Disturbing Report on CBS 60 Minutes

Tonight CBS 60 Minutes had a segment on Keven Richardson, the so called "Lion Whisperer." It showed him interacting with lions that had been raised in captivity at a "rescue" preserve where "wealthy tourists" were allowed to pet and otherwise interact with juvenile lions. Based on what he subsequently learned, he left their employment, raised enough funds to purchase all 26 cats that the "rescue" preserve had at that time, and relocated them to his own closed reserve.

The videos of his encounters were incredible- the lions acted like huge domestic cats when they greeted and played with him. A few years ago similar videos of his encounters went viral on YouTube.

Unfortunately, as Richardson and another expert pointed out at the end of the piece, many (most?) of these private "rescue" preserves which are located in South Africa and surrounding countries, breed and raise lions cubs so they can sell grown lions to private "hunting" preserves for canned hunts. These reserves release the lions in small areas where hunters who have paid hundreds to thousands of dollars for the privilege, shoot and kill one (the report had a very disturbing video of one such canned killing of a lion.)

I hope Tauck continues to include lion encounters in their tours, but on the other hand I hope they carefully vette the reserve providing the encounter to make sure it is not involved in selling cats for canned hunts.


  • I have this on my DVR but have not seen it yet. I knew that there are places where animals are bred purely for shooting in South Africa. In fact when we were waiting to fly to South Africa for our Safari we got talking to two couples who were going to hunt In such places and they were really excited. It was interesting to talk to them. I had seen a documentary about this in the past, it's all legitimate and people pay really big bucks depending on the species of animal they want to shoot. Remember the photography Safari is a comparatively new concept.
  • AlanS wrote:
    I hope Tauck continues to include lion encounters in their tours, but on the other hand I hope they carefully vette the reserve providing the encounter to make sure it is not involved in selling cats for canned hunts.

    I saw the same CBS report and had the same reaction.

    However, nothing I see listed in the itinerary for our upcoming (January) Kenya and Tanzania Classic Safari mentions anything about lion encounters except in the context of wildlife viewing. I had no expectation nor desire for a chance to pet a lion.

    Reminds me of a trip to Australia many years ago when at a Koala preserve, our daughter was allowed to hold a Koala. Very carefully managed because, unknown to us until that moment, Koalas are really nasty little beasts who spend most of their time sleeping (to work off the toxic effects of eucalyptus leaves) and really, really don't like to be held or awakened!
  • Many years ago in Las Vegas (NV) the old MGM hotel had an old lion with one leg chained to a chair, where folks would sit in the chair and have their picture taken. Everything was fine for awhile until one day a little girl was in the chair to have her picture taken, when the lion (unprovoked as far as I remember) brought its free leg around and swiped the leg of the little girl causing injury. That picture-taking site was removed along with the lion and it was never attempted again. They will always be wild animals and unpredictable. Just saying.
  • British wrote:
    . Remember the photography Safari is a comparatively new concept.
    I am curious as to where in Africa are the photo safaris relatively new? My friend took one in 1978 in Africa.
  • I went to Kenya, South Africa, and Botswana in 1979 with Born Free Safaris, which was a photo safari. Tour was 22 days. Concept is not new at all.
  • I may be wrong but as far as I could tell, the only Tauck "walk with lions" experience is on the Botswana, SA, Zambia tour. At one time I think there may have been one on the SA Elegant Adventure tour as well- the little photo by the 2014 tour in the list of Africa tours, shows people petting a juvenile lion, but I can't get the old itinerary to load any more.

    Again, please don't get me wrong- I see nothing wrong with a controlled environment where humans can interact with juvenile lions, that for any number of valid reasons, are being raised in captivity. I would love to do that, but I just don't want to do it if their ultimate fate is to be shot in a canned hunt.
  • Want to clarify that when I said photo safaris were 'new' I meant not brand new. The seventies is relatively new when you compare it to the good old days when people, some famous names will come to mind here, went to Africa and shot teens of big game.
    The Tauck SA/Botswana trip is the one where you can interact with lions. I watched the 60 minutes last night. Very interesting. One of the ways I learned about trading animals was by watching the BBC drama 'Wild at Heart' set in South Africa. For me a heartwarming serial starring one of my favorite actors and in later series both Juliet and Haley Mills. Set on a private game reserve, my 'actor' is the Vetnarian and owner. They had to trade animals with other reserves to get the mix right in the private reserves. Plots included illegal trading of some animals. It also made me realize how different the SA safaris are compared with K and T. In the private SA reserves the drivers know exactly how many lions or other animals they have because their area is fenced. It's just a matter of finding them. Not fencing in K and T and although many animals are territorial it's a much more natural environment.
    Find 'Wild at Heart' on Netflix.
    There was a documentary I watched on BBC America about animals bred for hunting, made by a guy called something like last name Therioux. Will try to look it up.
  • I suppose this is another log on the fire and I have not vetted it with other sources, but I was recently reading that TZ is negotiating with a Middle Eastern country (or a wealthy Sheik from there) and is close to an agreement to sell a huge tract of land, in or adjacent to the Serengetti for what I presume would be a "private reserve." I just hate to think what it will be used for.
  • I saw the "60 Minutes" piece also. I'm never confident that "60 Minutes" gets things right, but this report did spark some unpleasant thoughts about the handling of the animals that are used for the "walking and petting" portions of some of the trips. Photography safaris have been around for some time. For some of us, including me, the 60s and 70s seem like yesterday. I have to remind myself that life is like a roll of toilet paper....it goes faster at the end. But British was right, the gun safaris were the norm for a long time prior to that.

    I am a LONG, LONG way from being a PETA member and have no issues with real hunting, but using animals for target practice is not what I call hunting. I hope the animals that are walked with on the Tauck tours are not put in this situation. I am sure we'll hear from someone in the organization about it, since it has become a topic in this room. If they have never asked what happens to the cubs when they get older from their "vendors," I am sure it is being asked now.

    If you are going on the Kenya and Tanzania tour, you will not walk with the lions....at least not on purpose, I assume. If you do, you will find out, first hand, what the food chain is all about and where your link is on that chain. I don't know about the other tours. I have read and seen pictures on this website about walking with lions but I can't give out any accurate information on that experience. I am sure we'll get some feedback.

  • All that aside, I'm starting to get excited now- my countdown time is within a few days of 6 months until departure! : )

    We have our airline tickets (ET), but still need our last two shots (last HEP B and Polio booster), need to buy a few more clothing and misc. items (a gooseneck for the end of my walking stick for the GoPro), and of course still need to make final payment.
  • AlanS, you're going to love it!!! Have fun.
  • edited December 2014
    Since there are two related threads running in parallel, if anyone hasn't read both, just to close things out please read my last two posts in the Theroux Hunting Holiday thread.
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