You can find many places around the world where people are allowed to cuddle or take pictures with wild animals. Unaware travellers are misled, and believe interacting with these animals is helping them and even benefits conservation of the species. They sometimes even end up volunteering at these places, investing lots of money and time. Most of the people do not mean the animals any harm and think they are supporting a good cause, while they are not aware of the related animal suffering. Well-known places for big cats are breeding farms in South-Africa where many lion cubs are kept, and the infamous Tiger Temple in Thailand.
Volunteers and tourists are misled and support (unknowingly) a gruesome industry!
Behavioral disorders and poor development
Cuddling and playing with young lions and tigers causes a lot of stress for the animals. The cubs need rest and contact with (older) members of their species. Intensive contact with (strange) people and the often poor conditions in which the animals are kept, lead to serious behavioural disorders and poor mental and physical development.
Some breeding farms claim that the young animals were saved or bred to be released into the wild and thus contribute to the conservation of lions. However, a breeding farm or likewise so-called ‘conservation project’ has never proven that any of their animals have been released into the wild. Instead, they remain merchandise. When the cubs are older than six months, they become too big for tourists and volunteers to cuddle with. At this stage, tourists and volunteers can go on walking tours with them. When the lions outgrow this stage as well and become too dangerous to walk with, they are traded or kept as breeding animals. It is very likely that these animals end up in the ‘canned hunting’ industry.
Cubs that are raised by hand on breeding farms will never be able to be released into the wild. Firstly, due to their health, as the cubs lack crucial nutrients, socialisation and education that only their mother can offer them. Secondly, intensive breeding can lead to inbreeding and other generic and medical defects. In addition, the cubs are not taught to fear people like their wild conspecifics. Because they are raised by hand, they no longer see people as danger. This makes them easy prey in the canned hunting industry, and very unsuitable candidates for a life in the wild. Imagine a lion in the wild who is not afraid of people but associates them with food. Very dangerous!
Usually there are a lot of cubs in breeding farms, all without their mother.
Not only tourists are misled, but even volunteer projects have also been set up by these breeding farms. For several weeks or months, volunteers work on the farms and they usually have to pay quite a lot of money to join these projects. The farms respond to the feeling of volunteers who want to do something good for animals and conservation. Unfortunately, they are misled time and time again. These types of projects have nothing to do with the protection of the species or the individual animals. Young lions suffer on these breeding farms. Someone who volunteers at one of these breeding farms or wants to gain working experience, indirectly supports the gruesome lion industry – even if they do not mean it or realise it.