Tame Lion Saved From Probable Canned Hunt


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Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg)

July 20, 2001
Posted to the web July 19, 2001

Fiona Macleod

Conservation officials have opened an inquiry into the sale of a tame silver-screen star called Dandylion to a "canned" hunting operation in the Free State.

The lion was sold by wildlife dealer John Brooker, who came into the spotlight in early June when the Mail & Guardian exposed plans to hunt Baixinha, a rare East African black rhino being kept on his Broederstroom property.

Baixinha, a movie star in her own right, is one of less than 500 michaeli rhinos left in the world. Her American financier, David Laylin, claimed he had been offered $60000 by a Norwegian hunter for her trophy.

Now Brooker is accused of selling Dandylion, a magnificent male lion in his prime, to be hunted. Dandylion has no claws and has appeared on the silver screen in adverts and feature films.

The lion was moved to Groenvlei, a farm belonging to "Shorty" Durand near Hoopstad, last week. Durand is one of at least 14 lion breeders in the Free State who offer their animals for canned hunts.

When Vicky Brooker, the dealer's former wife who is particularly fond of Dandy, heard he had been sent to the Free State farm, she asked a pilot friend, Ken Heuer, to rescue the lion. Heuer flew to Groenvlei last Friday, paid Durand R150 000 and flew the lion to sanctuary at the Rhino and Lion Park in Gauteng.

Brooker denies the plan was to hunt Dandylion. He says there was evidence the lion was becoming aggressive, and the deal with Durand was a breeding exchange.

But Heuer is convinced the full-maned eight-year-old Dandy would have ended up on a hunter's wall.

"It's like selling your child," he says. "The Brookers have had Dandy since he was born, and he is still completely tame."

Conservation authorities in the Free State, North West and Gauteng said this week they were investigating whether the necessary permits were obtained for Dandy to be moved to Groenvlei, and whether Durand's intention was to hunt him.

They were also checking allegations that other cats, including cheetahs, have been sold by Brooker's outfit to Durand.



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