The South African government is facing intense pressure to ban the canned lion hunting trade, as part of global efforts to protect the long term survival of the lion species.
People from around the world will be gathering in over 60 cities on Saturday to take part in the Global March for Lions. They will be calling for action from South Africa, but also from international governments which are in turn being urged to take measures to stop the importation of lion parts.
The Global March which will see different individual marches converging mostly on South African embassies worldwide, will culminate in the handing over of a formal document, demanding an end to canned hunting.
The global action on Saturday forms part of ongoing efforts to protect lions in the wild, with fewer animals living free than those in captivity. Canned hunting is legal in South Africa, where lions are bred in captivity ultimately as commodities in the tourism trade. They are hand reared for use in the cub petting industry, where thousands of tourists handle them as babies. But when these tame lions are big enough, they are the subject of canned hunting: shot and killed in an enclosure, displayed as trophies in exchange for large sums of money.
Lion bones are also a source of huge income, with Asian markets touting the bones as having 'medicinal' properties. This trade is also booming and is said to be linked to a rise in wild lion poaching.
Wildlife activist Chris Mercer, the head of the Campaign against Canned Hunting says there is "unspeakable cruelty" in the canned hunting and captive breeding process. His organisation has also warned that the impact on and threat to wild lions is serious.
The group says the on-going capture of wild lions to introduce fresh blood into captive breeding, as well as the growth of the lion bone trade to Asia will impact severely on wild lions.
An estimate 2,592 lion trophies were exported from South Africa to the United States and a further 1,206 to EU Member States, during 2007 through 2012. Linda Tucker, from the Global White Lion Protection Trust, told SW Radio Africa that the problem "is a crisis of huge magnitude."
"We are talking about the captive killing of captive lions for tourism. Lions are being force to breed to become commodities. And those same cubs that are petted by tourists are then put before the bullet," Tucker said.
He added: "We are talking here about protecting a global heritage. And our main focus needs to be on protecting wild lions so we have a heritage to look forward to. The related issue is the shutting down of an industry that treats lion abominably."
Members of the public are being urged to either take part in the Global March on Saturday, or join the ongoing efforts to shut the industry down. More information about how people can get involved can be read here . People can also sign the online petition calling for a ban on canned hunting here .