12 Feb

A Conversation with the Lion Encounter Industry on ‘Walking with Lions’


Last year, the international conservation journal, Oryx, published a Panthera co-authored report, (‘Walking with lions: Why there is no role for captive-origin lions (Panthera leo) in species restoration’) which assessed the potential of Africa’s ‘wildlife encounter’ operations to assist in the conservation of the continent’s declining wild lion population, now estimated to number fewer than 30,000 individuals.

Popular among tourists, these self-proclaimed ‘eco-tourism’ operations typically charge paying customers to pet, feed and walk with hand-raised and so-called ‘tame’ lions, claiming to eventually release these captive lions into the wild.

However, as outlined by a panel of wild cat biologists in the ‘Walking with Lions’ report, an evaluation of the suitability of captive lions for release into the wild concluded that captive-bred lions and their offspring are poorly-suited for survival and release in such reintroduction projects compared to their wild-born counterparts, and are unnecessary given the widespread success of wild-wild lion re-establishment programs. The report also demonstrated that no lions have been successfully released from such ‘wildlife encounter’ operations, and that commercial captive lion reintroduction programs operate largely under a 'conservation myth.'

In response, representatives from the African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) and Lancaster University submitted a letter to Oryx outlining their concerns over claims made in the Panthera co-authored report.

This rebuttal, and an additional response from the authors of the original ‘Walking with Lions’ report, were recently published in Oryx’s January 2013 issue. We invite you to read this forum below and provide your feedback to Panthera at info@panthera.org.

Additional Resources

Read Panthera’s Press Release, New Report Finds Captive Lion Reintroduction Programs in Africa Operate Under ‘Conservation Myth’.

View a gallery of lion encounter photos.

Read a Q&A with Panthera’s President, Dr. Luke Hunter, on ‘Walking with Lions’.

Learn about Panthera’s Project Leonardo.

Click the image below to read the current issue of Oryx: