Blood Lions, the documentary, premieres in Gaborone

Botswana Tourism Organisation (BTO) recently showed the hour long trophy hunting documentary dubbed Blood Lions: Bred for the Bullet at New Capitol cinema in the wake of the controversy surrounding the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe. The documentary, which premiered  at the Durban Film Festival, is a story that follows acclaimed environmental journalist Ian Michler, and Rick Swazey, an American hunter, on their journey to uncover the realities about the multi-million dollar predator breeding and canned lion hunting industries in South Africa.

According to Michler, he has been following the story since 1999 and he visited breeding farms to witness the impact that decades of intensive breeding has had on captive lions and other predators. “It is a story that blows the lid off claims made by these operators in attempting to justify what they do. Last year alone over 800 captive lions were shot in South Africa, mostly by wealthy international hunters as a sport,” he said.

The documentary interviews trophy hunters, operators and breeders as well as conservationists and animal welfare experts. Blood Lions is a call to action to get involved in a global campaign to stop canned hunting. The Minister of  Environment, Wildlife and Tourism, Tshekedi Khama was also interviewed in the film to give Botswana’s stand on trophy hunting. Botswana was portrayed as a shining example as it took a stand against canned hunting.

“Sports hunting has been banned in Botswana and last year the government moved to ensure that Botswana’s lions and other large carnivores were not exported to South Africa or any other country for canned hunting,” Tshekedi said.

During his speech after the screening, Tshekedi said, “With the canned lion situation in South Africa you must be aware that it has direct pressure on Botswana because the need and the wants to get a kalahari lion which is seen to be the prestine of lions is so high. We have lost a couple to theft but in recent times we have intensified our patrols along the borders to prevent this and so far we have been very successful. I watched this movie for the second time and I tried to disseminate the difference between the last group of breeders (in the movie) and the hunter and tried to see who has a high moral standing and I really cannot find the difference between them because it is one excuse after the other  in order to facilitate this horrible habit they have. But we hope that the government of South Africa will tighten regulations and these lions will be allowed to roam freely where they deserve to. And its  purely a myth that the population of lions is increasing, certainly in the wild I think you know the truth and as far as canned hunting is concerned we know they are increasing but for the wrong reasons.”

Michler said they are working on plans to screen the film to tour guides and people up in tourist destinations such as Maun and even take it  to a wider audience across Botswana. The documentary film will be releasd in full DVD early next year.