‘ Cecil’s passing brings into focus the cruelty & death protected lions can suffer ‘

he slaying of Cecil, a protected Zimbabwean lion, sparked outrage and debate around the world.

But on the annual celebration of World Lion Day, held August 10, animal rights campaigners are using Cecil’s story to illustrate what they say is a tragic truth: Cecil was one of the lucky ones.

During his 13-year life, the majestic black-maned Cecil roamed free in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, running a pride and fathering eight cubs.

That sort of life was becoming increasingly rare in neighbouring South Africa, said London-based advocacy group World Animal Protection. More than two-thirds of this nation’s lions live in captivity – the group estimates they number about 5,800, and the number is rising.

Cruel practices

Lions may look happy and cute, but Kate Nustedt, the group’s director of wildlife said that behind the scenes, their lives were miserable.

The organization said it has documented cruel practices at some facilities. Cubs are taken from their mothers early. Then they are typically punished using pain and fear to curb aggression. They are often kept in small enclosures and poorly fed. Additionally, campaigners said, constant human interaction stressed them out.

The organization also said they suspected – but could not prove – that some of the lions ended up in canned hunting facilities, where they could be killed for trophies.

“It’s the thin edge of a wedge of a very, very brutal industry,” Nustedt told VOA News from London. “It’s a big business around not only the hunting of lions but also the breeding of them, keeping them in captivity, being used in tourism. The lion parks where the cubs are captive and handled, they’ve doubled in size over the last 10 years, and it’s also believed that these lions are being used in what are called canned hunts that are being taken out after they’ve had a terrible life of abuse, and being shot in the way that Cecil was.”

But Scott Simpson, the manager of one of Johannesburg’s largest lion parks, the SA Lion Park, said not all facilities were guilty.

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