Uproar over SA’s own ‘Lion King’ hitting cub

Posted on 29 April 2020

A Swiss-born social media influencer residing in South Africa has come under fire after footage circulated showing him repeatedly punching one of his lions.

Much like the ‘stars’ of the recent hit Netflix documentary series, Tiger King, 27-year-old Dean Schneider has been living in South Africa in his wildlife park where he keeps lions and hyenas among other wildlife in an undisclosed wilderness estate.

On his popular Instagram account, Schneider is often seen playing and interacting with his lions, getting close and very playful and affectionate. His posts are popular among international audiences especially, for whom these interactions are exotic and unusual.

However, in late February, a video showing Schneider punch one his lions was released by Gabo, a wildlife conservation and welfare organisation that campaigns, among other causes, for stopping canned lion hunting.

In the video, shot in selfie-mode, Schneider can be seen lying down with two of his lions, including a male whose mane is visible facing away from the camera, and a lion cub. He plays with the lion cub’s meaty paw which is calmly resting on top of his head. Schneider lifts up its fur to reveal one of its sharp claws. The cub relaxes its paw, and its forelimb slides down his head onto his shoulder. While it’s not clear what the cub was doing exactly, the young lion must’ve scratched or poked Schneider a bit while playfully lazing about, which is when the influencer took a swipe and then a punch at the lion.

Many of Schneider’s fans defended his actions, saying that it was his way of asserting boundaries and part of pride dynamics. Others were a bit startled and couldn’t believe that he would do such a thing after seeing the way he interacts with the animals on Instagram.

Despite whatever people may think about his lifestyle and publicised affection for wild animals, lions and the like deserve to be free and captive breeding or petting is unethical.

Society’s appetite for exotic pets and wildlife does not benefit these animals.

Image: Facebook/Dean Schneider

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