Two young lions, just over three years old, have proven that conservation by means of captive breeding is possible. Critics have been up in arms for some time now about lion farms that breed lions in captivity. According to these critics, captive-bred lions have no conservation value, as it would be impossible for them to survive out in their natural habitat.
Self-appointed ‘predator specialists’ propagate this notion to the public as a hard fact. Their entire argument rests on their belief that captive-bred lions can't survive in the wild. Research is currently underway to test this hypothesis.
Recently, two young captive-bred lions - one male and one female, bred and raised in captivity by Tienie Bamberger of Warthog Safaris - were released into a managed nature reserve as part of a research project undertaken on behalf of the South African Predator Association. The lions, that are not related, had never met until the start of their wild adventure.
As with most new romances, their union was preceded by intense negotiations, arrangements, and mountains of paperwork. The owner of the property on which they have been released, first had to apply for a permit for the lions to roam freely on his property. This was preceded by habitat assessments and visits from nature conservation officials to ensure that the area provided is adequate and has sufficient prey that are available to maintain two young, hungry lions. Finally, a permit that allowed the lions to be taken from the Free State to Limpopo sealed the deal.
On Saturday, the 15th of October, the animals were sedated, they were microchipped and DNA samples were taken to ensure that there would never be any suspicion about their origin. They were then relocated to their new home. Upon arrival, the lioness was excited to explore her new surroundings. The young male clearly enjoyed his nap, and after much encouragement, lazily made an appearance.
Like any young couple, the two will be spending some time in a 50-hectare area for and adaption period. Once they have found their Limpopo-feet, the lions will be released into the adjacent large, pristine nature reserve - a place filled with abundant prey and beautiful habitat. There the two lions will live without any human help or interference - completely reliant on their own instincts and ability. Out in the big, wild world, they will only have each other, and hopefully then, they will start a family.
While there is currently no plan to collar the lions, they will be carefully monitored. The aim is to support that captive-bred lions can adjust to the wild without much difficulty, and that their natural instincts will prevail. Lion breeders may not call themselves experts, but in their experience of working with the predators on a daily basis, when a lion bred in captivity is released into the wild, it does not take more than a day for instinct to kick in. Before long, the lion will stalk and catch a warthog or small antelope. Contrary to popular opinion, lions do not have to be taught to hunt, because it is in their nature; an instinct that runs in their very DNA.