The poorly regulated captive big cat industry in South Africa

The captive big cat industry in South Africa is said to be poorly regulated, resulting in untimely deaths in attacks by big cats on rangers and park keepers. Recently, a 21-year-old ranger was mauled to death by her lions. Swane van Wyke was attacked by two lions after she entered their enclosure at a private reserve at Bela-Bela in Limpopo Province despite the efforts of a friend who drove a vehicle at the animals to scare then away, as reported by The Times. She was found outside the enclosure covered in blood with deep bite and claw wounds according to the Daily Mail.

Swane van Wyke and one of the lions

Swane van Wyke and one of the lions. Photo:?

The fate of the lions still being decided. It would be a great shame if they were shot because they were doing something natural to them. Particularly as the presence of this ranger in the enclosure was not approved and was not normal protocol according to a spokesman for Zwartkloof Private Game Reserve. It is situated an hour’s drive north of the capital, Pretoria.

The alarm was raised by the dead woman’s friend and the police have taken a statement from her. A second enclosure containing two other lions remained open for business since the ranger’s death on Thursday afternoon.

The captive lions were part of a business specialising in hosting school groups, functions and teambuilding exercises. Animal advocates and campaigners argue that keeping lions in captivity is cruel and the industry is poorly regulated and perhaps difficult to regulate. Drew Abrahamson of Captured in Africa said that it is sad that an innocent person has been attacked and lost her life because of the confinement and abuse of lions in South Africa.

The Times newspaper cites other examples of attacks by captive lions. For example, in August 2019, a 70-year-old game lodge owner, Leon van Biljon, who styled himself “the Lion Man” was mauled and killed after he went into an enclosure to try to fix a fence. The three Lions responsible for the attack, who were raised by him since they were cubs, were shot dead at the Mahala View lion game lodge near Pretoria.

In May 2018, Pieter Nortje, 55, a tourist was mauled when he put his hand into an enclosure to stroke a lion. It is said that he was lucky to survive. In a further incident, a British-born lion park owner, Mike Hodge, 72, was attacked when he went into an enclosure at the Marakele Predator Centre in Thabazimbi. The man was saved by a bullet from a ranger which killed the lion after it dragged him into undergrowth. Another sad ending.


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Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 74-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare. If you want to read more click here.

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