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Chris Mercer - Campaigning for lion rights

Chris Mercer hails from Zimbabwe (formally Rhodesia). The founder and director of Campaign Against Canned Hunting (CACH) has dedicated over 20 years of his life advocating for captive lions bred for the bullet. Now residing in the Karoo Wildlife Centre in Ladismith, Chris recounts his role as conservation activist and continues to be a voice for the voiceless, despite acknowledging that he may not live long enough to see a ban on canned lion hunting in South Africa. 

“Bev (my late wife) and I came down here with nothing. For the first 9 months, we slept on the floor because we couldn’t afford any beds. But I set up a business to generate foreign currency and expand Zimbabwe dollars. I managed to get all my money out and suddenly, I found myself going from abject poverty to being able to retire – not wealthy – for 33 years now.

“About 20 years ago, we were operating a wildlife sanctuary in the Kalahari when the Cook Report came out and exposed canned lion hunting in 1997. Because we were working in the field of conservation, we realised how captured conservation was. We knew the public outrage would soon dissipate and public focus would move on to something else. The lions would be forgotten because there’s so much other noise. We made up our minds then and there that we would focus on canned lion hunting and make sure that we continue to publicise the plight of the lions.

Chris Mercer lives in the Garden Route and is the founder of the Campaign Against Canned Hunting
Chris Mercer is an activist against canned lion hunting

“I don’t worry about the future; I just go day by day. I suppose I’m a sucker for lost causes."

“When we realised that we were beating our heads against a brick wall trying to get conservation to take action against canned hunting, we decided to focus on the tourism industry because the lion farmers make a lot of money out of cub petting, walking with lions and, more recently, the lions bones once the carcass is there. So we focused on attacking these spin-offs. We work with animal welfare colleagues around the world on their tourism associations to provide fair trade guidelines in which people would be notified that, by petting cubs, they were directly contributing to the canned hunting industry.

“I don’t worry about the future; I just go day by day. I suppose I’m a sucker for lost causes. When I started, we were saying things like ‘Lion farming has no conservation value, it will stimulate illegal trade and poaching’. We were regarded as the lunatic fringe. Now, what we were saying has become mainstream. Everybody’s saying it – the hunting industry, parliament, the 12,000 conservation scientists in the IUCN. They are calling upon the South African government to ban canned lion hunting. There is no chance in hell that they will. The only way it will ever stop, is if the whole hunting industry tells the government to stop. However, our pressure has managed to split them; half wants to ban canned lion hunting and the other half doesn’t. The South African government is conflicted. If you ask me, that’s enormous progress. But we’re a long way from a ban.

“The Karoo Wildlife Centre is a project of CACH. After the Global March for Lions, we received some donations for the first time and suddenly found ourselves with a bit of money. So we decided to take our life savings and add in the donations to buy this piece of land and treat it as a sanctuary. We registered the land in the name of the campaign so that when I turn my toes up and stiffen in my bed, this place will carry on being a sanctuary.”

Chris Mercer on the Karoo Wildlife Centre in Ladismith

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  • Fiona Ayerst April 15 2019

    awesome work Chris and Anisa- keep it up

  • Glenn Scott April 19 2019

    I would like to meet you Chris..

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