Three hours’ drive from the ranch is Lionsrock, a former lion breeding farm transformed into a sanctuary for more than 80 abused big cats since it was bought by Four Paws.
Some come from local breeding farms, but Four Paws also rescues animals kept in appalling conditions in zoos in Romania, Jordan and the Congo. Unlike in the lion farms, the animals are not allowed to breed and instead live within large enclosures in their natural prides.
“If we can stop people supporting those industries in the first place and make them aware of what the life of a [captive-bred] lion is actually like, I believe there will be an outcry,” Miles said. “There’s far more value for a live lion long-term.”
Lion breeders such as Van der Merwe are not so sure.
She said her caged lions have little to do with canned hunting, but admits that if the authorities banned canned hunting, “it would probably not be good for us... There’s a lot of people from overseas coming to shoot lions. All the people know you come to Africa to shoot the lion. They surely bring some money into South Africa.”
She sees nothing wrong with hunting lions or keeping them in captivity. In fact, she said she is part of a family of animal lovers.
“We grew up with them, so it’s nice. It’s like babies in your house — when they are really small they walk around in your house and they follow you,” she said.