a safe home for them in the wild.”

The board of KWS have passed the final decision of cubs removal.  We have been informed that KWS allegedly decided to confiscate these Cheetah Cubs based on misleading information.   KWS vet Dr. Dominic Mijele visited the Mara Triangle on March 31st when he assessed the cubs’ health condition to be good and the enclosure was in good order.  No one from KWS has came to see the cubs for at least 6 weeks, up to and pending of present. It is alleged that the board has been misinformed and are being urged to send down the assessor to evaluate the situation before such a drastic measure is taken.

Mara Conservancy has been offered assistance by carnivore release expert from MCCE (Marakapula Conservation and Community Experience) in South Africa, who specializes in carnivore rehabilitation, and who heard the news in the mainstream media and on social media and hoping to be in partnership with Mara Conservancy to help with rehabilitation for the cubs.

These young Cheetahs are prime candidates for rehabilitation and release into the wild.  It is hoped that Kenya Wildlife Service will work with Mara Conservancy towards a successful release of the 3 cheetahs, and give hope to a life of freedom as was intended.  Wildlife authorities and conservationists are deemed to care and conserve for biodiversity. We must carry out those duties to the best of our abilities and with the goal to conserve every wild creature that comes into our human realm.  On too many occasions it is our human actions that have caused the decline of so many creatures.  This is an opportunity to work together towards the freedom of these cubs, the very least we can do is help these cubs rehabilitate back into the wild and not allow them to fall prey to the falsities of human beings with agenda’s.

It is clear that these cubs are neither abused or mistreated or in ill health.   Please give these cubs the opportunity to be cared for and released into the wild at the age of 12 – 18months, in the name of conservation.

UPDATE 12th May 2012

The KWS arrived at Mara Conservancy a little before 10am and captured the cubs. The cubs are now being taken to Nairobi Animal Orphanage for what is thought will be a life of captivity. The call for ethical conservation continues as these cubs now face a captive life and may become exploited.  Those involved in the result of these cubs heading to a possible captive life are the farthest from “conservationists” that exists.  When needed, not one of these people stood up and fought for the cubs to be cared for and released back in to the wild.  Shame on them. Here is one of the last photographs taken of the cubs leaving the Mara Conservancy.

Sybelle Foxcroft



Poem for a Tiger – Sybelle

You must be dismayed at whats become of your life

The threats, the struggle, evading the fights

Land  closes in on what was once rightly your home

Habitat loss has left you with streets to roam

Youre an icon, beloved, magnificent and revered

A life force so powerful, humans aspire to achieve

And to possess these attributes that you only hold

Humans created medicinal myths to take your soul

And the tears fall down across the earth

For the death of each Tiger which humans made cursed

A cure, a status symbol for money and greed

Your rights taken away for the consumption of vile human needs

But you are the balance in biodiversity

An Apex predator, such a vital need

For if you were gone, if you go extinct

The forests would crumble and the surrounding life would shrink

All the money on earth cannot replicate nature

Although some humans think they are powerful creators

They genetically inbreed you to create “pretty” colours

An appalling trend for tourism and uneducated others

For every stick that beat you, every gun that shot you

Every arrow that pierced you and every knife that cut you

You are still alive against all odds

A survival specialist, I thank God

One day I tracked you through a forest so remote

To check on your cubs, your health, your home

In this one place no human was near

You laid beside the stream, no menace, no fear

As I watched this freedom so few of your kind feel

I knew without doubt just what you need

No camera’s, no noise, no human’s, no cage

Just the right to be free and live to your natural age

The mountain peaks are inaccessable and secluded

Your eyes scanned the cliffs, youre going there I concluded

You are not safe and as much as I want you to stay

Go my friend Tiger, run far far away

The Mind of a Hunter – Scott Lupien

Scott Lupien is an American who runs a hunting business in China for clients to hunt the polar bears of Canada, the animals of Africa, Carnivores prey species, and many others.  His webisite is http://www.52safari.com and business is good.  I spoke to this guy to try and find out the mind of the hunter.

Here it is.



Hello Scott,  My name is Sybelle and Im an Australian Conservationist.  Ive seen the Daily Mail articles and read your response to it. Can you tell me the logic behind your hunting of Sth African animals and the polar bears. I cant wrap my head around what you are doing? I dart animals when Im out doing conservation work, and of course they run free again.  However, you are killing these vital species. I understand in Africa that canned hunting may be allowed, but can you please explain why you are driven to kill these mighty creatures that belong here. Are they deliberately bred to be killed in SA? And the polar bears, please… these are going extinct, no matter what Canada allows you to do. I do know why people hunt, but the evidence is out there in the public forum which tells you these creatures are spiralling to extinction. Lions, Tigers, Bears, Rhino, should be financially and morally off bounds as they are going extinct. I know that money is at the root of alot of this, but education is vital. I’d appreciate a response.  Sybelle

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  • Scott
  • Hello, Sybelle!  Actually legally managed, licensed hunting is the greatest force in the world that is saving the species you mention — plus countless others, including non-game species.  And contrary to popular belief, polar bears are thriving.  If you care to read more about this, please see: http://www.52safari.com/article-225-1.html http://www.52safari.com/article-222-1.html http://www.52safari.com/article-226-1.html Respectfully,  Scott
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  • Sybelle
  • Hi Scott, thanks so much for writing to me, I really do appreciate it. I would like to talk with you more, in a calm and polite manner.  I have a couple of questions for you.  Im also a Wildlife Biologist and also have been in the military for 20 years, a medical Sergeant.   As you can imagine I have seen some terrible things that people do to each other in a war zone, but Ive also see what they do to animals. Life is a precious gift, and I can speak first hand that an animal loves life just as much as a human does. There is a mind set and certain characteristics, a pyschology you might say, for the types of people who choose to kill, whether they kill a human or an animal, it is the same.  Its like a rush that they get.  I can tell you this though, when those same people are put in a similar situation that they put an animal in,  they crumble to their knee’s.  People dont show the dignity that animals do.
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  • The first question I would like to know, from your point of view and from your experience, what type of person is attracted to canned hunting?  As you know, the real hunters that are used to track true threat animals, man eaters, and are up against a wild and fierocious creature out in the wild, not fenced. Usually a creature that is injured in some way, and a creature that can only hunt the easiest prey in the world, the human.


  • These people that are coming to your hunting seem to be quite tame.   I dont think they’d ever consider only being contracted to hunt true dangerous or threatening creatures. Would they?  I’ll tell you a story, I was out in India in the field tracking a female tiger and her cubs, checking on her. we stopped and rested, I was sitting on a fallen tree.  From behind me she came out of the bushes and stood there, 20 feet from me, looking at me intensely.  She came towards me and her scent was very strong. Her eyes and her might could have killed me in a split second, but she turned and walked to her cubs.
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  • My second question is, what do you think your clients would have done in that situation? (besides pull the trigger of course).  Yes as a soldier, I know what people are like and what they do to each other. As a Biologist and conservationist, I know what people are like and what they do to animals.
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  • So my third question is, Would you and your clients ever have the guts to lay down your weapons and take a walk with me into the wild, as a test to education and to really experience what life is all about?  You see out there, money means nothing. but I think you know that.  Looking forward to you responses.  And BTW – Polar bears are not in abundance, they are loosing their ice terriorites and mating with brown bears etc,and they are dying from long swims and loss of cubs, and of course hunting,  the polar bear species is becoming extinct and it would be great if you and your friends would choose only to dart them, (even darting as a sport is vile) and not buy the licences off the natives in order to kill them. Scott, surely you are intelligent enough to make money another way.


  • Scott
  • Hello, Sybelle!  First of all, here’s what the scientists have to say about polar bears:  https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache%3AyxkMzXLM1n4J%3Awww.nrf.is%2FPublications%2FThe%2520Resilient%2520North%2FPlenary%25202%2F3rd%2520NRF_plenary%25202_Dowsley_YR_paper.pdf+&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESh-HHX_Aq7EKIcE2vniQ-F7ApoIi0oSH4OKciSPtZXBgHMcGZFuTrd_jnf4K2nfyRWJlRbdCZy92JVErjc5-Vritxwzw3pzJ7303LDl2CD7Vvg-i1qzGY-ktVwy0I4a-TcedU51&sig=AHIEtbRhqRj4ueWqVC-gse8Bo7xgHwc74g&pli=1
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  • Also, did you read the three links I sent you? I know that the popular belief (thanks to the media) is that polar bears are going extinct due to polar ice caps melting.  But this is not true.  The ice caps grow and shrink and the northern ice cap did shrink to about 30% below norm about 10 years ago, when the warming trend peaked.  But did you know that global temperatures have cooled since then and the ice cap is back to its normal size?  Polar bear populations remain stable and the annual hunting quota is well managed and controlled.  Polar bears will be hunted by the Inuit regardless of whether foreign hunters are allowed to hunt them or not.
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  • If foreign hunters do hunt them, they only take bear tags from the total quota allocated to the Inuit — and this brings income to the tribes.  I recommend you read the above link.  Another gross misunderstanding that the public has of me is that I am in this for money.  I can assure you that this is not true.  Sure, this is how I make a living, but I can tell you that it was much easier to make money (and I made much more) when I was a business development executive for a software firm.  The reason I do this business is simply because I love being in the outdoors and I love hunting.  It is a lifestyle choice for me — not a monetary choice.   You probably get the idea that I know little of nature and don’t care about animals.  Frankly nothing could be further from the truth!
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  • I have been trekking into the wilderness since I was too young to walk (my dad would carry me then) and have been on countless wilderness trips that didn’t involve hunting.  I also care a lot about wildlife and am not a ruthless killer who shoots everything I see (so to answer your question about the tiger, no, I would not have shot it nor would I have allowed a client to shoot it for two reasons: tigers are protected and even if they were not, hunters don’t shoot mothers with young.)  Non hunters have a tough time understanding the mindset of hunter-conservationists who proclaim to love the animals they hunt.
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  • I would hope that you might understand great men like Teddy Roosevelt and the founders and members of institutions such as Ducks Unlimited.  These are the very people who created and have funded the national parks, national forests and wildlife refuges and countless millions of acres of wild lands for the purpose of saving wildlife.  We, the hunters, are the ones who are paying to save wildlife.  Again, read the links I sent you if you want to understand more.   Most of the hunting we do is in vast, wild areas (not “canned”, as you put it.)  Yes, some of the areas we hunt are behind fences, but these are huge tracts of wilderness and the fences are there to protect the refuges inside from poachers, etc.  When the area is in the thousands of acres or more (as these are,) the animals are just as free to evade predation as they would be without the fences.
  • *
  • I am not in favor of “canned” hunts either.   Most hunters are not after ferocious man-eating predators.  Most are looking for meat for the table and hunt mostly deer, elk, antelope, ducks, pheasants, etc.  I am also this sort of hunter for the most part.  When I lived in California I had four freezers in my house and kept them stocked with wild game meat.  My family ate it every day and we never bought meat from the supermarket.  Hunters prefer to eat wild meat than to hire someone else to raise and kill meat for them (as the rest of the population does.)  And as long as hunting is done within the confines of the law, this is sustainable and does not lead to the endangerment of game species.   Regards,   Scott
  • *
  • Sybelle
  • Thanks again Scott, its giving me a better insight into all of this.  I have heard and seen a great deal of arguments over this. I am reading through all of your information as we speak. I understand that some animals are in very high numbers and breed very quickly, and at times some of them are culled. However, it still doesnt answer the question in regard to why people want to kill the endangered majestic ones, like the Lions, Rhino, Bears etc. Is it a power thing? you know humans against the Apex predator, a flex of strength or control?
  • *
  • At the end of the day, humans will always be the weaker species than the Apex predator. I dont see why they just cant accept that.   Because I have a pretty big insight into the nature of people and how horrid they can be to each other, I see so much ego within the sport of killing animals. I just dont get how a person can be wathcing a beautiful creature running, walking, swimming or flying free and the need to shoot it and kill it…. Can you explain that one please?
  • *
  • Also, I know for a fact that there is a great deal of money made in this area. And I can also tell you, for people like me, trying to save these creatures, there is NO money in it at all. We live in tents or sleep in four wheel drives, not hotels etc. 5 star is a rare thing, if ever in conservation of my kind.  Lets put it this way, if you can run a business killing animals, youre making more than i do saving them. But again, the richest gifts are seeing these creatures run wild and free.
  • *
  • The rush should be to watch them in their environment, living,  not hunting them for a trophy. It will mean nothing when there are no animals left. I know you understand that.  And I know you understand that all life is linked, and what we do to them, we do to ourselves. You may not think that you are doing any harm, but your and the other 1000+ hunting business’s are as a whole.  Is there a way to stop this? Woud you support conservation like I do – hunt the poachers, stop the wildlife trade, stop the slaughter?
  • *
  • Scott
  • Dear Sybelle,  Once you read through all of that, you should see the answer to your last and most important question.  We, the hunters, are doing the lion’s share of the conservation work.  All other factors combined do not even come close!  So you are quite wrong in saying that the hunting industry is doing harm.  Also, even though there is lots of money in the industry, that’s not to say that the people making the money are making a lot.  We make a living, but are not getting rich. Regards, Scott
  • *
  • Sybelle
  • Ok thanks for your time Scott, very appreciated.  It isnt an answer, all this killing/hunting combined with poachers, habitat loss, human encroachment, fragmentation, natural disasters etc is driving the worlds species to extinction. They are going, and I urge you to rethink your business and urge you not to be part of their decline to extinction. People like you, with your passion, could do so much for conservation.  Thanks again, and i’ll probaby meet you on the battle field. Sybelle
  • *
  • Scott
  • Sybelle, habitat loss is the biggest threat to wildlife.  Poaching is another.  Legal hunting, as I said, is the biggest player on the field fighting both of these evils.  The anti-hunting groups, by contrast, are doing absolutely nothing to save habitat or help wildlife.  I urge you to rethink your opinion on this by looking at the facts.  Even such species as rhinos and elephants are benefiting greatly by hunter-dollars.  This is the truth and is very well documented.  That is the only reason that sport hunting is still legal in most countries. Scott
  • *
  • Sybelle
  • I think that all of the hunters would be excellent anti-poachers. I think for the protected,  vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered species there should be no hunting at all, whether it is legal or not. Protected status is given for a reason.  Thanks for the insight Sybelle

Dear China – by Sybelle Foxcroft (Cee4life)

Dear China

Ive been wanting to write to you for a long long time, but always thought that my letters would not reach you or get to the right people. But there is some things that have been on my mind for a while and I decided to give it another go and write to you.

I have great concern and a number of questions about animals, not only the animals in your country, but the animals in other countries. The concerns I have is about your menu in resturants, the selection of meat that you feel the need to consume, the treatment of animals, and animals in general.

You may not wish to answer me, but you should. The reason why you should answer is because these are questions and facts that possibly over half of the world would like to know the answers to.

Before I ask you these questions, I would like to outline a few chinese historical and cultural subjects ie: your beliefs, your culture, and your moral ground.

Animals have played a big part in the Chinese culture for thousands of years since 2100 BC maybe earlier, so I understand youve been around for a long time.

But of course with all civilisations and generations of human beings, time moves forward and we learn and grow. Sometimes we learn that things we did years ago were wrong or outdated. For instance I am pretty sure that you know that your inventions such as the shaddow clocks and the abacas used for mathematical and astronomical observations are obviously outdated in this modern age. The shaddow clock has become a decorative item used in gardens and a watch worn to tell the time on our wrist, an abacus is now a calculator, and astronomical observations is done via powerful computer technology and instruments such as the Hubble Telescope.

So things change, and although these above mentioned items were great accomplishments at the time and part of your cultural evolution, they are outdated and are part of history. And lets face it, in this day and age they are items which you wouldnt choose to use unless you had to.

I would just like you to clarify a few things for me.

Its come to the worlds attention, that China, in particular, seems to have an appetite for any creature on the planet. This includes your procurement of critically endangered species from other countries, usually through the wildlife trade, or some other type of black market operation.

The reason I know these facts are true is because of education.

Education is a wonderful thing. Not only does it teach us maths and languages, it also teaches us about our earth and environment.

I had a look at the Chinese education system and ciriculum and became aware that you do actually teach about plant and animal species and conservation. But there must be some sort of breakdown in communication because China is now at the forefront of open animal abuse and the extinction of species via the black market for things like status, eliteness, and Traditional Chinese Medicines.

Going back to your historical and cultural background, Traditional Chinese Medicine theory is based on ancient Daoist philosophical and religious conceptions of balance and opposites, ie:yin and yang, and other metaphysical belief systems. TCM includes herbs,minerals, acupuncture, tuina massage therapy, dietary therapy and animal & human body part use.

Which brings me to my first question.

As with all other Chinese historical and cultural science & technology, you moved forward once you found better ways to do things, once a newer technique was found. The older designs were disguarded and classed as outdated science and technology, no longer relevant in an evolving society.

Please tell me,(and the world), why have you chosen to stagnate with  Chinese Traditional Medicines (TCM)?

It is a known fact that TCM animal body part use was based not on the anatomical study of the human body,  but was based on the astrological calculations and complex associations with gods.

Historically and culturally TCM animal body part remedies came from the identification of an animal behaviour or body part which was then applied to the corresponding  human part and/or behavior. These theorised remedies were then sold to people to help or cure by applying the animal predispositions corresponding to human dispositions. Basically it was all made up via myths and legends.

As civilisation moved forward, so did the advanced knowledge of scientific medicines.  For many years, it has been known, world wide, that TCM animal body part use is soley based on theory with very few, if any, of the medical claims curing or helping any ailment. Over the years scientific medicines have been created to treat diseases and ailments which are by far more advanced than what TCM animal body part use theoretically offered.

For example:

The Rhinoceros Horn – TCM states that Rhino horn is used as an ‘anti-fever’ remedy, and some use it as beauty tonic. Science has proven the Rhino horn is only keratin, just like our hair and finger nails. And science has proven keratin has no anti fever or beauty tonic qualities. So why havent you advanced in this outdated theorised medicinal use of the Rhino? It doesnt do anything for a human being. Is it pride? arrogance? Whatever your theoretical or more mythical reasons are China, your continued use of the Rhino horn, and these ancient outdated beliefs are driving the Rhino to extinction. Arent you embarrassed? Ashamed? If you want keratin, I am sure the people who actually live in the countries where the Rhino is would gladly begin giving you their fingernail and toenail cuttings if you would only get out of their backyard and leave their Rhino alone. Actually, I think people all over the world would give you their hair and nail clippings. Problem solved!

Not only is it foolish to continue to state inaccurate medicinal uses of the Rhino horn, but it is also a vile act where you are allowing the black market corruption to flourish in your own country, while other countries are suffering the infiltration of warlord type personalities, desicrating their beloved species.

And what about the Tiger?

Your continued cultural medicinal theorised significance of the Tiger in TCM, is not only false and based on nothing but heresay, (sorry, outdated cultural & historical & mythical medicine) but you have successfully hunted your own tiger sub-species (Sth Chinese Tiger) to extinction and you now procure off other countries species again, in this case the Tiger. Knowing that you think of the tiger as a walking drug store, I would love to sit down and discuss/disprove all of these theorised things. So I will address one of the nastier TCM claims – Tiger penis soup – used for increasing virility. This came about because someone in history saw the tiger mating numerous times per day and thought that by cutting the tigers penis off, making it into a soup and drinking it, it would correspond to a human penis and make them virile. What you didnt know, but do now, is that the tiger mates rarely, maybe once or twice per year, depending on a few factors. But at the time, mating occurs repeatedly. But the tiger penis is nothing but another organ of meat. So basically your TCM tiger penis soup is a meat soup which may contain a bit of iron. I am sure male TCM penis soup users will be horrified to know not only does it do nothing for them, but even if the benefits were true, and staying true to your anatomical mythical beliefs,  it would only be for men who want to mate once or twice a year….

Modern medical science has produced medicines which aid impotence in men. In addition your own TCM herbal remedies such as Ginseng, Horny Goat Weed actually do more for virility than a meat soup. And of course viagra has hit the market.

China there is not 100 000 tigers running around in the wild, there is only a possible estimated 3000 tigers in the wild, from Russia to Sumatra. Your belief in your cultural rights and your stubborn inability to act and stop the slaughter of this species is the reason the tiger is spiralling to extinction in the wild.

Anyway, lets put logic aside.

Can you explain to me why China needs to procure off other countries species?

Its pretty rude, and its not like it is going un noticed…. What would you do if the Panda suddenly became a source of food for another country other than China & war lords were killing the last remaining Panda’s? Just something for you to think about.

What about Bear Bile? What are you thinking?  Moon bears and Asiatic Black Bears seem to be your bear of choice. Yes the bear has higher ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), however your herbal plants coptis and rubarb are great alternatives, and even many of your own Chinese doctors refuse to use bear bile.

Snake Oil – this is puzzling.  Snake Oil is used for maladies, however no replicated studies has proven any benefits of it for joint pain. Why arent you phasing out snake oil and promoting your very own balms made of plants that actually are proven to work?

Culture, history? or is it something else?.

Look, I could go on forever about the vulnerable, endangered, and critically endangered species that you want to use in theoretical, outdated, disproven medicines but I want to ask you about your menu.

Shark fin soup – this has got to one of the biggest scams yet. China you have promoted shark soup as an ‘elite’ soup, as soup of ‘status’ and because you did that, the massive indiscrimanent slaughter of millions of sharks have brought some species to the brink of extinction. Its not elite or carries status. Try some mushroom soup or asparagus, very elite and served for Kings and Queens, and if Im not mistaken Emperors too.  The truth is, shark fins are only used for the texture of the soup, not the taste. The texture can be replicated with cornstarch, and the taste comes from other ingredients.  Please stop this.

I am wondering why you put the Masked Palm Civet on the menu?  I would just like to inform you that the palm civet is a known carrier of SARS virus (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) which the WHO (World Health Organisation) informed you of prior to you placing it on menu’s. Do the Chinese people even know about this? I have a piece of useful information for you, your chinese citizens would know alot more if you would stop firewalling and blocking this sort of information.

Hippopotamus – what was Beijing Zoo thinking by putting the webbed toes of the Hippoptamus on the menu, along with most of the other zoo animals there. Its not really a tourist draw card.

And up in Wenzhou, the serving of rare Pangolins, Black Swans, & Bharal in resturants. Another example of false TCM and your seemingly strange obsession with keratin. The Pangolin is considered a delicacy and TCM use of their scales said to reduce swelling and help breast feeding etc. Pangolin scales are keratin. You know this, stop it!

Flying squirrel faeces –  I havent got much to say about this but I just want to let you know that it is scientifically proven that Flying squirrel faeces is directly linked to Typhus fever. A horrible disease.

Also, you might want to rethink your Chinese astrological charts and the reasons why these animals were chosen. Let me explain this. Eg: The tiger is linked in your historical and cultural past as likening emperors and great people to it. Words like valiant, respected, mighty, and strong are used, but you are destroying and extinguishing your own legend with your insatiable appetite. You might want to choose some additional species for your zodiac pretty soon because you are annilhilating a number of them off the face of the earth.

I just want to remind you that you are a signatory of the CITES agreement since 08/01/1981. Does that hold any type of significance to you? Because it doesnt look like it does. Your words indicated to the world that you would abide by the protection of species, however your actions speak the opposite.  I apologise now if I am wrong but your track record is shameful.

For a country which has made major advances, you are failing and betraying the very planet that you need, to survive. Your Panda breeding program is brilliant, however do not think for one moment that this allows or entitles you to mindless annilhilation of any other species, in the name of cultural historical rights.

What will you do when the last Tiger or Rhino or Pangolin etc is gone? Well, when it comes to the Tiger, the horrible thing is that I can actually answer that already. The Lion has begun to replace the Tiger in TCM, particularly wines.  And you have begun to do this because of what? The tigers are still here, for now. Do you see the end in sight for the tigers? Do you already know that you wont stop the killing? Will you not stop the false Great Cat TCM use?

China, you have alienated yourself across the world and youre seen by many as a giant vaccum sucking up the worlds natural resources, inflicting brutalities upon our earths creatures and a destructor of species.

But, you can stop this growing perception of China, you only have to say the magic word, Stop, and then do the most vitally important thing in your nations history, to truely act on it and Stop. I can guarantee that if you did it would show a little long sort after leadership.

I do look forward to a response from you and any clarification of my thought, questions, etc, and I would be more than happy to sit down and discuss these issues with you.

I know that you feel you are a mighty country and that you do not feel that you need to answer to anyone, and I am just one, possibly meaningless, person to you. But your countries integrity is crumbling to dust because you have disrespected species from virtually every country in the world and whether you like it or not, you are the cause of the extinction of numerous revered creatures.

You do not have the right to this systematic genocide of species, you never did.


Sybelle Foxcroft


Conservation and Environmental Education 4 Life (Australia)


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Occupy for Animals has created a petition for this letter found at http://www.change.org/petitions/letter-to-china-dear-china?utm_campaign=friend_inviter_chat&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition&utm_term=permissions_dialog_false







David Youldon of Lion Country talks to Sybelle from Cee4life

1. Where did the original lions come from? Were they captive raised?

When Andrew Conolly bought Antelope Park originally the property came with some captive lions already as part of the sale.  This number was supplemented with other lions from owners/breeders within Zimbabwe to form the founder group of the program.  Any further specific details will need to be requested directly from Antelope Park.  They were all captive bred to my knowledge.  We are giving sanctuary to one lion that according to the previous owner, was found, with another lion, as orphaned cubs in Hwange National Park and taken in.  For obvious reasons I cannot comment on the accuracy of their former owners claim. We were asked to take them both, and
their cubs (which are inbred), into the program to save them from being euthanized.   These two lions (only one of which is still alive) are the only lions in the program that were wild born.

Pride females at the waterhole

2. Why are the cubs taken from the mum?, and at what age are they taken?.  Are they kept separated from mum? ie: out of her sight

The mother of the cubs is captive and therefore does not have the skills that the cubs need to learn to survive when given the opportunity to fend for themselves.  It is also not possible to give those adult lions the opportunity to learn the necessary skills.  The cubs are taken away and hand raised as by doing so we are able to provide a means for those cubs to develop their natural instincts.  The cubs are taken away at 3 weeks old which allows them to take advantage of the more nutritious milk that mother’s provide in the first days post-partum, with benefits for the cubs immune systems and overall health.  Antelope Park have also found that three weeks is ideal in terms of the cubs development; taking them younger and the cubs maybe bond too much to humans with greater safety issues for their handlers and seem to develop less quickly, but taking them later and the cubs struggle to bond sufficiently that they trust their handler enough to go on walks during which they develop their natural instincts.  When the cubs are removed the mother is placed in another enclosure, with food, and with her usual kin-group with which she then remains.  She does not see the cubs again.

Whilst you have not asked about cubbing intervals, I shall provide some information here as a common assumption is that Antelope Park force breeds females as it is commonly asserted that the canned hunting industry breed with females as soon after cubs are removed as such action causes the female to come into oestrus quickly.  It should be noted that conception during the first four months of the loss of cubs is unlikely so the voracity of this assertion is not necessarily correct.  But yes, it is likely the canned hunting industry breed more frequently than wild lions would and I am sure they try to breed immediately.  In the wild, when a litter is raised to maturity the mean litter interval is 601.5 (range 481.7 – 721.3) days at Phinda [1]; In Serengeti NP the mean was 600 days (range 330 – 750) [2] when a litter was raised to maturity and a range of 120 – 180 months if it lost. I have obtained the details of Antelope Park’s breeding rate for females that have had more than one litter; 527 days for cubs that survived at least three weeks and 314 days if the previous litter was lost during the first three weeks.  The breeding interval is therefore slightly below the mean for wild lions, but well within the range of both quoted studies.

[1] Hunter LTB (1998) The behavioural ecology of reintroduced lions and cheetahs in the Phinda Resource Reserve. Kwa-Zulu-Natal, South Africa Ph.D thesis, University of Pretoria.
[2] Packer C, Pusey AE (1987) Intrasexual cooperation and the sex ratio in African lions. Am. Nat 130: 636 – 642

Two of the females and the pride male spot some zebra

3.  Walk me through the training that you give to the lion cubs.

The cubs are not trained, they are just provided with opportunities to develop naturally.  From the earliest age, just as their mother would do,
cubs are disciplined if they try to interact with a human in a way that could later be deemed unsafe; this would include the use of claws or teeth,
jumping up or trying to play with a human (which for a lion would usually include the use of teeth and claws).  The most effective and humane method is to administer a flick (for young cubs) or a slap with an open palm (for older cubs) to the side of the muzzle whilst using the word “no” in an authoritative tone.  Through this method the youngest cubs learn the limits of acceptable behaviour with humans and soon understand the word “no” such that they will cease any intention to play with a human if the command is used.  When older this command is usually accompanied by pointing at the lion and looking at it.  As opportunistic animals play is often initiated when the object of play is unaware of the oncoming interaction, and usually not followed through when the instigator feels it has been spotted.  This is to be honest difficult to appreciate unless you have seen it and equally difficult to comprehend that it would work, but I can assure you that the cubs are not harmed through this method and it does work; it is the only method used.  For example, a flick, or a slap on another part of its face could cause injury and is therefore not done, and the lions are never hit with anything else.  Having said that, there are some well documented examples of when a lion has over-stepped the boundary and a small number of people have been injured.  I actually fairly recently calculated the odds of injury by interacting with our lions compared to other causes of injury in response to claims that our program that allows visitors to interact with the lions under certain conditions was unnecessarily dangerous.  It turns out, according to US statistics that you are more likely to die from intentionally injuring yourself than you are from being injured (over and above an occasional surface scratch) through interacting with these lions in the manner undertaken by Antelope Park and Lion Encounter.   You are significantly more likely to die in a car crash.  You are more likely to die from using a toilet.

After that, as I say, it is presenting the cubs with opportunities for natural behaviours to develop.  This starts with building trust; only when
young animals feel happy and secure do they engage in play, a vital part of development, and only when they feel secure in their handlers presence will they have the confidence to follow them out into their natural environment. When on walks they are led to various areas where they can interact with their environment and the other fauna and flora that lives there.    Again the best way to appreciate this is to see it.  And the best way I can give you the opportunity to do that is to watch the TV series Lion Country, most episodes of both series being available here:

Cub suckles Mum with Dad next to them

4. A lot of people think that breeding lion cubs in captivity is wrong. Can you tell me the benefits of captive breeding in your program?

Hopefully what I have already written and what can be seen in the TV series answers this question in terms of the opportunities for the cubs to develop the necessary skills.  It has been said that the staged release program is convoluted, but this comes from the same people that also suggest that captive bred lions cannot be released directly into the wild, and so the only way to achieve suitable captive bred lions for release is through a staged program where only the semi-wild borne cubs are released.  And so, if you will permit me, I rephrase the question to ask about why is there a need for a captive program when there are wild lions that could be translocated. I have attached an article that will provide information on this; see “White Paper – Reintroduction sources of lions”  For more information please read  http://lionalert.org/documents/ALERT%20Introduction.pdf & http://lionalert.org/documents/ALERT%20Lion%20Conservation.pdf

Lion populations across Africa have declined considerably, estimates showing a decrease of about 30% in the last twenty years. With few exceptions, lion populations now occur as isolated remnants with doubtful long-term viability. Natural re-colonization of areas in which populations have decreased or have been eliminated is unlikely given continued fragmentation of remaining suitable habitat.  This raises the importance of interventionist approaches in lion conservation through translocation and reintroduction programs. The costs and logistical complexity of any reintroduction program are high, and as such, the purpose of this paper is to examine the suitability of wild-caught lions as source populations.  We estimate that only six geographically clustered populations contain sufficient individuals to potentially serve as a source for reintroduction programs but analysis of the risks of inbreeding depression and disease prevalence within free-ranging populations precludes their use in reintroduction programs even if genetic, political and economic barriers to their use could be overcome.  The use of captive bred lions potentially allows barriers that make wild-caught lions non-viable as a source to be removed; however, reintroduction of captive bred stock brings additional complexity in reintroduction methodology.

Much of the issues people have as regards captive lions is the images they see of people holding cubs and bottle feeding them in their arms, and the parade of people throughout a day through whose arms these cubs have to endure attention without sufficient time to rest and partake in species specific behaviours necessary for their proper development.  This in my opinion constitutes animal abuse and should not be permitted and it is not permitted at Antelope Park or Lion Encounter.

At a successful kill

5.  Obviously your facility has limited space for the Lions. To prevent overcrowding, how do you manage the breeding rates?

Lions are kept in single gender groups well before they reach sexual maturity to ensure no uncontrolled breeding takes place.  Different gender
groups are maintained next to each other so, even through a fence, they can continue to socially interact with both genders so as not to decrease social ability.

Mother & Cub with pride male (Dad) in the background

6.  You have 3 stages that the lions go through, can you explain that to me a bit more in detail?.

The first stage is the cubs going on walks and later night encounters – when they are 18 months old and starting to become independent.  This is when their handlers are on a vehicle and the lions are let out of their enclosure.  The lions are followed to observe their walk.  This is a good
time to have them out and about, in a way that keeps people safe, as lions are more active at night and allows them to practice their hunting skills further at a time that is most natural to them.  A red spotlight is used to monitor the lions.  Then there is the release stage where the lions have to exist in a semi-wild environment (semi-wild meaning fenced and managed) and become socially stable and self-sustaining; free of human contact.  ALERT researchers observe, from a caged vehicle to break up our form.  In these areas the pride has cubs which can be released into the wild (big debate on what that means starting now….but we mean a natural area, sometimes fenced, sometimes not, managed to a lesser degree and free-ranging with the opportunity to form a territory of expected size, with interactions with the usual range of African wildlife species).  This release will follow standard translocation and reintroduction techniques for lions that have been used successfully for many years.

Wading through the water

7.  Some of the lions have been sold onto other venues.  Which venues have taken them?. Do you keep a track of them? (ie: check on them) &  have any of your lions, that you know of, ended up in canned hunting venues?

There were two sales of lions from Antelope Park to South Africa which are well documented and have been the focus of an article in the UK’s Times newspaper claiming that they were sold to hunters.   Antelope Park complained to the UK’s Press Complaints Commission which commenced an investigation into the sales.  Documentation was provided by Antelope Park including the export permits issued by the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority that states clearly that the lions could not be used for hunting.  Letters were also provided by the two buyers stating that the lions would not be used for hunting.  The onus to ensure that this stipulation was upheld was placed with the South African wildlife authorities as it is their legal jurisdiction.  As a result of this investigation the PCC ordered the newspaper to retract the article and issue an apology which was printed later in the same newspaper.  Other claims of animal abuse were also made and again, evidence of these untruths were provided including letters from various independent parties to attest to the fact that the animals were well cared for.  This is all well before my time starting work for the organization and I am not aware of action to track these lions after the sale.  It is possible that the lions were subsequently resold against the conditions of the sale and ended up in the canned hunting industry.  It is also possible that they did not.  It is possible that these lions were used to breed with and those offspring were used in the canned hunting industry.  And again it is possible that this is not the case.  I personally believe that it is quite likely given South Africa’s lax legal systems as regards wildlife, that at least some of these lions ended up being hunted, but I have no evidence to support this belief.  I am also confident that legal measures were adequately put in place that this should not have happened.

You can read more about this issue in the 3rd question down on this page

Lions have been donated to ALERT for release into the next stage of the program; the Ngamo & Dambwa release prides.  One inbred lion (Nduna) for which Antelope Park was providing sanctuary was transferred to Ballyvaughan Sanctuary in Harare at their request and one adult breeding male (Teddy) was transferred to Imire, near Harare, at their request, both in 2009.  Two lions were transferred to Zambezi Nature Sanctuary at their request.  One was a seven year old male (Mickey) with deformities of his reproductive system, the other was a stunted female (Alice) aged nine years old; neither lion could be released.

Any more specific details needed should be requested from Antelope Park directly.  ALERT has never bought nor sold a lion.

At a kill site

8.  With canned hunting being a popular ‘recreational activity’ for some misinformed people, how do we begin to fight this in country?

This is tougher question than most people would like to think.  There are (believe it or not) arguments for canned hunting and of course many against. I have spoken to many prominent scientists who work in lion conservation who believe that canned hunting, however distasteful, is reducing the demand for wild lions by the hunting industry and as such is serving a conservation benefit in that sense.  To what extent this is true I really do not know. There are arguments that canned hunting is creating land use for wildlife as well as contributing to economic development in areas where it happens.  It certainly is an economically important industry, there is no doubting that, and would its ban cause an economic problem, and should we care if it did? The argument that there is more land for wildlife is bogus to me as these animals are not being managed on a meta-population basis so they are nothing more, in my mind, to free-ranging zoos that add nothing to the conservation
of the species involved, be they impala or kudu , buffalo or what.
Obviously the lions are not able to free-range in these fenced reserves until they are ready to be shot or they will eat too much of the reserves
other species; and the conditions under which they are kept are often poor. The welfare complaints are there for sure.  So basically, as with
everything, it is not a straight forward issue although I am sure most people blind themselves to realities because it is easier to just say no
than consider all aspects of something that is deemed so unpleasant.  My personal belief is that nothing justifies the practice and it should be got
rid of, and we will deal with any negatives that such action may cause, but there will be negatives.  So, it will be the means of its closure that are
going to be important to ensure we reduce the potentially negative impacts.

How do we get rid of it?  Well let’s face it, despite worldwide condemnation and the actions of pressure groups towards abolition, nothing really has changed.  It’s only going to work if the governments decide that the benefits to the nation of not having canned hunting are greater than having it.  We are working with Zimbabwe authorities as part of a task force on regulations that is at the final draft stage to ensure that canned hunting does not illegally continue in the country, nor that it might be legally introduced.  But we have to consider the Zimbabwean authority’s motivation for this.  It is probably that Zimbabwe wants to maintain its wild lion trophy hunting operations as well as photographic tourism and sees the move to ban canned hunting as a way to protect both.  So even though we seem to have succeeded in getting rid of one horror, a principle aim for the wildlife authorities is to be able to support another in the shooting of wild lions; which are under huge pressure from hunting in the country. Again, nothing is as simple as it might seem.  We are trying the same approach with the Zambian government, but they currently see canned hunting as a viable revenue stream for them and the first operator that intends to canned hunt has now been granted permits to import lions, including white ones (they gain a higher price to shoot them) and has established an operation in the country.  There is another operator with lions in Zambia that we think (are pretty sure) is going the same route.  And I am not sure tourists boycotting a country is the answer.  Part of the reason Zambia is bringing in canned hunting is because tourism arrivals are down and they are looking for diversified revenue streams to make up the shortfalls.

So in short, I don’t know.  I think if I did I would be one of the most lauded people in the world.  I’ll let you know if I get any further, but for
now, we think we have success in Zimbabwe.  And then we try and use the same methods to achieve results elsewhere.

Running, exercise, health, natural behaviour

9.   In the program ‘Last of the Lions’ there is an extremely worrying message that the lions may go extinct.  What are your thoughts on this?

The species will not likely go extinct, but we might have functional extinction in a short period of time, whereby the remaining populations are
non-viable in terms of evolutionary potential.  In fact most sub-populations are already at this stage and are unlikely to recover unless they are able to genetically interact with others.  Again I would refer you to the attached white paper that covers a lot of this issue.  I think the lion is
in real trouble, but we have time to save it, but only if ex-situ conservation measures are included alongside in-situ – lions need all the
help they can get; to rule out options that we are likely to need seems insane to me.

10.  I believe that education is one of the main ways to help prevent people from participating in canned hunting and unethical forms of  tourism.  What other things can be done?

I’m not sure you are right there.  Do you think the hunter who has booked a canned hunt does not know what he is getting?  And chooses to do it anyway! Yes, there are examples where hunters are duped into believing they are shooting a wild lion when in fact it’s a canned hunt.  Unless the people buying canned hunts are made social pariahs, and care about that, there will continue to be demand, and therefore supply, fully supported by government who is getting their cut either through tax revenues or through corrupt pay-off to individuals.  You also need to define what is unethical.  What I find ok others do not.  What I find unethical others do not.  As society we need to start by having a better process to debate these issues so that consensus can be achieved on what to accept and what not to.  Do we have to come to terms that canned hunting will always be with us (its history dates back at least as far as the Pharaohs of Egypt) because enough people and governments want it?  In which case are we better off pushing for better regulation and putting up with something that you or I and many others do not agree with?  I would think, if asked, the vast majority of the world is against prostitution.  Does it exist, has it always existed, will it always continue to exist?  Yes.  Is it more acceptable to me where it is regulated than where it is illegal?  Yes.  That has not changed my mind that the world is better off without prostitution, but whilst there is demand there will always be supply, legally or otherwise.   How would regulations work for canned hunting such that you had the information about whether that cub made available to cuddle will eventually be shot so you can choose or choose not
to visit that location? I am not sure, but it surely cannot be beyond the whit of man to do this?  There are also many tourism operations that are not beneficial to the environment or ethical in their dealings; how do we regulate that?

I hate this issue because I cannot fathom why someone would want to shoot an animal, but I do not have the answers of how to get rid of it (and clearly no-one else does either).  And I also have to ask myself whether it is right for me to enforce my beliefs on this matter on other people when many of them clearly do not agree with my beliefs – no matter how much I wish they would.

Here is an article on canned hunting that people may find interesting, or maybe disconcerting:

11.  Every now and then, we meet animals that have something special about them, something extra, which makes them extraordinary creatures. eg: Christian the Lion.  Have you got a special lion? And can you share some of his/her story with me?

I’m often asked whether I have a favourite lion.  My answer is honest; its whichever one is front of me at the time.  Our program is not about
individuals, it’s about the species, so are there any I should pick out for special attention?  No.  But ask me privately and I will tell you that our
lioness Phyre in the Ngamo pride is a very special to me.  She is a singular lion because of her character and at one point nearly died when she got sick as a cub.  She was the first lion I raised so I feel a connection; even if at this point she clearly doesn’t.  She is now the dominant female in our first release pride and I am expecting her to give birth to her first litter in a couple of weeks.  The cub known as AT1 in the Ngamo release site; the first ever cub to be born in the program under natural conditions is also very special.

The pride’s story is available here – http://ngamo.wordpress.com/

12. I have always had a special place in my heart for Lions, they are such a noble creature.  However, with all of the threats that the lion faces, it’s  now become known that lions are beginning to replace tigers, in the TCM wine.  Lions are procured via the wildlife trade. Can you give me an insight into the reality of the wildlife trade of Lions?

To be honest I cannot speak authoritatively on this issue.  There are serious concerns as you say that lions are replacing tigers in eastern
markets and lion trophies are in high demand and not always legally traded. I would not like to say more without having a better understanding of this particular aspect of lion conservation.  We partner with another lion charity called Lion Aid (www.lionaid.org) that is more active in this area. I suggest taking a look at their web site; there are some interesting articles.

13.  How difficult is it to avoid the canned hunting industry, and/or the corrupt elements that operate in the wildlife trade when selling on the  lions?

Very.  It’s a secretive industry that tries very hard to cover its tracks.
And there are huge amounts of money changing hands with government officials in the pockets of the operators.  It’s a complete mess.

14. What is the time frame that you believe your first pride will be well and truly adjusted into the wild?

We believe that our Ngamo pride is already adjusted in their environment and the Dambwa pride release very recently is doing well also.  We are seeking funding to move them to a larger area so that the Ngamo release site can be made available for the next group.  Land is not the issue, funding (as ever) is the issue, but we strive every day to approach every potential source to get this done.  As for the release into the wild of the cubs born to our released prides, the first cub is with us now, with 3 females likely to give birth over the next couple of months.  Standard protocols for reintroduction means we are looking at the release into the wild in around  2.5 – 3  years. Then the question is how long it will take them to adjust to their new wild home.

15. Part of the work that I do is to recommend ethical places of animal travel to tourists.  As there will always be animals in captive environments, I ensure that places housing animals for tourism are caring for them correctly, at the correct standards, and are treated humanely.  Can you guarantee to me that your facility meets all those standards?, and elaborate your reasons.

The best answer to this is to provide you with an independent report to the Zambia Wildlife Authority as part of the process of their decision making to permit the expansion of the program to Zambia .  Attached here and named WWF Letter.  Key points as follows:

“The housing and care of the lions was assessed by the Zimbabwe National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and found to be excellent. The ZNSPCA further concluded that the lion breeding program was highly ethical and extremely well managed”


“An assessment was undertaken jointly by a team comprising an independent consultant biologist and two members of the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority. The team reported favourably on this rather unique and specialised activity and their assessment was generally supportive of “Walk with Lions”.

.WWF SARPO has no objections to operations of this nature, provided the principles and practices as developed and implemented by Antelope Park are adhered to.”

(from the report compiled by Dr. R.D. Taylor, Conservation Programme Director for the WWF Southern African Regional Programme Office (SARPO) 10th January 2005).

In addition, regular inspections are conducted by the Zimbabwe Parks & Wildlife Management Authority and the Zambia Wildlife Authority, and other relevant government agencies, to ensure standards are maintained. Antelope Park is a member of PAAZAB, the Pan-African Association of Zoos & Aquaria, which provides an ethical code to work by in the treatment of their animals. In addition, the task force we are working with on dealing with canned hunting in Zimbabwe also includes many regulations on the proper management of captive lion populations.  We will make this available once the draft has been confirmed as final by the task force provided we are given permission
to do so by the wildlife authority.