Investigators launch criminal probe into illegal lion hunting
Animal welfare investigators launch criminal probe into illegal lion hunting and bone smuggling in South Africa – where 300 farms breed the big cats just to be shot or butchered
- A Lord Ashcroft-led mission detailed the horrors of South Africa’s lion industry
- More than 300 farms breed lions to be shot by the rich or killed for their bones
- Footage shows a lioness being shot at ten times while perching on a tree
Animal welfare investigators in South Africa have launched a criminal probe after The Mail on Sunday revealed shocking evidence of illegal lion hunting and bone smuggling.
Doug Wolhuter, a senior inspector at the NSPCA, South Africa’s largest animal welfare organisation, last night said he was ‘horrified’ at video footage showing a lioness being shot out of a tree and then riddled with bullets.
Last week, this newspaper revealed the details of an extraordinary eight-month undercover operation organised by former Tory deputy chairman Lord Ashcroft to expose the horrors of South Africa’s lion industry.
More than 300 farms are breeding lions either to be shot by wealthy hunters in enclosures or butchered for the grisly trade in lion skeletons.
HORROR: Lord Ashcroft told of his undercover operation in last week’s MoS
Doug Wolhuter, a senior inspector at the NSPCA, South Africa’s largest animal welfare organisation, last night said he was ‘horrified’ at video footage showing a lioness being shot out of a tree and then riddled with bullets (stock photo)
The operation, which is revealed in Lord Ashcroft’s new book Unfair Game, involved a team of ex-British Army and security service personnel who recruited a lion dealer as a ‘double agent’ and planted tracking devices in lion skulls destined to be sold to the Far East.
Among the evidence obtained by the team was harrowing seven-and-a-half minute video footage of a lioness being shot ten times as she perched precariously in a tree. It is claimed the shooting took place at a tourist facility and wedding venue.
Lord Ashcroft’s team also captured evidence which appeared to show a pack of dogs being used to illegally hunt a captive-bred lion in a fenced enclosure.
Mr Wolhuter, manager of the Wildlife Protection Unit at the NSPCA, which has police powers under South Africa’s Animal Protection Act, said Lord Ashcroft’s team had collected ‘some really damning footage’ and that a criminal investigation has been launched. ‘Some of it was really horrific, including the footage of the lioness being shot in the tree,’ he said.
‘The first shot appears to hit the lion in the elbow area. But judging from only what we can see on the footage, it appears there was never a clear shot.
‘There was no fair chase – in fact there was nothing fair about it, at all. Under the Animals Protection Act 71 of 1962, it is a criminal offence to cause unnecessary cruelty.
‘It is outright cruel and excessive to take nine or more shots and any true hunter could never be proud of that.’
He said other footage captured by Lord Ashcroft’s team appears to include an individual whom the NSPCA recently charged with contravening the Animal Protection Act, and this investigation is still ongoing.
Meanwhile, Lord Ashcroft’s ‘double agent’ claimed that lion bones are being smuggled out of South Africa via Johannesburg Airport with the help of corrupt airport officials.
Lord Ashcroft’s team also captured evidence which appeared to show a pack of dogs being used to illegally hunt a captive-bred lion in a fenced enclosure (stock photo)
Mr Wolhuter added: ‘We believe there has to be an element of corruptness there or we wouldn’t see bones getting smuggled out of the country.
‘They are picking up lion bones in checks at the airport.’
Last year, a South African police chief rejected a mountain of evidence collected by Lord Ashcroft’s team and told the peer’s chief investigator he was ‘lucky’ not to be in jail.
Mr Wolhuter said this was ‘heartbreaking’ and stressed that it is crucial for South Africa’s tourism industry that the abuse of lions and the illegal trade in lion bones is stamped out.
His comments came as former Tory Cabinet Minister Andrew Mitchell said he was discussing with other MPs how to support Lord Ashcroft’s campaign in Parliament. ‘Lord Ashcroft has done everyone a huge service exposing this horrific and disgusting business,’ he added.
Source: Read Full Article