Cape Town - The
South African Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has blatantly ignored
public opinion by formally approving the export of 800 lion skeletons to Asia
this year. This in spite of international
condemnation from conservationists and local stakeholders.
The numbers of African
free-range lions have declined alarmingly over the last few decades with only
20 000 remaining today, down from 30 000 just two decades ago.
“It is irresponsible to
establish policy that could further imperil wild lions,” says Dr. Paul Funston,
Senior Director of Panthera’s Lion
Programme earlier this year when
the DEA first proposed its plans.
However, the DEA says the
export will only be from captive-bred lions which is legal under the Convention
in the Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). Lions in South Africa are listed
under Appendix II which means their products can be traded internationally but
only “if the trade will not be detrimental to the survival of the species
in the wild.”
The DEA believes that the
sale from captive-bred lions will reduce the Asian appetite for wild lion
a growing market for exotic products such as tiger-bone wine.
Lion bones have lately been sold off as tiger bones since
the latter have become extremely rare due to the scarcity of tiger bones.
But Funston says that South
Africa’s lion breeding industry makes absolutely no positive contribution to
conserving lions and, indeed, further imperils them.
In 2016, according to Panthera, 90% of lion carcasses
found in the Limpopo National Park in Mozambique all had their skulls, teeth,
and claws removed while rates of poisoning lions specifically for bones
increased dramatically in Niassa National Reserve in northern Mozambique. In
Namibia, 42% of lions killed in the Caprivi had their skeletons removed.
South Africa has been selling lion bones to
Asia for the past few years. According to wildlife investigator, Karl Amann, the
trade is fueling the demand in Asia. The
south-east Asian country now dominates the lion-bone market. Amann According to the CITES trade data base,
between 2009 and 2015 Laos has bought over 2000 complete lion skeletons from
South Africa. This excludes the 2300 bones and 40 skulls sold separately as
Lion bones arrive
in Laos but are then illegally exported to Vietnam without the requisite CITES export
permits. Here they are boiled down, compacted into a cake bar and sold at a
price of around US$1000 (currently R12 830 - R12.83/$) to consumers who add it to rice wine.
Lion bone trade promotes canned lion hunting
move is widely regarded as open support for the controversial practice of canned
lion hunting. A
captive lion breeder – one of 300 in South Africa – can be paid anywhere from US$5000 (R64 150) to
US$25 000 (R320 750) for each lion permitted to be shot. Now they can
add an additional $1500 (R19 245) per skeleton permitted to be sold to Laotian buyers.
January, the DEA was accused of not giving the public
time to object. Michele Pickover, Director of the EMS Foundation, says the DEA has
not been transparent in the manner in which it has set the proposed quota.
DEA initially made the decision without public consultation in January but
were forced to hold a stakeholder meeting to comply with CITES quota
conditions. The meeting, publicly announced on 25 January and held just one
week later, left virtually no time for popular comment, submissions or
has to ask what the DEA’s internal processes are for properly, carefully and
accountably assessing the merits of the submissions they receive. It looks like
they have totally ignored the input by a number of NGOs against the quota,”
has accused the DEA of commodifying wild animals “to such an
extent now that they are blatantly ignoring their mandate in relation to
biodiversity and conservation.”
What to read next on Traveller24:
- #ShockWildlifeTruths: Global wild cat group Panthera slams DEA for lion bone export proposal