The opportunity to cuddle lion cubs and feed them has an understandable appeal, and the promise of this experience attracts thousands of volunteers to South Africa every year. Many more tourists and celebrities are drawn by opportunities to take a selfie with a lion cub, or to pose on a 'walk with lions', with social media feeds being littered with the results.
If this kind of animal interaction is on your bucketlist, then you really need to see the new Blood Lions documentary that launched in South Africa last month.
Last night we were lucky enough to get tickets for one of three sold out screenings of Blood Lions in Cape Town. If you remember the BBC's Cook Report in 1997, or have followed the work of tireless lion advocates like Ian Michler and Chris Mercer, and organisations like CACH, then you will already have a good idea of what this movie is about.
If this is all new to you, then Blood Lions will soon have you up to speed with a disturbing expose that lifts the lid on the murky world of canned lion hunting, and introduces you to some of the characters and organisations that are involved.
Blood Lions follows the canned hunting process from start to end with undercover footage of the lionesses that are overbred to exhaustion, the cubs that are removed from their mothers after only a few weeks, the marketing of carefully staged 'canned hunts' and finally to the end of the line where these animals are shot, mounted as trophies and their remains sold off to the alternative medicine trade.
Baby lions are incredibly cute, and organisations offering lion cub petting and volunteering often have seemingly plausible reasons for having so many lion cubs, but the reality is that by petting a lion cub, you will in all likelihood be contributing to its demise through the canned lion hunting industry and lion bone trade.
The message is very clear. It's not okay to pet, feed or volunteer with lion cubs, or to 'walk with lions'. There is no conservation value in these activities, which provide a lucrative income stream for the owners, and often involve physical and emotional abuse of the animals.
Breeding farms operating under the guise of conservation have been fooling tourists and volunteers for long enough, but recent media attention on trophy hunters, Cecil, and the release of this movie are helping to turn the tide. With the world wide promotion of Blood Lions, we hope that ignorance will no longer be an excuse.
If you are interested in learning more about the canned lion hunting industry, and the truth behind unethical tourist traps that involve 'cub petting' and 'walking with lions', check out the links below and look for a screening of Blood Lions near you!