Kate on Conservation

IAPWA launches ‘Claws Out’ film to expose the truth about volunteering with lions in South Africa


Sometimes the world (or at least the digital world) needs a shockwave sent through it, to dispel miseducation and inspire action. Claws Out, a new film by Beth Jennings for the charity IAPWA (International Aid for the Protection & Welfare of Animals), may signal the start of just that.

A personal story made into an intimate, hard-hitting documentary, Claws Out explores the realities of tourists and gap year students volunteering with lions and lion cubs in South Africa (from cuddling and bottle-feeding cubs to walking with lion experiences) and how these popular tourist activities conceal dark links to the canned hunting industry — where lions are raised to become accustomed to human-interaction and later shot in captivity by high-paying hunters.

Claws Out Beth Jennings at lion breeding facility
Beth, volunteering with lions in South Africa — unaware of the implications

Often, grisly ‘trophy’ body parts are removed from the hunted lions, and the remaining skeletons are used to fuel the lion bone trade; which supplies the traditional Asian Medicine industry — both legally and illegally, depending on its network.

The full film is available to view online here:

Premiered at last week’s IAPWA ‘Art for Wildlife’ event; which celebrated 10 years of the charity’s work, Claws Out was met with gasps, as the shady cycle of a lion’s life in this form of captivity was revealed on screen. 

Through undercover footage and interviews with the likes of ‘Blood Lions’ director Ian Michler, a ‘canned lion’s‘ life cycle was revealed from hand-reared cub (which Claws Out campaign manager Beth Jennings found herself duped into playing a role in), right the way through to the tragic scenes of an adult male lion being shot and killed for money. The rapturous applause at the end of the film was well deserved. 

Claws Out screening at IAPWA event at the Royal Geographical Society in London

I’ve previously covered on this blog my own experience of naively being tricked into a cub petting experience 10 years ago, which ultimately would have fed into this cruel industry. You can read more about that here.

As well as this important film — which is certainly close to my heart — last weekend’s IAPWA showcase event also included a brilliant campaign to highlight the plight of rhinos and elephants, which are two species at serious risk from poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.

Carla Fraser, Producer of the short film ‘Grey Futures‘, ran the campaign #HearThem — which invited children from around the world to be a voice for the species’, by recording a video in which they answered questions on behalf of rhinos and elephants about what they feel is happening to their species and what they think could be done to help.

It was truly heart-warming to see the videos the kids had made, including films from schoolchildren in Zambia (pictured above), who actually live alongside these animals on a daily basis.

Both these campaigns feel particularly important to me at the moment, as I’ve delved deeper into the illegal wildlife trade over recent months, and as I recount my own experiences of seeing these charismatic African mammals during my weekly ‘Shamwari diaries‘ blog posts. The importance of protecting these species and raising awareness of the issues they face is never far from my mind.

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Learn more about canned hunting…

Want to know more about the lion hunting industry?

Learn more about rhinos and the horn trade

Want to hear more about rhino poaching?

Learn more about elephants

Want to know more about African elephants?

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