Captive Bred Lions

Breaking News: Captive Lion Breeding to be Cancelled

Landmark Move to End Captive Lion Breeding:

In an unprecedented move, Minister Barbara Creecy revealed that the Captive Lion Breeding Industry will be shut down. Minister Creecy's delivered her Statement in response to a 582-page High Level Report. This document originates from the work of a Panel of Experts. It scrutinizes the Wildlife Management of certain high-interest sectors, such as Lions, Leopards, Elephants and Rhinos.

Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation welcomes the move to phase out Captive Lion Breeding:

Habitat-loss and diminishing numbers continue to plague Wild Lions - one of South Africa's most iconic species. Despite widespread  greenwashing, the captive breeding industry does nothing to alleviate their plight. #WHWF welcomes the proposed phasing out of Captive Lion Breeding. We trust that as a result, better protection will be enforced for the Wild Lions. We need to protect the Wild Lions remaining in South Africa, at all costs.

"While we understand that it will take time to phase out the Industry, we are overjoyed at the prospect of Captive Lion Breeding being outlawed and cancelled completely" said Paul Oxton, Founder of Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation.

© Paul Oxton (Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation)

The Captive Lion Breeding Industry has been the thorn in the side of many a Conservationist for at least 3 decades. An industry that generates so much money for the breeders and exploiters, that it seemed impossible to rectify from a purely economical standpoint.

"This shameful exploitative industry has been supplying never-ending streams of lion cubs to pet, feed, and walk - to unsuspecting Tourists falling into this deceitful trap of greed", Said Carina Crayton (aka CJ Carrington), Co-Founder of Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation.

Only in the past twelve years or so have people been awakened to the fact that these cute cubs they are petting, end up in a trophy hunt when their usefulness has expired. Their bones, teeth, claws and skin get sold as replacement for tiger parts in tiger bone wine in Asia.

With one lion being able to generate as much as ZAR 2 million for its owner over its lifetime, the math soon amounts to mind-boggling numbers.

Shocking numbers: Around 2300 Wild Lions remain in South Africa, and they do not benefit one iota from the vile breeding industry. An estimated 10 000 to 12 000 Captive-bred Lions are kept on around 800 Breeding Farms in South Africa. They will all be influenced by move to end captive breeding. It is simply not be possible to rescue, relocate or find homes in sanctuaries for even a small fraction of these lions. Captive bred Lions can never be released, so the phasing out of this practice comes with its own set of ethical dilemmas. When the owners can no longer make ridiculous amounts of money from these lions, they will have no incentive to care for them. These lions are often kept in the most appalling conditions, and merely used as cub-mills. This should not be our legacy, as South Africans. It should never have been allowed to get out of control.

©Paul Oxton (Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation)

Minister Creecy stated: “The Panel identified that the captive lion industry poses risks to the sustainability of wild lion conservation resulting from the negative impact on ecotourism which funds lion conservation and conservation more broadly, the negative impact on the authentic wild hunting industry, and the risk that trade in lion parts poses to stimulating poaching and illegal trade. The panel recommends that South Africa does not captive-breed lions, keep lions in captivity, or use captive lions or their derivatives commercially. I have requested the department to action this accordingly and ensure that the necessary consultation in implementation is conducted.”

© Paul Oxton (Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation)

Maybe, in the near future, this decision will restore the image of the magnificent Lion to what it should be - The King of the Savannah. Hopefully, as a nation, we will learn to once again respect, admire and protect this unique symbol of true Wilderness.

"Perhaps, once this stain has been removed from our Wildlife Industry, we will once again get goosebumps at hearing the roar of Wild Lions through the dense African bush" ~ #WHWF

© CJ Carrington (Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation)

The full 582 page report is available here: Lion et al Management, Breeding, Hunting, Trade and Handling

Minister Creecy's Full Statement can be viewed here: Minister Creecy's Statement - Report from High-Level Panel

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Donation Tax Benefits for South African Tax Payers

Looking for a Good Cause to Support and pay less Income Tax in the Process?

Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation is a Registered NPO and PBO. All Donations by South African Corporates and Private Taxpayers are eligible for a Section 18(a) Tax Certificate, which will assist in reducing the income tax payable to SARS.

Department of Social Development/Republic of South Africa. Registration No.: 147-339 NPO
SARS Public Beneficiary Organization Registration No : 930051372 PBO

Some of our past Success Stories with regards to WHWF's use of Tax Deductible Donations include:

  1. The sponsoring of our Field Vehicle, and equipping of it for Emergency Wildlife Rescue (Private individuals and Corporates);
  2. The Purchasing of an Anaesthetic Machine and Oxygen bottle system for the Rhino Orphanage;
  3. The Equipping of Theaters for several Emergency Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers, including an Operating Table and Theater Trolley used for Pangolins;
  4. The Purchasing of Capture and Transport Cages for various species of the Wildlife Most at Risk;
  5. The Supply and Equipping of Rangers with specialized Equipment for Anti-Poaching Work;
  6. The Tagging, Tracking and Monitoring of Rhinos as an Anti-Poaching Measure and much more..

We will need the following details to issue your certificate:

  • Date and Amount of Donation,
  • Full Name of Company or Individual,
  • Registration Number of Company or ID number of Individual,
  • Registered Address,
  • Telephone Number and Contact Details (email to send PDF of Tax Certificate).
Please contact us with any questions!

If you're still unsure, please take a look at our Future Plans and Wishlist 🙂

We're available for Corporate Talks and Education!


CoVid19 has wreaked havoc on the world, and as a result, we have lost a lot of Corporate Support. Please consider helping our Organization survive during these trying times!

Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation is committed to #EthicalConservation and showing our Donors how their Loving Donations are spent.

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Skukuza’s Specialist Anti-Poaching Court to stay Open

After a drawn-out legal battle spearheaded by Naomi Engelbrecht, President of Mpumalanga Regional Court, the High Court has ruled against appeals to enforce the closure of the Court based in Skukuza, in the Kruger National Park.
The Skukuza Court handled the bulk of Rhino Poaching cases until an abrupt announcement in 2017 resulted in Engelbrecht transferring Rhino Poaching cases to the Mhala Court, in a move widely condemned by Anti-poaching Pole Players and Conservationists. The Skukuza Court is heralded as a specialist Anti-poaching Court.
In a Constitutional Court order issued on Monday, 1 February, Engelbrecht’s 2017 announcement to move the Rhino Poaching cases will remain invalid, and leave to appeal denied.
Engelbrecht’s decision was challenged in the North Gauteng High Court, opposed by both the Director of Public Prosecution and Mpumalanga’s High Court Judge President, but this did not prevent her from moving cases during to Mhala within two years. All of her subsequent appeals have failed.
Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation commends this ruling, and believes that this decision will greatly aid the effective prosecution of Rhino Poachers.
© Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation
Read about shocking new details with regards to KNP Rhino Poaching here:

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Flap-necked Chameleons: Tiny “Ground Lions”

Have you ever been lucky enough to witness one of these beauties cross a road unharmed? Or spotted them in your garden? As with everything fragile, these chameleons are silently becoming more rare, as humans continue to fragment their habitat.

The Flap-Necked Chameleon (Chamaeleo dilepis) is native to Sub-Saharan Africa, and is the biggest of the indigenous Chameleon types, reaching 14 – 20cm in length. There are eight recognized subspecies.

Chameleons are from the Lizard family, and a closer look reveals remarkable dinosaur-like features, such as the head of a mini dragon, prehensile five-toed feet and agile tails, eyes that move independently, not to mention a unique way of catching food!

The 360 degree independent eye movements have the handy benefit of watching their backs while simultaneously hunting for prey. Once potential prey has been spotted, both eyes will fixate on it, with binocular-like vision.  The brain activity switches between eyes every second or so, to not confuse the animal. The eyelids are fused to allow only a small hole through which to see, but the gaze fixes intensely on preferred prey, for an accurate strike.

Chameleons are insect eaters, using their sticky tongues to catch prey like beetles, bugs and grasshoppers. The lightning fast tongue deployment happens at a speed of 3 hundredths of a second. The tongue extends as long as the body. It is fascinating that such a slow-moving animal can provide such an impressive display of speed when on the hunt.

Chameleon Features from left to right: Eyes, Feet, Tongue, Defensive gape, Egg-laying

The swaying, slow gait mimics the swaying of grass in the wind. This helps to camouflage them when at their most vulnerable – on the ground. They are able to change colour faster and in fascinating detail through specialized cells called chromatophores, containing a mixture of pigmented, light-reflecting and melanin cells. Contrary to popular belief, their colour-changing is often a reaction to their moods, or to take full advantage of soaking up the rays of the sun, and not strictly for camouflage as such.

Because they live in trees, finding them on the ground means that they are either looking for a mate, an expanded habitat, or on their way to lay eggs. Unfortunately many flap-necked chameleons get killed by cars when crossing the road. Well-meaning motorists picking them up adds to their mortality, as they die slow deaths when fed flies and kept as pets.

Chameleon carefully crossing the Road © CJ Carrington WHWF

They are a protected species in South Africa - it is not legal for them to be kept without a permit. The road to Sun City outside Rustenburg in South Africa is well-known for illegal selling of wildlife, including chameleons. One should never buy any wildlife offered for sale, as it only stimulates trade, and contributes to extinction. The correct thing to do it to report it to the SPCA who does regular raids on the known trade areas. That is the best chance for these animals to go back into the wild. Sadly, the flap-necked chameleon is in high demand for the international pet trade, being the third most highly traded chameleon species. More than 111,000 individuals were exported between 1977 and 2011, mostly to the USA. Coupled with habitat loss, these figures end up decimating the natural populations.

As with so many of Africa’s vibrant wildlife, superstitions about Chameleons abound. From the idea that they shoot lightning from their eyes, to the belief that they are immortal – these beliefs do very little to protect the species. They are feared and hated among by some people, regarded as a bad omen by others. The only way to fight against this misinformation is to educate people. For instance – the belief that they are immortal, and that chameleon babies are formed by the bones of a dead chameleon, might stem from their habit of digging a hole to lay up to 60 eggs. In the instance of the Flap-necked chameleons, these eggs only hatch in 9 to 12 months, when the hatchlings will dig themselves out of the hole. If the mother didn’t survive, it would surely seem as if the babies came out of her ‘bones’.

When threatened these chameleons will inflate themselves, open their mouths and hiss. They are ready biters too, but although painful, the bites are not venomous. It is no wonder that the word chameleon is the Latinized form of the Ancient Greek khamaileon.  The word derives from khamai (on the ground) and leon (lion) and translates loosely as ‘ground lion’. This refers to the reptile’s intimidating defensive display.

Chameleon survival is threatened by Habitat Loss and Fragmentation, the Illegal Wildlife Trade, Domestic Cats and Natural Predators in the Wild, such as Monkeys and Snakes, Pesticides used in gardens, and Human fear resulting in needless killing.

As with everything wild we would love to protect, the same principles apply: You can help by planting indigenous plants, not using harmful pesticides or insecticides, NOT supporting the Illegal Trade, NOT removing them from the Wild to keep as pets, and Educating people about these tiny, colourful Ground Lions. If you are lucky enough to have a piece of earth to call your own, a more organic lifestyle and gardening habits favour the survival of indigenous wildlife. And maybe, one day, in your own garden, you will find some of these Flap-necked chameleons rolling their eyes at you.

Written by CJ Carrington © Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

Flap-necked Chameleon easily identifiable via the flap on the neck, and light markings on the flank © Paul Oxton WHWF

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Shocking new Statistics indicate the true extent of Rhino Poaching in the Kruger National Park

Anyone who is a regular visitor to the Kruger National Park would be able to tell you about the Rhinos they are increasingly NOT seeing, compared to previous years.

Every Wildlife lover knows that Rhino Poaching is unlikely to ever be eradicated completely. But some bought into the illusion that we are successfully reducing Poaching. This is a dangerous misconception.

The Poaching War is not over; we are not winning, and we need to wake up to face that sobering fact.

"KNP holds the largest population of wild Rhino in the world." According to these new, shocking statistics, it seems like we'll soon reach a point where this sentence is no longer true.

Whenever official Rhino Poaching statistics are made public, it never indicates the actual population count, so you have to dig a little to get to see the real picture. Historically, any decline in Rhino Poaching numbers from one year to the next, has been heralded as a win, but the problem is that these figures were never depicted as a percentage of the total Rhino population, neither in the Kruger National Park, nor in the rest of South Africa.

If we were winning the war on poaching, the percentage of Rhino Poached against the total population would be declining (not only the actual body count of animals poached). But it’s not. It’s staying alarmingly high in Black Rhino, and has escalated uncontrollably in the case of the White Rhino.

Black Rhinos in the Kruger National Park:

Total KNP Black Rhino Population decline:

The 2011 figure (508 animals) for the KNP Black Rhino Population implies a shocking 47% decline in Black Rhino Populations in the KNP over eight years, to 268 animals in 2019. Sources here and in SanParks Report (p96).

Figure 1: Black Rhino Populations in the Kruger National Park show a 47% decline from 2011 to 2019. © Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

KNP Black Rhino Mortality as a Percentage of Total Population:

Since 2012 there has been a decline in the KNP Black Rhino mortality rate from 9.8% of the population to 9.5% in 2019. These figures include poaching and natural mortality, but because of the low population numbers of Black Rhino, this decline is not good news. It still means that the population is steadily decreasing, and that can be mostly attributed to Poaching.

*Percentages were determined by using current year mortalities as a percentage of previous year populations.


White Rhinos in the Kruger National Park:

Total KNP White Rhino Population decline:

For White Rhinos the situations is even more concerning: Between 2011 (10621 animals) and 2019 (3549 animals) this is a shocking 67% population decline in 8 years. Aside from a slight increase in numbers during 2015, the downward trend is a tragic testament of Rhino lives lost. Sources here, here and in SanParks Report (p96).

Figure 2: White Rhino Populations in the Kruger National Park show a 67% decline from 2011 to 2019. © Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

KNP White Rhino Mortality as a Percentage of Total Population:

The following mortality figures used to determine percentage of remaining population poached include all causes of mortality, (natural, poached and unknown) but it’s obvious that the increased mortality rates are driven by Poaching. In fact the  natural mortalities only make up 10 to 20 % of the total mortality numbers. This means that it is a safe assumption that as much as 80 to 90 % of the total deaths are due to Poaching, with a negligible percentage of deaths due to Unknown causes. (For ease of reference we have not split up the Mortality numbers further into Poaching, Natural and Unknown Deaths).

In 2012 there was a mortality rate of 1.2% of the KNP White Rhino population, escalating to a staggering 18.6% in 2019. This is the worst news, as it indicates an upward trend in the Poaching statistics, which doesn’t show up in the Official Poaching Numbers.

*Percentages were determined by using current year mortalities as a percentage of previous year populations.

Figure 3: In 2012 there was a mortality rate of 1.2% of the KNP White Rhino population, escalating to a staggering 18.6% in 2019 © Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

One has to wonder why there is not much more of an outcry about these statistics. Why is this concept not being clearly communicated to the public? Would we not need all hands on deck to fight this? Knowledge is Power, so why is this Information deliberately being withheld from the public domain?

The animals' attitude towards visitors have also changed, sometimes subtly, but there is a definite difference in observed behaviour - especially with regards to the normally docile White Rhinos. Could this be due to an increased presence of poachers? It is widely reported that "drop-poaching is a preferred strategy, where the criminals pose as day visitors, enter unhindered through the gates, and drop the poacher(s) off. The occupants of the main vehicle used would also act as "spotters" and relay the position of vulnerable Rhinos to the poachers. Whether they enter through the border, whether they have informants inside or not - their methods are becoming increasingly sophisticated in order to avoid detection. They still carry on, leaving hundreds of dead Rhinos in their wake.


The Official Rhino Poaching Statistics for South Africa from 2007 to 2019:

Any reduction in Rhino Poaching numbers as celebrated in the media and issued by the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Environmental Affairs, merely points to the deeper problem – the population numbers are now so low, that it is more difficult to find animals to poach.

Rhino Poaching Statistics South Africa - 2007 to 2019 ©Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

"These figures are misleading, and they have the effect of lulling the public into complacency under the illusion that we are winning the War on Rhino Poaching. Nothing could be further from the truth. Fewer Rhinos are getting Poached because there are fewer Rhinos remaining to Poach, and therefor they are more difficult to find." (WHWF)

According to a KNP Ranger who wishes to remain anonymous, as many as 8 – 10 fully trained and equipped poaching teams are on the ground in Kruger National Park every day. These insurgents have military training, are armed to the teeth, and they shoot to kill. It is truly a war.

The Rangers on the ground put their lives in danger for our Rhinos every single day. They are the ones who deserve our gratitude for an often thankless, soul-destroying job. It is the heart-breaking reality that they are fighting a losing battle.

Every South African Citizen, and every International Visitor who cares about our Natural Heritage should actively be supporting any anti-poaching efforts, and support Organizations who do their very best to fight this war. If not for us, then for Future Generations.

It is time that we wake up, and understand the concept that we are losing our last Rhinos, faster than we ever thought possible.

Support #WHWF Anti-Poaching Efforts here: Ref #Rangers

Written by CJ Carrington ©Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

Nobody in the World needs a Rhino Horn, but a Rhino ~ Paul Oxton (WHWF)

White Rhino photographed in the KNP, several years ago. © Paul Oxton (WHWF)

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Wry Face – Incredible Survival of Giraffe with Malformed Face

Giraffe with Wry Face Congenital Defect Survives to adulthood!

Wry Face or Wry Nose is a congenital condition (birth defect) which affects certain species of animals, and is most obvious in species with long faces, such as horses and cattle. The condition is normally associated with a cleft palate, which makes suckling a huge challenge for the new-born animal. Depending on the severity of the malformation (slight <5° to severe >60°) lateral deviation, many animals do not make it to adulthood.

It is common for animals born with this condition to have the upper jaw and nose deviated to one side, usually causing the nasal septum (the cartilage plate that separates the right and left nasal passageways) to be deviated as well. This can result in breathing difficulties due to obstruction of the airway. Wry nose is most obvious in species with long faces, such as horses and cattle.

An animal with Wry Face / Wry Nose may have poor alignment (malocclusion) of the teeth and may have difficulty taking food up into their mouth and chewing food, which can lead to uneven wearing of the cheek teeth. Obviously, this could also lead to the animal becoming emaciated and dying. The chances of survival are better once they pass the suckling stage, as animals are incredible resourceful; and their ability to adapt in order to survive is impressive.

It is rare for a wild animal with Wry Face to survive to adulthood. The giraffe pictured here, was spotted and photographed in South Africa’s Kruger National Park by Adele Sneyd, in October 2020, near Shingwedzi.  According to Sneyd the animal seems healthy and well-adapted to her condition.

On the left, the Giraffe spotted in October 2020. On the Right, the skull of a Horse with congenital Wry Face clearly shows the extent of the deviation.

You have to admire the tenacity and sheer will to survive visible in wild animals with this deformity, against all odds. Nature will find a way to look after her own.

Written by CJ Carrington ©Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

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WHWF 6th Annual Xmas Support – The Rhino Orphanage

Xmas Happiness for the Rhino Babies and their Carers:
As always, we do our best to make Christmas extra special for the #WildBabies and caring Staff at The Rhino Orphanage. This year was our 6th Annual Xmas Supply Drop. With the loving care and help of our local community and our valued donors, we were able to perform some miracles during the end of what has been a most challenging year for everyone.
We have been consistent and ongoing supporters of The Rhino Orphanage for the past 5 years, and have supplied countless capital items, veterinary equipment, specialized medicines and food. This is an ongoing support project where we make sure that your donations directly reach its target.

WHWF Team Paul and Carina (CJ) getting some attention from the Rhino Orphans © Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

Working through a Wish List:

We pride ourselves on trying to procure every single item on TRO's wish-list, and this year was no different. Loads of probiotic Protexin, industrial wheelbarrows, soap of every conceivable kind, special dual rakes, many liters of disinfectant, 1000 latex gloves, facemasks for the 'new normal', and so much more!

Loads of Protexin Pro-biotics for happy Rhino tummies © Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

The Value of Consumables:

If 2020 taught us anything at all, it is the value of toilet paper, so we made sure the human 🦏 mommies have plenty of that! General soap, disinfectant and cleaning materials are always welcome too - anything that makes it easier to help the Rhino Orphans survive.

Food for the Carers, loads of cleaning supplies and the all-important Toilet paper! © Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

Crucial Equipment for Night-time Emergencies:
The girls were particularly excited about the emergency spot-light that would make night time treatment easier. The Carers received some treats too - it is after all, their job to spend countless nights next to a sick Rhino Orphan - doing their bit to help them survive!

Rechargeable Emergency Spotlight for night-time emergencies, and some snacks for the carers © Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

Specialized Veterinary Equipment:

The cherry on top of the cake is a complete telescopic pole syringe system, with every size of syringes and attachments available. This is like a syringe on steroids, enabling the treatment of an animal from about 4-5 meters away, and is particularly handy for use with dangerous or scared larger rhinos. This valuable, expensive piece of equipment is on every true Wildlife Rehab's wish list. Rehabilitating Rhinos is physical hard work. Industrial wheelbarrows help make the load a little lighter.

Complete Telescopic Pole Syringe System for dispensing treatment, and Industrial Wheelbarrows for the heavy work © Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

Wild Heart 'Santa' Bumper Supply Drop for The Rhino Orphans:
Our lives have changed irrevocably, and we have to adapt. The animals have no choice - they rely on us. We have to continue doing our best for the animals, and also helping the humans who care so much for them.
From our side, WHWF gifted The Rhino Orphanage's Arrie and Mariet Van Deventer with one of our first ever, Limited Edition Big 5 Calendars, as a small token of our appreciation for their dedication.
𝐓♥𝐇♥𝐀♥𝐍♥𝐊♥ ♥𝐘♥𝐎♥𝐔
Thank you to every single person who donated and assisted in any way.
You are all superstars, and we cannot mention anyone, because the list is too long.
Thank you for making this Xmas special for the Rhino Babies, and their carers.

The WHWF Team with Happy Carers and Happy Rhino Babies at The Rhino Orphanage ©Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

To see more of what we do for the Rhino Orphans, click here.

We rely completely on donations from the public to do our work all across Southern Africa. As always, we show you exactly what we do with your loving donations.

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Harpo the Harties Hippo – Countdown to a Cull?

Rumours are increasingly gaining substance that the famous Harpo, the resident Hippo at Hartebeespoort Dam, is in line to be culled (shot). According to the Kormorant Newspaper, reliable sources have indicated that a permit for the killing of Harpo has been issued by the North-West Department of Economic Development and Tourism (DEDECT).

Harpo has become a local celebrity, and even has his own facebook page. Residents have become protective over the hippo, and now they are up in arms.

Harpo - Celebrity Hippo © Hippo at Harties fb Page

Harpo appeared in May 2019 and have been spotted regularly in many areas around the Dam since. Apparently numerous unsuccessful attempts at catching and relocating the hippo have been made, including the mentioned attempted capture in December 2019.

A spokesperson for the DEDECT, Mashudu Nemutandani, said that the matter is still being investigated and a “formal communication” will be released as soon as a solution is found.Earlier the department had indicated that the hippo “could become a huge problem. Hippos are dangerous animals and the human factor is the big problem here”.

“We need an urgent solution as the dam is a big tourist attraction, and it has to happen soon,” said Constant Hoogkamer of DEDECT, at a meeting held at Hartebeespoort in January 2020.

Local Resident Martyn Manley questioned who initiated and backed the process to get a killing permit approved, and wondered what their reasoning was. “We need to embrace our Wildlife, not kill it”, he said.

Hippos are territorial animals, and relocation is not a simple process, due to the fact that they can easily drown if they run into the water after being darted during the capture.

Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation has been unable to verify the existence of the permit.

#WHWF: "We believe that every wild animal deserves another chance at freedom and a wild, natural life."

(𝐏𝐞𝐭𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐤) ⬇️⬇️⬇️

A petition to try and save Harpo can be signed here.

Written by CJ Carrington ©Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

Harpo - Celebrity Hippo ©Kormorant

More Articles and Posts by WHWF:

Captive Bred Lions

Breaking News: Captive Lion Breeding to be Cancelled

Landmark Move to End Captive Lion Breeding: In an unprecedented move, Minister Barbara Creecy revealed that the Captive Lion Breeding Industry will be shut down. Minister Creecy’s delivered her Statement in response to a 582-page High Level Report. This document originates from the work of a Panel of Experts. It scrutinizes the Wildlife Management of […]

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Paradise is closing down – Fracking and Oil Drilling in Okavango Delta

The ghastly spectre of oil drilling and fracking in fragile Okavango Delta

For a distance of some 150km, Canadian company ReconAfrica’s oil and gas prospecting concessions border the Kavango River, a crucial source of water in a semi-arid area and the lifeline for one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of wild species in the Okavango Delta into which it discharges.

The fate of one of Africa’s most valuable ecosystems may depend on results from wells being drilled deep into the bedrock beneath the Kalahari of northern Namibia and Botswana in the hunt for a petroleum reservoir.

If the search by Canadian oil and gas company ReconAfrica is successful, the region could be irrevocably transmogrified by networks of access roads, truck traffic and heavy machinery, pipelines, drill rigs and hundreds of oil and gas production wells.

A group of yellow-billed storks and other birds feed on small fishes in the flooded grassland in the Kwedi concession of the Okavango Delta, about 30km north of Mombo, Botswana. (Photo: EPA / Gernot Hensel)

For ReconAfrica it would mean “the largest oil play of the decade” and immense financial profits. For social and environmental justice activists it spells unmitigated disaster.

The role played by the Namibian government (a 10% shareholder in ReconAfrica’s Namibian exploration concession) is of grave concern. While the petroleum company is vocally proclaiming that they are on the brink of a major discovery, the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) is downplaying potential risks and suggesting that the focus is merely on “exploration”.

Does this mixed messaging suggest misinformation on the part of ReconAfrica to lure potential investors? Is the government trying to obfuscate what’s really happening in the region? Is this then a case for the US Securities Exchange Commission to investigate?

ReconAfrica holds exploration licences for an area of more than 25,000km² in north-eastern Namibia and a further 9,900km² across the border in Botswana. Beneath this land lies the Kavango Basin, a geological mega-structure which the company’s experts conservatively estimate to contain 120 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

To put the claimed size of this deposit into context, the largest oil field in history, Saudi Arabia’s Ghawar Field, is believed to have held a total of 88 to 104 billion barrels of oil, while the country estimated to have the biggest proven reserves is Venezuela at about 303 billion barrels.

A group of giraffes in the Kwedi concession of the Okavango Delta. (Photo: EPA / Gernot Hensel)

In a press release, the MME suggests that the “necessary environmental impact permits” are in place, but opponents question the efficacy and thoroughness of the process and argue that ReconAfrica’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) falls short of legal requirements.

One major concern is that the exploitation of oil or gas deposits may require the use of hydraulic fracking technology, which involves injecting pressurised, water-based, chemical-laced fluid into wells to help release hydrocarbons tightly held in so-called unconventional deposits.

The myriad dangerous effects of fracking, from its need for vast amounts of water to the potential for artificial earthquakes, the contamination of ground and surface water and the poisoning of humans as well as the natural food chain, are well documented.

In its extremely optimistic communications with the media, ReconAfrica implies that fracking may well be on the cards. Daniel Jarvie, a petroleum geochemist on the company’s technical team, states that its licences in Namibia and Botswana “offer large-scale plays that are both conventional and unconventional”. Such unconventional “plays” would require fracking.

In a 2019 presentation to investors, ReconAfrica compares the Kavango basin to the huge Eagle Ford Shale oil and gas field in Texas and refers to plans for “modern frac simulations”. In the case of the Eagle Ford Shale, fracking at thousands of wells has been linked to air pollution and an increase in seismic activity “33 times the background rate”.

Dr Annette Hübschle of the Environmental Futures Project of UCT’s Global Risk Governance Programme warns that “we should be very concerned about the long-term impacts of fracking on livelihoods, health, ecosystems, biodiversity conservation and especially climate change.”

The MME insists, however, that neither an onshore production licence nor a licence to develop unconventional resources has been applied for or granted. They declare that “no hydraulic fracking activities are planned in Namibia” and that “Recon will not be conducting any fracking activities in the Okavango Delta.”

While the MME seems to imply that what is going on is merely exploration for possible petroleum reserves, ReconAfrica appears ready to move into oil production as soon as possible, noting that once a commercial-scale discovery is declared, their agreement with the Namibian government entitles them “to obtain a 25-year production licence”.

Ultimately, the debate over fracking may be moot as there is little doubt about the overwhelmingly destructive effects of major petroleum production – with or without fracking – in a dry, ecologically-sensitive region.

And that’s without the occurrence of any disasters – an unrealistic expectation from an industry responsible for some of the biggest environmental catastrophes in history, from the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon to Canada’s tar sands and the devastation of the Niger Delta.

According to Hübschle, “the EIA fails to address the issue of the high volumes of water required for exploration and how the highly toxic and radioactive drill mud will be cleaned and disposed of.”

A threat to people and cultural heritage:

A small herd of zebras in the Kwedi concession in the Okavango Delta. (Photo: EPA / Gernot Hensel)

What is indisputable are the risks to which large, industrialised oil production would expose the region.

For a distance of some 150km, ReconAfrica’s concessions border the Kavango River (often referred to as the Okavango River, and called Rio Cubango in Angola), a crucial source of water in a semi-arid area and the lifeline for one of Africa’s greatest concentrations of wild species in the Okavango Delta into which it discharges.

The region as a whole is home to around 200,000 people. The Okavango Delta, which is downstream from the suspected oil field, provides a livelihood for indigenous populations of at least five ethnic groups who rely on the landscape for water, fishing, hunting, wild plant foods, farming and tourism.

Of particular concern are local San communities whose already threatened lifestyle would be deeply impacted by the arrival of the oil industry. What’s more, the area where petroleum production would occur includes Botswana’s Tsodilo Hills — a Unesco World Heritage Site — which is celebrated as the “Louvre of the Desert” and protects over 4,500 San rock paintings, some of which are 1 200 years old.

Hübschle notes that “very few affected parties were consulted by government and the company. While the company is engaging in a winning hearts and minds campaign, there are many affected people who are deeply concerned about their land rights, ability to farm and derive income from community conservancies.”

A threat to Wildlife and Ecology:

A female leopard rests on a termite hill in the Kwedi concession in the Okavango Delta, (Photo: EPA / Gernot Hensel)

A future Kavango Basin oil field not only poses an existential risk to the Okavango Delta, a Unesco World Heritage Site in its own right — Botswana’s most-visited tourist destination and home to a very large and diverse population of animals, including more than 70 species of fish and over 400 species of birds — but it also directly overlaps the world’s largest terrestrial cross-border wildlife sanctuary, the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (Kaza), which straddles the borders of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola and Zambia.

A source of millions of dollars of income from sustainable ecotourism, the area protects at least four species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) list of “critically endangered” animals, including the black rhino and the white-backed vulture, seven “endangered” species, including the grey-crowned crane and the African wild dog, as well as 20 species listed as “vulnerable”, such as the martial eagle and Temminck’s pangolin.

The region is also known for its extensive network of migration routes for the planet’s largest remaining elephant population. Studies have revealed that these animals have huge home ranges of nearly 25,000km² and roam across vast distances between Botswana, Namibia, Angola and Zambia.

The disruption of migration corridors by a massive new oil industry infrastructure would not just endanger the survival of the elephant population but is likely to increase detrimental interactions with local human communities.

“If full-scale drilling goes ahead”, says Hübschle, “the outlook for Kaza would be grim. Tourists won’t come on safari to look at oil rigs.”

From a global perspective, extracting vast amounts of fossil fuels from the region will exacerbate the ongoing human-induced climate crisis which is itself threatening the survival of the Okavango Delta as a result of decreasing annual rainfall in the catchment area.

In a deeper, geological irony, the rocks suspected of containing the oil and gas reserves of the Kavango Basin were deposited in the Permian Period which came to a cataclysmic end in the most extreme extinction event of the Earth’s history that wiped out 90% to 95% of all marine species and 70% of all land organisms.

Digging up and burning oil from these strata will push us even closer to a new global mass extinction.

In its myopic vision, all ReconAfrica sees in the northern Kalahari is money buried underground.

The Okavango Delta, Botswana. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Gernot Hensel)

At a time when the world’s few remaining wild places need all of the protection we can muster when biodiversity is declining rapidly and when global heating is wrecking the world, it’s the kind of vision that undermines the very foundations of our existence.

If we believe in restorative social and environmental justice, we ought to insist that the international fossil fuel industry funds Namibia and Botswana to keep the oil in the ground, to develop renewable energy systems instead and to safeguard their irreplaceable ecosystems.

Written by Andreas Wilson Spath, Daily Maverick, 15 December 2020

Original article here.

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Breaking News: Captive Lion Breeding to be Cancelled

Landmark Move to End Captive Lion Breeding: In an unprecedented move, Minister Barbara Creecy revealed that the Captive Lion Breeding Industry will be shut down. Minister Creecy’s delivered her Statement in response to a 582-page High Level Report. This document originates from the work of a Panel of Experts. It scrutinizes the Wildlife Management of […]

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Captive Lion Breeding Damages SA’s Tourism Reputation

SA’s government is ignoring red flags that the captive Lion industry is damaging the country’s reputation

Despite overwhelming worldwide opposition, including a parliamentary resolution to close down the captive lion breeding industry, SA’s government is ignoring red flags that the industry is damaging the country’s reputation and deliberating a 2020 annual trade quota for the export of lion bones.

The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) said in April that the decision for a lion bone quota has been deferred to later this year. It claims that public opposition and a 2019 court case between the minister and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA), who say breeding and trade in captive bred lion parts raises significant welfare issues, delayed determining last year’s export quota.

Wildlife trade experts say the legal trade in lion bones which is used for medicinal purposes in Southeast Asia, is fuelling an illegal market.

They say that the permit system is weak and creates loopholes for illegal wildlife trafficking, which is further impacting on wildlife conservation. An estimated 12000 captive lions exist in South Africa, while no more than 10 000 wild lions roam the continent. More than 6000 lion skeletons have been exported from South Africa since 2008.

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According to department, the decision will be based on the recommendations by a panel, mandated to review policies, legislation and practices on matters related to the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling of four iconic species, including lions.

The panel is required to provide recommendations to the minister by the end of this month. But this comes after a 2018 parliamentary committee recommended that the captive lion breeding and lion bone trade industry be closed and a High Court judgement that previous annual export lion skeleton quotas were illegal because they ignored animal welfare.

“Should DEFF issue a lion bone quota now, no matter the stockpiles that are accumulating on lion breeding farms, it will send a very clear signal that the voice of public opinion, scientific reason, and of legal judgement has been ignored and that only money and no doubt corruption matters on the issue of lion bones and captive breeding,” says Paul Funston, lion species director at Panthera, an organisation exclusively devoted  to the conservation of the world’s 40 wild cat species and their landscapes.

With international criticism, reports highlighting animal cruelty and the lack of conservation value, conservationists are questioning the minister’s motivation in considering a trade in lion bones which supports the continuation of the captive lion industry.

They say she is wasting resources when the writing is on the wall that the industry should be closed down.

“The lion breeding industry is making a few lion breeders a lot of money, but is costing Brand South Africa billions,” says Colin Bell, wildlife conservationists and founder of Wilderness Safaris.

“Not only is this industry barbaric, it is terrible for Brand South Africa and has cost South Africa many millions – even billions in lost tourist arrivals, revenues and jobs when tourists elect to rather travel elsewhere.”

©Paul Oxton / Wild Heart Wildlife Foundation

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, over R400bn is generated by South Africa’s travel and tourism industry. This is compared to the captive lion breeding industry which supports little more than 1000 jobs.

The department claims welfare will be considered in determining this year’s quota with the engagement of welfare experts. But there are no welfare authorities sitting on the panel HLP.

The only welfare specialist on the panel, Karen Trendler, resigned and the NSPCA which received a late invite, declined membership, for reasons it won’t divulge.

Others, including the Humane Society Africa and environmental lawyer, Cormac Cullinan, also declined membership stating the panel was weighted with parties invested in the commercial use of wildlife and wildlife body parts and had no interest in welfare.

Despite the existence of animal welfare legislation in South Africa, it lacks adequate representation and enforcement. While the department is mandated to oversee biodiversity conservation, animal welfare falls under the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), which in turn routinely passes the buck to the NSPCA, a non-government body tasked with enforcing the Animal Protection Act, but which receives no state funding.

With limited welfare enforcement, over 450 breeding facilities capitalise, unhindered, on breeding lions for hunting and trade. Many of these facilities pose as lion conservation centres or sanctuaries but on closer inspection are more akin to lion factories.

Lion conservation experts say breeding lions in captivity has no conservation value. In a statement, the Endangered Wildlife Trust says: “The captive keeping and breeding of large carnivores does not contribute to carnivore conservation in South Africa.

“There are nationally and internationally recognised conservation plans for cheetahs, lions, wild dogs and leopards and none of them identify captive breeding as a required conservation action.”

Recently, studies have shown that lion breeding farms are a “hotbed” for zoonotic diseases.

report says captive lions carry a range of harmful pathogens, including Sars-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.

With many lion farms offering cub petting and walking, these facilities are posing a real threat to tourists and staff.

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