The Hon. Greg Hunt, Australia’s Minister for the Environment, has delivered a broadside against the lucrative business of canned lion hunting.

In a sitting of the country’s parliament in Canberra on Thursday, March 12, he had the following to say: “I have signed an order to prevent the importation into Australia of African lion parts and remains. This order will take effect immediately. It is part of the global movement and I hope part of a significant movement to end canned hunting forever. It is a practice that never had a time, but it is a practice whose time has surely come to pass.”

Australia’s decision is also likely to impact on all those facilities breeding lions for other commercial purposes such as petting, ‘walking with lions’ and the lion bone trade. Inevitably when captive young lions pass the age of being ‘safe’ to interact with humans, the writing is on the wall for them – either to feed the market for their body parts or as targets for hunters.

Lions have vanished from over 80% of their historic range and are now extinct in 28 countries. Of the remaining 27 countries in which lions survive, 26 are in Africa and one is in Asia. Only seven countries have populations greater than 1 000 wild lions.

Even in South Africa there are fewer than 3 000 wild lions, so when you consider that more than 1 000 lions are shot every year by trophy hunters, it begs the question: Where do they come from?

In South Africa there are some 160 breeding farms that hold at least 6 000 lions. Arguments that these lions bred in captivity take pressure off the hunting of endangered wild lions, is nonsense. One look at crashing lion numbers tells that story. Some breeders even pose as conservationists whose aim is to re-introduce lions to the wild. But this is empty rhetoric as very few captive lions have been successfully ‘re-wilded’ anywhere in Africa. These lions are bred for one purpose only: canned or captive-hunting.

Hunters prefer the term ‘captive’ to ‘canned’, but Ian Michler, a South African investigative writer, safari operator, conservationist and outspoken critic of trophy hunting says “…The word ‘captive’ is as it reads – lions are being bred in captivity to be killed in captivity.”

He visited Australia late last year to lobby for the banning of importation of lion parts and remains. “I can only laud the action taken by Minister Hunt and his parliamentary colleagues,” he said.  “I fervently hope that Australia’s brave stance will encourage other major hunting nations to follow suit. This news is as much a victory for all those people and organisations that have been fighting against the twin horrors of predator breeding and canned hunting over the last 20 years as it is for the animals themselves.”

Michler went on to say that the Professional Hunting Association of South Africa had only itself to blame. “Instead of coming down hard on canned hunting outfits, their silence has been a tacit approval.”

In the coming week, Michler heads off to the European Parliament where he will be lobbying for similar action from Europe. “In time, we will also target the United States, as this is where the majority of hunters come from.”