Responsible Tourism: The Ugly Truth of Cub Petting

This post has been difficult to put into writing. While we now pride ourselves on being responsible tourists, the road we’ve traveled to get there has been a bit windy. As travelers, like so many others, we have made a lot of mistakes, but what you are about to read is by far our largest regret. As so many readers do not know us personally, please read this post with the knowledge that our coping mechanism tends to be humor with a large dash of sarcasm. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not take this post as an advertisement for cub petting. It is anything but. We are heartbroken over fueling this horrific industry and aim to spread awareness about the dangers of…


I mean, just look at this face!


Who wouldn’t want to romp around with LION CUBS!?


OMG! THIS little nugget playing with a rope toy!!


Look at this one surveying his tiny territory!


SQUEEEEEEEEEE! This one let me kiss his little noggin!!!!


LOOK!  Now we’re having a walk with a pack of lions! WOW!


This one even performed circus tricks for us!



Cool, right?  Well, let’s take off our rose-colored sunglasses.


What if I told you that these lion cubs were taken away from their mother at just two days old?


What if I told you that the park “rangers” told us to whack this little guy on the nose when he started to behave like a lion?


What if I told you 6 of these cubs were left in their crate (pictured in the background above) for 12+ hours without access to food or water?

What if I told you this lion face planted into the dirt while performing a circus trick for a piece of rotting chicken?  As we proceeded with the walk, he bled from the mouth the entire way back.


OK. OK.  Maybe I’m not being clear…

What if I told you every single one of these lions will never experience life outside captivity?


Every single one of these lions will face a very bleak future.  How do I know this, you may wonder?  Well, there has never been ONE LION successfully released into the wild after being hand-reared by humans.  NOT ONE.  








These lions are bred for ONE REASON…TOURISM.  To add to this already horrific industry, cub petting feeds directly into the canned hunting industry.

What’s canned hunting?

I’m going to take my own liberties with defining this term.  Canned hunting is when a person with too much disposable income enjoys being a big-game hunter but doesn’t have the time to hunt a predator outside of a controlled setting. (Anyone recall this asshole!? ).  Any coward with $50,000 and zero conscience can arrange a controlled hunt in South Africa.  In as little as 48 hours you’ll be headed home to mount your big game head on a wall in your big dumb house.

Hmm. So what does canned hunting have to do with cub petting!?  Let’s put the pieces together.

When tourists seek out lion lodges to visit in South Africa, they are bombarded with pictures just like the ones contained in this post. They’re undeniably cute and the thought of changing your profile picture to a snapshot of you smooching a lion cub’s little face is just too alluring! So, tourists flock to cub petting facilities where you hand over a hefty sum to snap the perfect selfie! As the cubs grow into lions they are exponentially less profitable, so the parks continue to breed cubs to keep a steady flow of uneducated tourists visiting their “sanctuaries”. So, simply, the parks fill up with adult lions that are no longer able to interact with humans, but also can’t be released into any other environment. Many of these lions are then sold to canned hunting farms where they await the same fate as Cecil, the highly publicized victim of a canned hunt.

We are not innocent.  We have blood on our hands and are guilty of being very, very irresposible tourists, but in an effort to spread awareness we are admitting to our huge mistake & shedding light on an issue that is often brushed under the proverbial (hopefully not lion print) rug.

For more information on cub-petting and the canned-hunting industry, we encourage beg you to visit BLOODLIONS.ORG & share this post on any and every platform you can!

In the weeks to come we will be exposing the lion park we visited in South Africa, as well as continuing this series on responsible tourism in relation to wild animals.





  1. Kelly Turpin

    November 4, 2016 at 3:41 am

    Thank you for sharing your experience. All animal tourism should be out lawed! Have pinned this post.

  2. Mohit

    November 4, 2016 at 6:25 am

    a great step to for the well being of the cubs and may more such animals suffering from the cruel human.

  3. Caitlin

    November 4, 2016 at 8:25 pm

    The more I learn about this sector of the tourism industry, the more amazed I become. I can’t imagine watching an animal grow up, then hand him over to be shot in one of those canned hunts. Absolutely horrible.
    I read that the beautiful Siberian tigers people get pictures with in Thailand are all drugged up so they remain calm and “picture perfect.” Just disgusting.
    I think a big step in pushing a stop to this is reaching out to as many travelers as possible. If more people become aware of this issue then there’s no way they will pay to have one of these “experiences.”

  4. Angie (FeetDoTravel)

    November 4, 2016 at 9:14 pm

    Sadly, us animal lovers have fallen foul over time with getting up close and personal with the wildlife not knowing the suffering they have endured so we do make mistakes. I am also guilty of it and I will be doing a post on it in the near future. It makes you human that you have acknowledged what has happened and that you are trying to stop it – that’s what I tell myself anyway! I will share this on Social Media and spread the word.

  5. Marinel

    November 6, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    there are much better ways to share nature with humans without hurting them. Thanks for writing this and educating people in the process.

  6. Jimmy and Tina

    November 7, 2016 at 8:35 am

    So Sad, I have never heard of cub petting! I’m working on an article that is not quite the same, but having difficulty trying to figure out how to write. I recently visited home and took my grandson to the zoo for a day. I had not been in a long time and the last few time had always felt sad for the animals. Particularly the Lions, I have never seen them no laying down, bored to death and depressed, just lying there in their tiny little glass cages! This is a free zoo so they don’t tend to put a lot of money into more humane facilities, So very sad!

  7. Paula - Gone with the Wine

    November 7, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    I get so sad with the stories like these 🙁 I hate seeing wild animals captured and exploited by the tourism. Sometimes it is hard to draw the line what is responsible tourism, I mean, tourism itself is quite polluting. But at least we make a difference with our choices in situations like described above. Good post!

  8. Carmen Baguio

    November 8, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    Such a great article which is so needed. So many animals are abused so we can have the perfect picture. I pinned this.

  9. neha

    November 9, 2016 at 6:52 am

    Feel so sad whenever I go through such stories. Hope initiatives like these will one day swipe the world off animal cruelity

  10. Milena

    November 9, 2016 at 8:17 am

    That’s so sad. I don’t understand how something like that can bring pleasure to anybody. I don’t even visit ZOO or any other place where animals could be treated in a bad way.

  11. Diana - MVMT Blog

    November 10, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    Thank you for sharing this, and I can relate to your regret as I once held a baby black bear at a tourist attraction similar to this before I came to understand everything you just explained in your post. It is really disgusting how people treat these animals. I’m very careful and skeptical now going to places to see wild animals. For instance, I’m going to Thailand in March and am planning on going to an elephant nature park where there is absolutely no riding the elephants or doing anything to harm them, but I did a lot of research on this and am continuing to research these parks before my trip. This is a very important article for everyone to read!

  12. Katie

    November 10, 2016 at 7:17 pm

    This is such a sad area of tourism! I avoid all attractions like this, firstly because of the mistreating of animals but also because its incredibly dangerous. These animals live in such harsh conditions, we have no clue what actions they may take.

  13. Deni

    November 11, 2016 at 1:29 am

    It’s hard to believe that many people still don’t understand how animal tourism works. I couldn’t imagine visiting one of these places and having to punish baby lions for acting wild. I haven’t visited a zoo or an aquarium for years because of this. (The documentary Blackfish really solidified my decision on this.) Thank you for bringing this to attention. Also, when are you planning to expose the name of this lion park?

  14. Janine

    November 11, 2016 at 3:23 am

    I have participated in some tourism with animals, but only the surface. I don’t agree with getting animals who are naturally ferocious to be tamed or domesticated for human gain. I am saddened that these gorgeous lions must endure this. I am sad that these activities continue due to the need of money and tourism. I pray for God’s animals. I cried when Cecil was killed by that dentist and even more when the last white rhino died last year making them extinct.

  15. Lisa

    November 11, 2016 at 6:23 am

    Ugh, these kinds of facilities make my skin crawl. It makes me really sad that these animals are so mistreated because in theory, I really would like to pet a lion cub, but I could never live with myself for contributing to this cycle. Thank you for sharing this article, hopefully the message becomes widely spread enough that most tourists will boycott.

  16. Suz

    November 11, 2016 at 4:37 pm

    I’ve seen a few friends post photos of trips like these; they go to Africa and one of their favorite things to do is go to cub petting parks. It always makes me feel so sick to my stomach, and when I try to point out the flaws in these grand adventures, they don’t seem to show any remorse. To each their own, but I so wish more people were like you. You used your experience to shed light on this tragic practice. Thank you for sharing your story and spreading the word that these experiences are not OK.

  17. Ticking the Bucketlist

    November 11, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    ooh!!! The cubs are treated so terribly…thanks for sharing. I came to know of simialr stuff about the tiger temple in Thailand too. Its time for animal lovers to share such posts and put and end to such attractions!

  18. Kate

    November 11, 2016 at 8:08 pm

    It’s tough, we all want to engage with nature (which is great) but it is often forgotten that there are consequences. Who wouldn’t want to cuddle an adorable lion cub, wolf cub, baby elephant what have you but these are wild animals. NOT domesticated and being punished for ‘being a lion’ is crazy. Thanks for sharing this I think it is a really important topic to talk about in the travel community!

  19. Maria

    November 13, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your experience and this information with us. Is special sad that most of the people that feed this industry genuinely love animasl but are also naif about the situations and think they are doing no harm or even helping sheltered animals.

  20. Courtney Jones

    November 16, 2016 at 8:39 pm

    I used to want to cub pet so much, so I’m glad I started to learn more about it before I actually participated!

  21. Lynne Sarao

    January 16, 2017 at 4:02 am

    Well that is just so disturbing and discouraging. I would absolutely love to pet and play with these adorable little lions.. but not if it means they will be thrown to the wolves when they grow up. That makes me so incredibly sad.

  22. The Travel Ninjas

    January 17, 2017 at 1:47 am

    We’ve made similar mistakes ourselves with animal encounters around the world. Once you learn the truth, you just feel awful about participating. It’s great that you’re spreading the truth about these lion encounters.

  23. Taiss TogetherInThailand

    January 17, 2017 at 5:40 am

    More posts like this are needed to make tourists more aware. We have fallen into the “trap” because of our ignorance at one time as well. I petted lion cubs in Mexico and we went elephant riding here in Chiang Mai. I hate that there are people that make a business out of using animals. Tourists should be encouraged to give their money to ACTUAL sanctuaries where you may not be able to interact as much with the animals, but they get to be animals and have a good life. I will be sharing this!

  24. Nomadic Foot

    January 17, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    this is so shocking for me. how can they do this with these innocent cubs. its so disturbing.

  25. Sandy N Vyjay

    January 19, 2017 at 5:03 am

    I feel so bad after reading such article. Animals are being exploited by using them for tourism area.
    The staff that works at such places is so cruel. People are doing such sad things by naming them as tourist attraction.
    Thanks for writing this powerful post.

  26. Andreea Bujor

    January 22, 2017 at 11:46 am

    This is made me feel sad because i know how true it is all what you wrote. Now that i think about it, i was not aware how the little ones are being taken from their moms (I even posted a photo with one on my instagram unfortunately ..), this is an awakening post..:( we live in a world where everything is getting to be a business, we should return to our roots before is too late.

  27. Aubrie

    January 23, 2017 at 2:20 am

    This post breaks my heart and thank you for writing it so that everyone is informed and can improve on this together. This reminds of me of a similar experience trying to find an elephant sanctuary in Thailand where the elephants aren’t mistreated and taken away from their parents when they are little!

  28. Sheena

    January 23, 2017 at 7:05 am

    This is really powerful writing, I’m feeling quite emotional after reading. It makes my boil that this kind of stuff is happening in the world, especially canned hunting, there’s just no reasoning in that. Thank you for the enlightenment, this will stay with me for some time.

  29. Lauren

    January 24, 2017 at 8:28 pm

    It is absolutely horrific. I’m putting together a piece right now about responsible animal tourism on my blog. It’s a round-up of everything you should avoid when it comes to animals in tourism, and the better alternatives (ie. going on a safari where they live in the wild and we observe from afar). Would you be interested in contributing a couple of paragraphs about this? Please feel free to send me an email! – I’ll link back to this blog post in the article so people can read more about it, too! Thanks!

  30. Annika

    April 5, 2017 at 4:45 am

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Not much left to say but – eeeeek 🙁

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