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Article

Identification and Evaluation of African Lion (Panthera leo) Cub Welfare in Wildlife-Interaction Tourism

1
Applied Behavioural Ecology and Ecosystem Research Unit (ABEERU), Department of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, University of South Africa, Private Bag X6, Florida 1710, South Africa
2
Curtin University Sustainability Policy (CUSP) Institute, Curtin University, Kent St., Bentley, WA 6102, Australia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Daniel Ramp
Animals 2021, 11(9), 2748; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092748
Received: 29 June 2021 / Revised: 9 September 2021 / Accepted: 14 September 2021 / Published: 20 September 2021
(This article belongs to the Section Animal Welfare)
African lion cubs are used in South Africa in wildlife-interaction tourism (cub petting). The welfare impacts on the cubs are unclear. A workshop was held with 15 lion-experienced stakeholders who all indicated a range of welfare concerns for discussion and prioritisation. The leading welfare concern identified was the ‘lack of governance and regulation’ within the industry. Participants also agreed on nine non-negotiable practices that affect cubs’ welfare. Some of these included ethical concerns, such as cubs exiting into the ranching industry (farming of lions for hunting) and the bone trade (lions being slaughtered for their bones, which are exported for lion bone wine) once petting age has passed. Current industry practices were then ranked and weighted for welfare importance through an online survey completed by 60 industry stakeholders. This survey identified the most important welfare concerns to be poor social grouping of cubs, an inability for cubs to choose their own environment and retreat from an interaction, a lack of trained and dedicated caretakers, and poor breeding practices. The survey results produced a user-friendly tool to score cubs’ welfare in interaction facilities and also identified current practices that are lacking in welfare consideration.
African lion (Panthera leo) cubs are extensively used in South Africa in wildlife-interaction tourist activities. Facilities provide close interaction opportunities, but the welfare impacts on the cubs are unclear. A workshop was held with 15 lion-experienced stakeholders, including government officials, nature conservationists, animal welfare organisations, lion breeders, lion handlers, an animal ethologist, wildlife veterinarian, wildlife rehabilitation specialist and an animal rights advocacy group representative. Individual representatives nominated a range of welfare concerns, and 15 were identified for discussion and prioritisation. The leading welfare concern was a lack of governance and regulation within the industry. Participants agreed on nine non-negotiable practices affecting welfare concerns, which included ethical concerns, such as cubs exiting into the ranching industry (farming of lions for hunting) and the bone trade (lions being slaughtered for their bones, which are exported for lion bone wine) once petting age has passed. Welfare concerns representative of current management practices within the lion cub interaction industry were compared for importance using an online adaptive conjoint analysis survey of 60 stakeholders in the industry. The survey identified the most important welfare concerns to be poor social grouping of cubs, an inability for cubs to choose their own environment and retreat from a forced interaction, a lack of trained and dedicated caretakers, and poor breeding practices. The conjoint analysis survey results produced a value model, which can be used as a tool to score cubs’ welfare in interaction facilities, and it identified unacceptable practices lacking welfare consideration. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal welfare; assessing welfare; wildlife tourism; lion cub interactions; South Africa animal welfare; assessing welfare; wildlife tourism; lion cub interactions; South Africa
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MDPI and ACS Style

Wilson, A.; Phillips, C.J.C. Identification and Evaluation of African Lion (Panthera leo) Cub Welfare in Wildlife-Interaction Tourism. Animals 2021, 11, 2748. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092748

AMA Style

Wilson A, Phillips CJC. Identification and Evaluation of African Lion (Panthera leo) Cub Welfare in Wildlife-Interaction Tourism. Animals. 2021; 11(9):2748. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092748

Chicago/Turabian Style

Wilson, Ann, and Clive J. C. Phillips. 2021. "Identification and Evaluation of African Lion (Panthera leo) Cub Welfare in Wildlife-Interaction Tourism" Animals 11, no. 9: 2748. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11092748

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