Update: Lombardi Lions
As many of you may have seen earlier this month, some interest and concern was raised in respect to the Lion education facility that was housed at Thaba Eco Hotel. On Monday 12th May 2014 our team met with Drew Abrahamson, involved in Big Cat conservation, who approach us and agreed to meet with us out of her own accord. We had a deeply enriching discussion, and Drew shared her thoughts and feedback to her own Facebook page shortly after. She has again shared her comments onto our wall for anyone who is interested. And as an outcome of that meeting, Thaba Eco Hotel owner, Reuben Louw has issued this statement:
PRESS RELEASE’ REGARDING THABA LIONS AND LOMBARDI LIONS
Over the past year, we have been in the privileged position of having one of nature’s most magnificent animals on our property – lion’s cubs. Even though it has always been heart-warming for us to know that lions are back at Thaba where they used to roam freely not too long ago, we were also intensely aware that it is a very sensitive topic. Lombardi Lions is a separate entity that owns the lion cubs and they have a lease agreement with Thaba Eco Hotel to utilize a portion of land for the rearing of lion cubs and for to educate the public about lions. From the outset, we made sure that they operate within the law and they gave us the assurance that they are in no way, directly or indirectly involved in illegal lion hunting. This is also a precondition of their lease agreement and any infringement will result in immediate termination of their lease. Thaba also has a full time Environmental Manager whose mandate it is to ensure that the strict conditions of Lombardi’s permit are adhered to.
We are pleased to announce that during Lombardi’s stay at Thaba we could see that they truly love their lion’s cubs and that their well-being always came first. For example, unlike most other properties who have lion’s cubs open to the public, they ensured that during weekdays the lion cubs rested between 11:00 and 14:00 and also daily after 17:00
Members of the public and some organizations who had some concerns about the industry of lion petting also approached us. We always engaged with them and invited them to visit the facility to investigate for themselves the conditions under which the lion cubs live. They were always very pleased with the environment and the educational aspect of Lombardi Lions. However, this never quite resolved the matter of public interaction and petting of the lions cubs.
We had a meeting this week with parties defending both sides of the industry. For example, if Lion breeding were to be illegal, thousands of breeders would kill their lions, as they would not be able to feed and sustain them. This would also increase poaching and put immense pressure on the few free lions still left. On the other hand, it is difficult to justify taking the lion cubs from their mothers only a few days after being born. This traumatizes both the lionesses and their offspring. Many more examples were given to show that lion breeding is essential for the survival of the species, and also that the way in which it is done is not always correct and in some cases illegal.
Even though we fully understand and sympathize with both sides, we realized that as an Eco Hotel that places tremendous value on the environment and good stewardship we also had a role to play.
At the end of the day it is not about who has the best argument for and against lion breeding. Ultimately, it is about the well-being of the lion cubs. We cannot see how it is beneficial for lion cubs to be removed from their mothers. Since the start of creation, when the first lions roamed the earth they have managed to survive because of their instincts but also their skills that they acquired from their mothers. Who are we to interfere with that? Our approach is that lion breeders most definitely have a place to protect and increase the number of lions roaming this beautiful continent, but urge them to allow nature to take its course and to ensure that lion’s cubs remain with their mothers, even if this means that some of them might die. This will result in healthier lions, better family dynamics and instill the respect that we humans need to have for them.
It is thus our decision to no longer support the public interaction with lion cubs. We will gradually phase this out and at the same time embark on a re-education process.
We need to honour our commitment towards Lombardi Lions by allowing them to continue with their lease, and modus operandi but we will not renew it. Their current lease expires on the 31st of August. In the meantime, no lions will be available for wedding photo shoots since this romanticizes the idea of picking up lions.
Part of our contribution to the sustainability of lions and the re-education is to create a proper Lion Park for a pride of lions who will remain at Thaba Eco Hotel permanently. We will give Lombardi first option to run this facility provided that there will be no selling of lions, no hunting of lions and no lion cub facilities where people interact with them.
We trust that all parties will be happy with our stance and hope that other facilities will follow suite so that we can all give lions the respect they deserve.
Thaba Eco Hotel
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