Animal suffering


The young Styx lion male


To intervene or not to intervene?  What is our moral obligation?

Since yesterday my telephone has been ringing non-stop and I have received numerous emails alerting us to the predicament of a young male lion in the southern region of the Sabi Sands.  It is one the reserves adjoining the Kruger National Park.  Fences have been removed between the park and various private properties and wild animals move freely between the areas.

It appears that a young male lion known as the Styx Male Lion by rangers and guest are trying to establish a new territory after he had been driven from his pride.   About it month ago (so we are told) this young lion was unfortunately badly injured in a territorial fight.  As a direct result of a bad injury to one of his back leg or hip his physical condition started to deteriorate.  In his weakened state this young lion’s misfortune was not yet over and he was soon involved in yet another territorial dispute and sustained further injuries.  One injury saw his eyelid ripped open.  Fortunately his eye (so it seems from photographs) remained in tact.  Whatever the full extent of his injury is, his physical condition continues to deteriorate and many rangers and their guest have found this unfortunate creature’s obvious suffering emotionally distressing.

Sadly life for lions in the wild can be extremely difficult and what may seem cruel to us is a natural occurrence in the wild and many lions faces serious injury and death as a result.  It is part of nature fortunately or unfortunately.

Now let’s for a moment address moral and ethical issues here.  If and when wild animals find themselves in trouble national and provincial authorities and parks managers will in most instances when confronted by animal lovers immediately refer to their respective policies which in most instances are to not interfere with nature, but after receiving the email below this morning asking me what our position would be on the matter I felt compelled to reply.

I have removed the identification of the individual who emailed me as well as the names of the respective lodges simple as it really does not matter where this tragedy is playing out.  What matters is how we are humans respond to those in need – be it another suffering human being or animal.

Below are the details of an email we received and our subsequent reply on the matter


Sent: Wednesday, August 08, 2012 4:45 AM


Subject: Responsible Intervention

SanWild Wildlife Trust

Dear Ms. Joubert,

I am interested in finding out what the SanWild Wildlife Trust’s standing is on the acceptable handling of wild animals who find themselves in a situation of need following skirmishes, drought, human interaction etc.

In particular a lion in the …….. area has been attacked apparently on 2 different occasions, the first time leaving him with a severe leg injury and the second one with his left eye area ripped up. This started probably a month ago and while the lion was able to get food before the second injury, it was barely enough to sustain him. He has been seen on several occasions and by all accounts, appears to be getting worse and worse.

The general population is divided in that he should be left alone to either succumb or improve. Those that are watching the slow deterioration are at a stage of asking – as humans responsible for the planet earth and who are in a position to help this animal – why are we letting him suffer (a political choice) when we could either euthanize him OR help him recover with food once or twice a week, or at least antibiotics. This may not be following the natural course of life in the wild, however, Lions are also diminishing at an alarming rate through human encroachment, hunting or poaching. In the past 50 years lions have gone from a healthy number of 450,000 down to an alarming low of 20,000. WE are the cause of many of their problems and yet they are expected to amuse the masses who pay large sums of money to view them. Aiding ONE lion at a time of need surely cannot be such a horrendous error. Allowing Game Rangers to use their discretion on a ‘case by case’ basis on any of the ‘Big Five’ surely is something that can be allowed. They are the front line people and have a solid understanding of life and death in the wild. They are not trying to save every lion in the park or divert a kill. But they are the keepers of these animals and therefore should be allowed to make occasional decisions to protect them against unnecessary pain and suffering.

Is it not incumbent upon us to have a rule/law that allows for the occasional intervention in cases such as this? Sitting on the side lines watching the very slow death of ANY animal should be outlawed. He has – so far – managed to avoid the other coalitions that roam the area, but should they come upon him again, they will tear him apart. By euthanizing him – nothing changes – he is still consumed by other predators – the human law makers can go to bed happy.

Please advise if this is a viable request and if you can assist by pointing us in the right direction. Any assistance would be greatly appreciated.



From: Louise Joubert

Sent: Wednesday, August 08, 2012 8:45 AM


Subject: Re: Responsible Intervention

Dear …………..

In the SanWild Wildlife Sanctuary we do intervene whenever a wild animal needs help. If any animal is found to be beyond help (i.e. an antelope with a broken leg for example) we will put such an animal down without delay. If an animal can be helped we will where possible provide food and veterinary assistance.

However in other reserves like those adjoining the Kruger National Park and the park itself the management have their own rules and on a personal level, although I can understand some of their arguments I unfortunately cannot agree with it. Let me give you an example. Some time ago a very small white rhino calf’s mother was killed by poachers. She remained by her dead mother’s side desperately trying to suckle from her dead body while the CSI team did their work on gathering information. Later in the day an instruction was received from head office to shoot the small calf. No attempt was made to capture it (even though it would have been so easy for them) or help it. It could have been sent to any rehab facility to be hand raised and returned to the wild. In their comments to a media enquiry they mentioned had it been a black rhino calf they would have helped. Now this type of rationale makes no common sense and it in my opinion is downright cruel and shows an attitude to wildlife which is really not acceptable on compassionate and moral grounds. Sometimes I truly doubt that the authorities have too much of that left.

Now let’s look at predator dynamics. Yes indeed predators in the wild do not have such a royal life as we may believe. They fight for territories and they will kill each other for various reasons but this does not mean that we need to look at their situation without any compassion. After all we are the species that fence them into pockets of land and we build our settlements all around them making it almost impossible for young males to move away and find new territories of their own. If they are misfortune enough to move onto land used by humans we persecute and kill them at any possible opportunity that presents itself. In such instances we have no problem interfering with nature!

The argument from parks and large reserves remain that “they do not interfere with the natural rhythm of nature”; and this argument has been used extensively when it comes to helping a wild animal in need. What is really upsetting about this it that when it comes to an animal’s suffering it seems that supposedly intelligent and highly qualified individuals cannot use their logic and the experience gained over the years insofar as predator dynamics is concerned to show compassion to a suffering animal. Their argument is that should they give in to public sentiment it will set a dangerous precedent; again this argument in my opinion is flawed – there is simply never a right reason to do the wrong thing and if ending suffering will set a dangerous precedent I give it my full support. More people need to set the example of extending compassion and understanding to any suffering – be it a human or animal. Compassion can never be wrong!

Saying that their decisions is based on not interfering with nature is quite lame as the 1st day as humans took land from wild animals and started fencing them off in pockets of land we interfered anyway. The moment we created artificial waterholes and built our lodges in their territories we interfered. The moment parks decided on an annual culling or take off (hunting) of certain species as in our opinion there were too many of them, we interfered. So to bring forward this argument when an individual animal is suffering it quite pathetic in my humble opinion and I will never condone suffering of any kind.

From wildlife rescue and rehabilitation perspective indeed help can and should have been extended in my opinion and as an organisation we would be happy to carry the cost.

Sadly it seems from the latest reports I received last night, the lion may be beyond help already and the only help that now remains is to put it to sleep. Please keep in mind I am making this observation on hearsay and 2nd hand reports. I have not seen the lion. We have offered our help insofar as veterinary assistance and supplement feeding is concerned but I guess while people play their political games here this lion’s suffering will continue. I am frustrated that our hands are unfortunately tied in this matter as I would have loved to help this brave young lion – even if it meant relocating him to a new destination. He has truly gripped the hearts and minds of good people who have witnessed his gradual deterioration and struggle for survival. After all it is not his fault he was born into an uncaring world and for putting human emotions to a wild animal will most probably have me branded as a bunny-hugger and idiot once again, but so what?

Like Martin Luther King (jnr) said: “Never, never, be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way”.

After all a little bit of compassion goes a heck of a long way to making this world a better place for all who share our planet – humans and animals alike!


31 thoughts on “Animal suffering

  1. I know you good work Louise and I have the great respect for you. I try to support you financially when I can. However, letting this young lion perish without attempting to intervene makes me very, very upset.

    1. its a bloody disgrace and should be delt with asap – to intervene of not hmmmmmmmm yes, you do intervene in my book – sorry but, this is so sad and should be delt with now – there should be no question to ask 🙁

  2. Thank you Louise, for bringing this issue to light….we all know about rules and regulations and the life of the wild animal….but I also feel if intervention is possible and we can save an soon to be endangered species. then we should try…I am so confused about people’s reaction to this matter…especially the readers…they want posts (good or bad) so they can put up a happy or sad face…but post a picture and they feel insulted and turn away….I really don’t understand their view. It is hard to want to be a conservationist or at least help..where do you draw the line and say I will help this one…but you must take care of yourself and suffer needlessly…he could be euthanized if they feel he is a lost cause even if he survives his injuries. Otherwise, dart him with some antibiotics…and I say this knowing people will say where will the money come from…as always have we ever let our animals down….well maybe this time.

  3. Because lions are so heavily hunted (because of habitat decrease, etc…), suffer the consequences of feline AIDS epidemic …and they are to become the next target for the chinese market (now that tigers are running out)…we are in obligation to support lions and wildlife in general in every way we can…old rules cannot work in our time where wildlife is in such crisis CAUSED BY HUMANS…intervention is a moral obligations!


  5. He needs to be helped. Whenever we put a fence around something we have a moral obligation to care for what we have place within that fenced area. The plant and animal life need to be managed within a protected area to ensure its wellbeing.

  6. He needs to be helped I definitely agree with Richard….things are different when we put a fence around- it makes us responsible for the animals well being. the poor animal must be in a lot of pain. Give him to SanWild???

  7. omg i cant believe there is a question here 🙁 yes, he needs help and should get it asap, i am very happy to dontate but, will not untill i know the money is being spent on the animals – sorry if i sound angry but, these poors lions need our help

  8. You must save this young lion , we humans have altered too much in nature . We leave them no choice . If humans had not encroached on their land i am sure this fellow would have found his territory but THE TRUTH IS WE HAVE COMPLETELY MESSED UP THEIR LIVES . Now is the time that we humans have to show our gratitude to these animals . Times have changed wildlife is in peril , like Tigers and the Rhinos , you will see that poaching is going to take a toll on lions too . So saving an endangered animal we must . That is a moral thing to do .

  9. As it is obvious that helping this Lion is not so black and white as it seems..and keeping in mind that Nature should be left untouched…..
    Taking into consideration the rapidly decreasing population of the Earth’s Lions, things need to be changed in today’s world , and in cases like this, help should be Given to help them survive…
    We have interfered in decreasing their numbers gravely……………so we should also interfere in helping them………

  10. I believe there are two questions to be answered. 1. Is the reserve prepared to have this young lion removed, to be taken care of elsewhere?. If so, it needs to be done AT THE EARLIEST POSSIBLE TIME, to give him a fighting chance of surviving, and there are people who can help here..
    2. If they are NOT prepared for someone else to take care of this lion, they need to ask themselves a question – is this Lion caught in a territorial no mans land that will NOT allow it to successfully establish itself, were it in good health and able to fend for itself? If the answer is yes, all things being equal and the Lion healthy, that it has no place to go, then, on looking at the state of health this animal is in (and the poor beast looks as if he is already at a point of no return health wise) then, in all good conscience please put him out of his misery. Sad as it is to loose the gene pool potential of another lion, if he is found by another predator now, he is in no fit state to protect himself and ‘in Natures way” he would be killed. The fact that many are aware of his plight takes the ‘political’ aspect out of the action required – it is a humane thing to do – simple as that. The alternative to this is that, were he in good health would he be able to move into another larger territory (say the KNP if this reserve is alongside and open to the KNP.) then the owners, I believe, have the duty to give this animal every possible chance to survive, and so must remove him instantly from this clear and present danger, treat and care for him until he is mended and able to fend for himself, and then return him to a new area, where his chances of survival were then left in the hands of “Mother Nature”.. The present reserve owners have, I believe, an obligation to the care and protection of animals under their jurisdiction, and need to stop sitting on the fence – make a decision that is anything other than ‘lets wait and see’ – would they allow an Elephant stuck in a mud pool and drowning to stand by and watch it happen if they could get the animal out, or would they save it from a certain slow death by shooting it and leaving the carcass for other predators to feed on. – or, – were they to find a Leopard caught in a snare and unable to escape would they leave it with its neck cut open, to bleed out and die a horrificaly slow death, or remove it from the snare and help it heal, to later be reintroduced to the wild. To me, in this instance, there has to be some sort of intervention – the question of what to do and responsibility (to intervene or euthenase) lies with the owners of the reserve this Lion is in – they cannot , must not, just leave him like this! They need to act NOW!

  11. Hi Louise, the moral and ethical thing to do is to save him. He has been brought to our attention for a reason, and he must be helped. The Lions are dying, everyone is precious. Please help if you can before anything else happens to him.

  12. HELP HIM!!!!!!!!!!!!!! No brainer!!!!!! Then return him to the wild!!!! We are losing too many of our wildlife and its time to intervene!!!!!!!

  13. Humans have tried to conquer everything in their path, take what they want, and don’t care who or what they hurt. We need to give back to this world and help those who need it. This lion obviously needs assistance and we should step up and help as much as we can afford to. I encourage everyone who have posted to donate as much or as little as you can, to help these magnificent creatures. I will be donating to their cause today. Will you join me?

  14. why even a question to helping this poor innocent lion ” why !!! he has just as much rights to be here as we all do ” they are Gods creation NOT OURS TO DECIDE HIS FATE … he has to be saved ” as well as others who are in his same predicament … they have battled the battles of lifes trials and tribulations for many we have to give back with that said im gonna intervene … at the end of the day its a life ” and life is a gift from God to both animals and humans this is the moral ting to do his life <3

  15. Just like mankind… take the resources and sit back and watch the victims suffer and die a slow death… it’s like a cruel blood lust we have

  16. Please HELP him. This lion is cornered because of OUR mistakes. Heal and release into another area where he has less compitition and can thrive with a pride of his own!

  17. The lion population is diminished due to human activity, we owe them compassion and a fair go at survival. If he is sedated, treated, temporarily held before relocation, surely this is the decent thing to do .

  18. Give this Lion a chance, there are so many things the human race is doing to wipe out lots of species in Africa, do not let him die, he needs our help.

  19. Yep. Stop the analysis paralysis and INTERVENE. We have already disturbed their environment plenty. The least we can do now is provide some form of compensation. Sorry but why are we such f—-d up humans, that we sit around discussing this, justifying why not why to? Food drops, water drops whatever we can, when the extreme situations arise we need to save lives. God I hate all the pretentious political correctness that humans get caught up in. In human affairs and animal affairs. Sorry, but I feel so angry and so helpless. Thank you to all that are out there doing the doing!!