White lions could be facing a renewed threat of extinction after trophy hunters were offered cut-price deals to shoot them.
The rate for killing the rare animals in South Africa has been slashed from £30,000 to £10,000.
Trophy hunting in the country brings in around £300million, but has taken a massive financial hit because of the Covid pandemic.
Now hunting companies are reducing prices and increasing the number of licences to customers from around the world, including Brits.
One of the main trophies for hunters of the “big five” is the rare white lion. There are just 20 left in the wild, and around another 300 in captivity.
They are bred as tourist attractions but when they get too big to be petted by children, the big cats are passed on to hunting safaris where they are often sold to the highest bidder.
Anti-hunt group XPose Trophy Hunting said: “We’ve seen dozens of trophy photos, with smiling killers standing over the white lions’ carcasses.
“White lions are rare in nature, but bred for their popularity with trophy killers. With no end in sight to this despicable practice in South Africa, the life of a lion has become cheap.”
White lions get their colouring, which causes their coats to become white, from a rare gene but they are not albinos.
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One company offering lions is Discount African Hunts, which runs trips in the Kalahari Desert region of South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.
On its website the company boasts: “Having a mythical trophy like the white lion in your game room will make you the envy of your fellow hunters!”
Those who can afford the fee get to stay in four-star hunting lodges with swimming pools. After the lion has been shot, many hunting companies send the carcass to a taxidermist.
It is skinned and turned into a rug for the hunter to take home. The animal’s bones are then sold to the Chinese medicine market.
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The company continues: “This is an exportable trophy white lion hunt in South Africa’s Kalahari Desert.
“You will stalk your lion on foot by using the honed skills of a tracker to follow the lion in the soft Kalahari sands.
“This is one of the most exciting ways to hunt a lion. Some stalks will result in charges or mock charges that will make your hair stand on end!”
One member of a hunting company, who asked not to be named, said: “We want wealthy Brits and Americans to come to Africa as soon as possible to start hunting again.
“The income for the last year has been zero. We have mouths to feed and businesses to run. A lot of people rely on us for their livelihood.
“Many of the anti-hunting lobby just don’t understand that hunting pays for conservation. If it wasn’t for hunting, many more animals would be extinct or endangered.”
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