Canned Hunting Lions Rescue

Activity status: Ongoing
Area of Activity: South Africa

What is canned hunting?

A canned hunt is a trophy hunt which is not a fair chase as it is made easy for hunters. Animals are kept in confined areas, such as in a fenced-in area, increasing the likelihood of the hunter obtaining a kill. In most cases, lions are confined to horrible and unsanitary places with limited or no food and veterinarian care. A “hunter” can then choose the lion he wants to kill and conduct the killings in the easiest way, sometimes sitting from his vehicle – animals in canned hunting farms do not stand a chance. Such facilities even put male lions in small enclosures for them to fight each other so that lions can have scars on their faces and the trophy can seem to come from a wild lion.

Mission One

Canned hunting is a fast-growing business in South Africa, where thousands of lions are bred in more than 160 farms to be shot by wealthy foreign trophy hunters. More captive lions (around 7,000) are now in the country than wild ones (about 2,000).

Wild at Life e.V. is dedicated to working to phase out canned hunting, shut down the farms, and rescue these lions from such facilities.

In Mission One, our team reached South Africa and was overwhelmed by the sight of 10 lions kept in a secluded, closed shed with no light or grass.

We had to fight hard for the lives of these lions. But dedication and passion made this mission a success. For this rescue, a total of 5000km was covered on road and 9.5 hours were spent taking the 10 lions out of the shed. The import and export paperwork from the authorities was issued after a lot of pressure from us, and we finally got a day set for the big day.

Entering and darting was a big problem as the building had only one door and no other entrance. We have decided to drive into the shed and dart the animals inside. Wild at Life e.V. was in with a local team.

And darting has begun. It was a lot of work and took a long time to calm the lions after each darting. These lions had neither access to the outside nor any light and grass, so their stress levels were much higher than usual. But we were committed to taking them out, so we did.

We worked nonstop to move the lions to the transport trailer, which we then drove back to the sanctuary, where they will learn to be lions again.

Mission Two

On our way out we met a lonely lion. He was lion number 22 in the registry and was likely to be sold for his bone as part of the Asian bone trade for local medicine. We named him Georges and promised to come back for him.

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic.

The team found ourselves stuck with no way of travelling to Georges to take him to safety. To make things worse, the sanctuary he was going to did not make the necessary plans to rescue him on their end, so we had to search for a new home for him. Whilst preparing Georges’ permits, we became aware of three more lionesses in dire need. Wild at Life e.V. decided to rescue them all, leaving no one behind.

Finally, our team led by Wild at Life e.V. founder, Asli Han Gedik, arrived in South Africa to rescue Georges, Julie, Eva and Elma.

Lonesome and lugubrious Georges lived day in and day out inside a barren enclosure for four long, painful years. The only company he had was a cement ring that would offer some protection against the South African heat whilst he awaited his imminent slaughter.

The lion farmers were waiting for his mane to grow so he would look “handsome enough” for someone to pay up to an estimated sum of 11.000€ to shoot him in an enclosed area from which there was no escape.

But Georges was born with a fault; his tail was crooked and he was therefore discarded as a future trophy, instead, he was to be slaughtered just for his bones.

The lion bone trade is a lucrative and legal stream for farmers in South Africa and has come about as an alternative to tiger bones for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is a burgeoning component of the wildlife trade and in the year 2018, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) awarded a quota of 1500 lion carcasses for export a year.

On the morning of the rescue, Wild at Life e.V. and their veterinarian entered the lion farm, they then successfully sedated Georges, Eva, Elma and Julie inside their stark enclosures.

Once sedated, the lions were all then carefully lifted out one by one by our team of six and placed onto their waiting transport.

After a morning of strenuous work, our expert team and the veterinarian had managed to successfully place all lions into their transport for the journey ahead to freedom.

Our big cat veterinarian proceeded to reverse the sedative and gave an immune booster too.

The team then took two trailers; a 5-hour drive. One trailer held Georges and Julie, the other one driving, lionesses Elma and Eva.

We made frequent stops on the roadside to check up on their well-being.

Finally arriving at the sanctuary, Julie was the first out of the trailer.

Julie was the first to explore —

Julie leaving the trailer –

The first thing she did was to climb a tree – something she had never touched before.

The pride’s new sanctuary has plenty of features that would be found in their natural habitat, tall grass to relax in and an array of Acacia, Jackalberry and Marula trees to offer shade and enrichment. As lions possess interdigital glands, they use the trees to transmit a scent when flexing their toes, which aids in territorial marking and other types of olfactory messaging to one another.

Georges, Julie, Elma, and Eva will now live as a pride for the first time in their lives free from the threat of a bullet.

There are currently around 7.000 captive lions held in horrendous lion farms across South Africa, they will all be constantly bred until the day they will be shot for a trophy.

We do not breed our rescued lions, because we know doing so contributes to the problem that we trying to solve.

The lions that we rescue from these notorious farms, can never live in the wild – they would not survive. It also takes up valuable space that could be occupied by another rescued animal and depletes our already limited resources to rescue others in need.

George, Eva, Elma, and Julie are symbols of hope in our campaign against canned lion farms.

Four more lions were saved, and we will continue until there are no-more lions left in horrible farms.


Just a few weeks after our second mission, the South African government released revolutionary plans to ban captive lion facilities and halt the commercial use of captive lions and their derivatives. With between 7.000 and 12.000 lions in captivity in South Africa, typically being bred for canned hunting, this decision is sending absolute shock waves through the country. This is exactly what we have campaigned for many years and we now see the positive results! There’s mounting evidence that suggests captive breeding does not contribute to wild lion conservation, negatively impacts ecotourism and the wild hunting industry, and even stimulates demand for lion parts for the illegal wildlife trade. Not to mention the ethics of keeping lions in often terrible conditions and misleading tourists into contributing to this!

Could there be negatives? Yes, potentially. There is reported evidence on the growing demand for lion bones in Southeast Asia, particularly Vietnam. As South Africa’s captive-bred lions provided a supply of lion bone, this demand won’t disappear — so will it affect wild lions? Will we see a dramatic increase in big cat poaching? It is possible, and the price of lion bone could also potentially increase as the trade is pushed further underground. Only time will tell but we will continue to protect these predators.

This is just one of the many canned hunting farms in South Africa

Our work isn’t over yet. Many still wait for help and we can’t do this without you. Please support Wild at Life e.V. so the vital projects can be successfully implemented.

Together we can do this!

Update: May 20, 2023

The Circle of Life: Eva’s New Chapter as a Mother

After being rescued from a South African canned hunting farm, all seemed to be well for the pride of four – Georges, Julie, Elma, and Eva.

They were living together in the same enclosure at Bela Bela sanctuary when the team witnessed Eva being bullied and ostracised. This might have been because Eva is the youngest out of the four.

To prevent the situation from escalating, Eva was moved to live with Christiaan, an older lion who sadly lost his partner to old age.

Christiaan's & Eva's new enclosure
Majestic Christiaan

Eva and Christiaan are getting along well. Maybe a little too well…

In mid-March, Eva gave birth to three beautiful and healthy cubs. No one expected that because Christiaan underwent a vasectomy about 12 years ago. As he is a lot older now, we do not want to risk putting him under the knife and anaesthesia again, therefore, collectively, the team decided to have Eva spayed.

Preparing to dart Eva
Sedated Eva

The darting process took about 45 mins. The journey to the vet was definitely a sight for the locals because it’s not every day an unconscious lion gets transported through a South African city. The operation lasted roughly two hours and was free of complications.

We isolated Eva for a day to let her recuperate and the day after, she was already up and running with Christiaan.

Eva’s cubs are called Dingaan, Daisha, and Deeka.

Dingaan is the sole male, his mellow personality balances out the energy of the three siblings.

Daisha is the female with light fur, she is bossy and seems to be the alpha as of now. Deeka, the other female but with dark fur, is feisty and has the biggest appetite.

Because Eva is a young and inexperienced mother, and Christiaan was seen committing infanticide, the team decided to interfere and raise the cubs. The three are bottle-fed every three hours and are growing really fast. For the next six months, the cubs have to be checked by the vet on a monthly basis. A larger enclosure has already been built for them, where the cubs will be transferred once they are weaned.

The cubs' future enclosure
Update: January 28, 2022

Canned Hunting Farm – Published by BBC

BBC What’s New published a Youtube video on the truth behind the lion breeding industry, where lion cubs are taken at a young age to be used as attractions in petting zoos, and older lions are sold to canned hunting farms. The video also includes an interview with Wild at Life e.V.’s founder Asli Han Gedik, as well as interviews with young South Africans on their thoughts on the government’s proposal of banning captive lion breeding. The video is in English.

Update: June 14, 2021

Canned Hunting Farm – Published by Conservation Conversation

Conservation Conversation shared Georges’ story, the lion that was sparred from the canned hunting industry because of this crooked tail. The article is in English.

Update: June 3, 2021

Canned Hunting Farm – Published by andanews

andanews made an Instagram post on our mission in South Africa where we saved Georges, Elma, Eva, and Julie from a canned hunting farm. The post is in Portugese.

Update: June 2, 2021

Canned Hunting Farm – Published by RTL News

RTL News sheds light on the cruelty behind trophy hunting as well as animal properties for medicinal uses. The article is in German.

Update: May 28, 2021

Canned Hunting Farm – Published by DailyMail

The DailyMail documents the process of tranquillizing and relocating Georges, Eva, Elma and Julie. The article is in English.

Update: May 7, 2021

Canned Hunting Farm – Published by The Dodo

The Dodo made a video and interview Wild at Life e.V.’s founder Asli Han Gedik. The video is in English.

Update: January 31, 2021

Canned Hunting Farm – Published by faktglaublich

aktglaublich shared a video that documented our rescue mission carried out at a lion canned hunting farm located in South Africa. The video’s subtitles are in German.

Update: January 31, 2021

Canned Hunting Farm – Published by videotrends

videotrends posted a video documenting our rescue mission at a lion canned hunting farm in South Africa. The video’s subtitles are in German.

Update: September 26, 2020

Canned Hunting Farm – Published by wildlifevoiceinc

wildlifevoiceinc reposted The Dodo’s video on Wild at Life e.V.’s rescue at a lion canned hunting farm in South Africa. The video’s subtitles are in English.

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In a joint production between ARTE France, Georama TV, and NHK Japan, Wild at Life e.V. was proudly featured in a documentary titled Stopping the Next Pandemic, or Épidémies l’empreinte de l’homme in French. Épidémies l’empreinte de l’homme was awarded

June 29, 2023

In a joint production between ARTE France, Georama TV, and NHK Japan, Wild at Life e.V. was proudly featured in a documentary titled Stopping the Next Pandemic, or Épidémies l’empreinte de l’homme in French. Under the category of “Health and

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