Lion bone export quota in SA ‘a done deal’

Johannesburg – The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) is poised to officially announce a government-approved annual export quota of 800 lion bone skeletons.

This, despite worldwide revulsion and opposition to South Africa’s captive lion breeding and canned hunting programmes.

The latest decision flies in the face of global opinion, with a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and conservationists opposed to the trade in lion bones voicing their disapproval.

News24, in communication with several stakeholders on Monday, confirmed Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa had already signed off on the export quota, which was supposedly still under scientific scrutiny.

Ian Michler, South Africa’s leading campaigner against captive lion hunting, and who featured in the documentary film Blood Lions, said: “Given the trade-offs and outcomes of the Cites

COP17 conference at Sandton last October, and given our knowledge and experience with the government with the way they conduct their environmental policies, the decision was not unexpected.
“What we know about this government and its attitude towards trade in wildlife, it was just a case of when it was going to happen, not whether it would happen. In the big picture, this will be used by everyone involved in lion conservation as an example for the next Cites conference,” he said.However, what is not clear at this stage is what criteria were used to reach this figure, or what considerations were given to the public’s opposition to the quota.

When sent a media enquiry, department spokesperson Albi Modise said he would need until Wednesday to provide answers to the “in-depth” requests.

Wellbeing of species

A number of NGOs have already called out the DEA’s “complete disregard for glaringly obvious facts”.

Smaragda Louw and Michelè Pickover of Ban Animal Trading (BAT) and the EMS Foundation maintain that Cites requires member states to adequately determine whether such conduct will detrimentally impact the wellbeing of the species.

In written submissions to the department, they argued:

“Notwithstanding our inherent moral objections to the practice of canned lion hunting and the trade in predator bones, it is submitted that there are no adequate measures in place in order to determine the viability and sustainability of this quota or provide for the legislative enforcement thereof.

“No details had been made available to the public, and we submit that the DEA has not been transparent as to the manner in which it had obtained the quota of 800 captive bred lion skeletons, based on its apparent, cursory Non-Detrimental Finding.”

Researched data shows the lion bone trade is targeted particularly by a network of underground “snake-oil” traders in South East Asia – namely Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and China.

Over the past 21 years, the numbers of wild lions have almost halved as demand for their bones for Chinese medicine has soared.

Lions have replaced tigers as the prime source of big cat body parts, which are said to have magical properties, and are used in South East Asian quackery health tonics and as superstition charms.

Increased demand for wild lion parts

While international conservation and law enforcement efforts have made tiger bone increasingly scarce, “canned” hunting and poaching has seen the demand and supply of lion trophies, skins and other derivatives soar.”To us, it is quite clear that promoting a trade in the sale and export of body parts fans the demand, so we are expecting an increase in demand to take place,” Michler said.

“If we go back to the Cites database, there is no record of trade in lion bones prior to the 2008/9 period. Blood Lions clearly shows that.”

Dr Paul Funston, senior director of wild cat conservation group Panthera’s Lion Program, said the proposed quota had “absolutely no grounding” in science.

“It is irresponsible to establish [a] policy that could further imperil wild lions – already in precipitous decline throughout much of Africa – when the facts are clear; South Africa’s lion breeding industry makes absolutely no positive contribution to conserving lions and, indeed, further imperils them,” Funston says.

He warned that the legalisation of a trade in lion bones would stimulate the market and endanger both captive and wild lion populations.

“There is significant evidence that South Africa’s legal trade in captive-bred lion trophies is accelerating the slaughter of wild lions for their parts in neighbouring countries and is, in fact, increasing demand for wild lion parts in Asia – a market that did not exist before South Africa started exporting lion bones in 2007.”


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The NSPCA has huge animal welfare concerns for the animals exploited in the captive predator and canned hunting industry in South Africa. This industry is unregulated, uncontrolled and is responsible for untold cruelty. It is a tragedy that our wild animals are reduced to profit making machines. Coupled with this members of public are unwittingly encouraging and supporting this cruelty, so it is vital that the public are aware of the truth behind the industry so they can make informed decisions and hopefully choose not to support such an unethical industry.

Sr.Ainsley Hay, Manager, NSPCA Wildlife Protection Unit

Breeding magnificent wild creatures like lions in camps so that they can be slaughtered for ego and money is unconscionable and should be outlawed.  Lions have the right to live in the wild and to continue playing their unique role within the ecological communities of Africa.  The continued existence of the canned hunting industry is a moral outrage that diminishes us all.  This important film shines a light into the dark corners of this ugly business.

Cormac Cullinan, Cullinan & Associates Incorporated

Cruel, barbaric, macabre – all words used by Australian MPs about lion farming and the canned lion hunting industry in SA.  Our campaign was glad to be able to assist and participate in a full length documentary that aims to expose a brutal industry whose whole business model is routine, egregious cruelty to helpless animals – for fun.

Chris Mercer, Founder, CACH (Campaign Against Canned Hunting)

Captive lions have long been a blemish on South Africa’s wildlife and tourism landscape and their tragic story needed to be exposed before these practices negatively impacted on Brand South Africa. Congratulations to all involved in taking the time and making this happen.

Colin Bell, Tourism consultant and author of “Africa’s Finest”

“As a travel and conservation based organization, we find the “Blood Lions” documentary deeply disturbing. Despite being hard to watch, we urge people to get out there and see it. It is important to shed light on the dark and corrupt business of rearing lions for the purposes of hunting, in hopes of making a positive change. As we polled our membership, we found that individually each of our companies have chosen to stop booking all activities that contribute to this industry.”

The Safari Professionals – 30 Tour Operators based in the US and Canada

South Africa’s failure to address the canned hunting industry has emboldened those who make a living out of the death of lions bred, raised and slaughtered on a ‘no kill, no fee’ basis. The canned hunting industry is unnatural, unethical and unacceptable. It delivers compromised animal welfare and zero education. It undermines conservation and creates a moral vacuum now inhabited by the greed and grotesque self-importance of those who derive pleasure in the taking of life.

Blood Lions lays bare the truth behind the canned hunting industry that, far from contributing to the future survival of the species, may, in fact, accelerate extinction in the wild, leaving behind a trail  littered with rotting corpses of its helpless and hopeless victims.

Will Travers OBE, President Born Free Foundation

The Marchig Animal Welfare Trust, in providing support for the making of this Documentary, does so in the firm belief that it is important that the true facts behind captive lion breeding and canned lion hunting in South Africa, is brought to the attention of a global audience in order to create awareness which in turn will lead to much needed change.

Les Ward MBE, Chairman, The Marchig Animal Welfare Trust

This is a timely, courageous as well as a deeply disturbing documentary. It is at the same time, a voice for the wild and the voiceless … of saying “NO MORE!” to that terrible triad of financial opportunism, deceit and indifference to the non-human animal by those claiming to be conservationists.

Ian McCallum – Author, poet, psychiatrist and naturalist

With the constant pressure on wildlife, every effort must be made to keep our last vestiges of natural fauna and flora protected.    Canned hunting of any kind, along with the related consequences, must be condemned by humanity as not only a travesty of nature but also an utterly inhumane practise.   Taming lion cubs only to later hunt them is an utterly inhumane practice.   It is pseudo-hunting, a complete sham and does not even qualify as hunting on a sustainable use basis.   Wildlife conservation has to evolve into practices that are ethical, humanitarian and sustainable. This will not be achieved if there is not real and fair community involvement which has not been part of the hunting fraternity’s evolution.

Yvette Taylor, Executive Director, The Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation

“Canned lion ‘hunting’ is nothing less than a bargain basement opportunity for foreign hunters to engage in one of South Africa’s most sordid practices. Hunting of captive bred lions entirely dependent on human fingerprints from cub to trophy is immoral, unethical and against all animal welfare concerns. The fact that it still continues as profitable commerce is a damning statement against all of us who have not properly engaged to snuff it out. Blood Lions is a good start to bring change.”

Dr Pieter Kat – Director: LionAid

Canned Lion