CapeNature on Wednesday confirmed they were forced to euthanise the four-month-old cub because it would not have been able to adapt in the wild after being kept as a pet.
Sulaiman, the son of convicted killer Najwa Dirk, along with Rayaan Simons and Shurud Jacobs, were arrested in August after officers from the Stock and Endangered Species Unit found the cub, worth R50 000, at Sulaiman’s house in Lawrence Road.
They are facing 14 charges, relating to the protection of wild animals.
A photo of Sulaiman holding up the cub, mimicking a scene from the movie The Lion King, went viral on social media. It is alleged that one of the suspects wanted to give his daughter a Lion King-themed birthday party.
CapeNature spokesperson, Loren Pavitt, says euthanising the cub was one of the “hardest decisions” they’ve had to make.
She said: “A wild lion cub of approximately four months old was euthanised by a professional veterinarian with CapeNature’s support and sanction.
“Options to rehabilitate the animal for release back into the wild, or place it into an acceptable institution where it would receive the appropriate level of care were all carefully considered.
“In this case it was clear that the cub was treated as a pet and habituated to humans and would be impossible to rehabilitate to a healthy natural behavioural state.
“Although there are facilities for keeping lions in captivity in the Western Cape and SA, there are no rehabilitation facilities for lions in SA.
“There are no successful cases of lions that have been rehabilitated and successfully released into the wild.
“It must be stressed that CapeNature did not take this decision lightly, and shares the public’s sadness that this was even necessary.”
The accused are back in the Wynberg Magistrates’ Court on 13 February 2020.
Meanwhile, a second lion cub is still being sought by cops.