Before considering cub petting or volunteering in a facility that allows close interactions with cubs, pause, research and think about the consequences…
A vast number of animal lovers choose to ‘volunteer’ at cat parks and sanctuaries that are nothing else than big cats breeding & cub petting facilities posing as conservation enterprises. This includes lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards, and even jaguars in South America.
Of course, who would not want to help and ‘hug’ a cub supposedly in need? This is often done in the name of saving them and their wild siblings, when in reality the only thing it does for sure is endangering them further.
More and more you can read the posts from volunteers who do not understand the harm of what they are doing, ignorant of the consequences of their actions, although these have been very clearly and repeatedly stated by renowned scientists, conservationists, and animal behaviorists. These armies of volunteers mean to do good but the reality is totally the opposite. A lot are fooled, their ignorance used. Some of these fierce ‘volunteers’ –when their mistake is revealed– even choose to promote and defend their actions and those facilities vehemently. It is very alarming to see that and truly heartbreaking to witness…
It has to be clear that these so-called conservation facilities contribute directly to the extinction of the wild species they say they help ‘conserving’.
Trying to identify the good from the bad places is most needed. Groups such as ‘Volunteer in Africa Beware‘ (focusing there on Africa) are doing a great job at raising awareness about this plague. Sometimes the interactions get heated and a little too emotional (understandably so) and they try very hard to raise awareness and educate about an unethical activity that is spreading rapidly.
Before volunteering at any cat park, cat sanctuary and alike, please try to get as much information as possible about the mission of that facility. This so that you can make an informed and ethical decision. Asking past volunteers is far from being enough and might be totally irrelevant (there is so much gratification in petting a cub that some accept any excuse to justify it) unless they are biologists specialized in big cats, animal behaviorists, and true experts in the domain.
Read more why cub petting is detrimental to the wild populations and harmful to the individuals being petted; how lion cub petting is for instance linked to canned hunting (a.k.a. captive-bred hunting) as well as how it contributes to the trade of lion bones used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
- What happens to those little cubs used in cub petting experiences? (CACH Campaign)
- Canned Hunting and Cub-Petting are Big Business in South Africa
- Possible relationships between the South African captive-bred lion hunting industry and the hunting and conservation of lions elsewhere in Africa (Panthera org research article)
- Blood Lions YouTube channel
We also recommend the very good and eye-opening short documentary (Saving Serabie) made by Alexandra Lamontagne who discovered shortly after a volunteering trip the fate of the lion cub she had cared for (with an interview of Chris Mercer, known conservationist and Founder of CACH).
Although this post focuses more on the cases of lions, please remember that this applies to any big cat and their cubs!
Other EwA recommendations on this issue:
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◊ First published Jun 7th, 2015 | Our tips are regularly revised and improved.