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Animal "petting" safaris

- The decision is yours, and you have the power to make it -

Deon De Villiers travelling in Africa
Experiential Travel Blog


I was fortunate enough while growing up, to be a regular visitor to a friends game farm less than an hour from my home town. She was the coolest kid on the block, money wasn’t an issue, and she lived in a safari park. Giraffe walking by her bedroom window, rhino fed in an open paddock and most iconic, she had a pet lion cub called Jabulani.

We interacted and played with Jabulani until his claws were big enough to rip shreds into our arms as he tackled us on the back lawn; a showing of power and dominance. It was only after I returned from the military that I saw his ultimate demise; a once powerful predator growing up with bulging muscle definition and dark mane; turned into a bag of bones with a scraggly hairdo behind bars in a cage with inadequate leftover meat remains.

In the early years this seemed somewhat acceptable, and a common outcome for such a pet which was actually intended for the wild. As the years went by I learnt more about my friends family and their intricate involvement in widespread hunting practices and businesses across Southern Africa (some legal and some questionable). Maybe I was fortunate, or perhaps I was utterly naive to think that everything in life had positive or at least semi-acceptable outcomes.

Today I wonder what eventually happened to Jabulani, and whether his fate was a bullet to the head, or a misplaced shot to his chest leaving him sprawled in pain until his "so-called" brave terminator built up enough courage to actually enter the fenced-off enclosure to put a bullet to his heart. This, unfortunately, is the disgusting truth behind Southern Africa’s cold and heartless canned-lion hunting industry, which is further driven by an insatiable market for big cat bones and body parts.

Canned lion hunting, is often fuelled by captive bred cat breeders, and supported by animal petting safari outfits, known for taking vast amounts of travel funds from unsuspecting wannabe philanthropists; masquerading as conservation centres, and research facilities across Southern Africa. This is a problem so large and underground that even experienced investigative journalists battle to get behind the doors of this shady enterprise, and no doubt supported by greedy politicians, stuffing themselves with the illegal payouts to support the industry via political manoeuvrings!

I know Jabulani is no longer with us, but whatever his demise may have been, my memories remain fond of a time when innocents prevailed, and we weren't continuously faced with these underlying currents of corrupt and barbaric animal cruelty driven by greed. Although there was more than likely demand for a variety of exotic items at the time, the greed was still small and only practised by a shameful few. Today it seems the indulgence is so widespread that the point of no return is way beyond the reach of any man or power!

Luckily, I now have enough experience to understand such issues, and with experience comes sufficient wisdom and power to make my own decisions, and hopefully inform, educate and encourage others along the way.

Safari Guru does not support any petting parks and breeding centres involved in such cruel and dishonest practices.

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Beck Field Blog Subscriber
Beck Fraser Field

Sadly there are still such misconceptions about these places as ‘do good, positive experiences’. We are still seeing far too many social media posts of people holding lion cubs, including well known models and brand endorsers, and more recently a luxury brand advertising campaign. More education needed!

Deon De Villiers Safari Guru Founder
Deon De Villiers

Absolutely Beck, I totally agree. I feel the only solution to this is continuous and consistent enlightenment and education. While it is invariably "in our face" due to our social circles and interests, I believe the majority of the global population is oblivious, so the more companies like yours and Safari Guru can provide fantastic safari holidays to Africa, I think a broader audience of global traveller will slowly become more aware.

Deon De Villiers Safari Guru Founder
Deon De Villiers

I had guests ask me just two weeks ago about visiting a petting park during their safari holiday, as they, themselves are avid animal rescue advocates here in Australia. While their intentions were totally charitable, they had no idea that supporting the cause was potentially fueling a massive underground network of operations masterminded by evil morons.


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