Despicable cruelty; captive lions left to suffer after being burned in wildfire

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Despicable cruelty was discovered at a farm in Bloemfontein, South Africa, where dozens of captive-bred lions were burned in a wildfire that they were unable to escape from. On October 2, the Bloemfontein SPCA shared images of the injured lions, and described how the fire and lack of treatment ultimately led to their deaths:

Fire is one of the worst threats to any farm and worse when it is a captive-bred lion farm. Unable to escape the blazing flames is one of the worst things to happen to an animal.
During the recent wildfires in a large area of the Free State, the Bloemfontein SPCA was at the forefront to assist the farmers with injured animals and end the brutal suffering. Animals that could not escape the fires and were burnt to an extent of no return were relieved of further suffering by Team Bloemfontein SPCA.

According to the animal welfare agency, the owner of the farm knew that the lions had been burned, but did nothing for five days to help them with their injuries. The organization described the horrible scene:

What we found shocked us to the bone. As we entered the lion camps, we could only see the destruction left behind by the torturing flames. We arrived at the lion enclosures and our hearts broke and our souls wept. We saw that the lions couldn’t escape the blazing fires and the inhalation of smothering fumes were evident. The lions didn’t move. They all laid in one spot with their paws turned upwards. Their fragile bodies were burnt, and their faces carried the devastating scars of the flames just days ago. Three male Lions, the supposed to be Kings of the Jungle, in one of the camps, couldn’t stand at all. As they attempted to get up, they simply collapsed over and over. One cannot begin to comprehend the pain these lions were in.


We quickly realized that the owner didn’t care about the lions anymore. He was not willing to invest and financially spent nothing to ensure the welfare of these cats were up to standard. The owner no longer made provisions for food for the lions. If cattle or any wildlife animal died in the area the farmworkers would go and collect it for food. They would also get a few dead chickens from a nearby poultry farm. There must have been days on end that the lions went without food and one cow now and then was not going to feed 59 lions and 3 tigers. The chickens fetched was hardly enough for just one enclosure. These lions were underweight with a very weak and low body score. One could see the rib, pelvic and vertebrae bones.

Senior Inspector Reinet Meyer at the Bloemfontein SPCA commented:

I have never been this angry in my 30 years at the Bloemfontein SPCA. The lion is part of our big 5 in South Africa. The lion has huge status and as a country, we are supposed to be proud of our indigenous animals, but we have failed them. We cultivated an industry, legal or illegal, that misuses our animals for entertainment like hunting, bone trade, poaching, circus tricks, cub petting or keeping them in zoos or as pets. This must stop. We should leave these animals to be free in the wild without any human contact, but we have failed that as a country. These lions were captive, and they burned, these lions were never free.”

The organization noted that the lions are turned to cannibalism in a desperate attempt to stay alive, and they declared this to be the worst case of animal cruelty they had ever encountered.

A veterinarian helped assess the injuries on the lions, which included blistered and burned paws, bleeding lungs, burned faces, burned eyes, and blistered mouths. The organization wrote:

The pain that these lions had to endure. I cannot even try to imagine the pain.

Because the injuries were so severe, 30 lions had to be humanely euthanized. The organization described the flippant demeanor of the farm owner, who showed no care for the lions:

The owner wasn’t bothered to be present during any time of the inspection of the injuries nor during the euthanasia. He was laughing when he was issued a warning and we didn’t see him again. We issued multiple warnings for lack of water and shelter as we conduct daily inspections at the farm. The owner refuses to comply with any one of our warnings. He refuses to spend any money on these lions.
We opened a case of animal cruelty against the owners of the lions. These animals suffered immensely.

The animal welfare agency has received no financial help from the farm owner. You can help cover the costs that they incurred by making a donation. Learn more about how you can help at this link to Facebook.

Follow the National Animal News Facebook page for more news, updates and petitions.

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1 reply
  1. Diana Rowell says:

    After reading the details, then looking up other media reports from South Africa, the OWNER STARTED THIS FIRE. IT WAS NOT A WILDFIRE. Owner was getting pressured to follow MANDATORY REQUIREMENTS for care and not even the most basic standard of care was EVER given. In fact, it was previously reported NUMEROUS times by his OWN staff that these lions had BEEN STARVED for MANY months prior. So next YOU consider sending money or buying from countries like this, you may want to consider WHY you WANT to support animal torture, because in THEIR OWN words, that IS EXACTLY what YOU are doing.


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