US bans captive-bred lion trophies: Loopholes must be checked

2016-10-24 08:01 - Selene Brophy
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Cape Town - The US Fish and Wildlife Services have effectively ruled that Captive-bred lions serve no conservation purpose by banning any imports of captive bred lion trophy heads, skins, claws, teeth, and other lion parts from those kills.

Hand-reared lions cannot be released into the wild, according to wildlife experts and they also often suffer in captivity, with many hunters saying canned hunting violates the principle of “fair chase,” in which every animal has a reasonable chance to get away.  “This is huge,” says Ian Michler, investigative conservationist and the narrator of Blood Lions, a documentary released last year that exposed the canned lion industry. 

While lions failed to be uplisted to CITES II at the recent CoP17 convention held in Johannesburg at the beginning of October. 

A “zero annual export quota for bones, bone pieces, products, claws, skeletons, skulls and teeth removed from the wild and traded for commercial purposes" was set in the proposal said to be a compromised deal in an "attempt to appease the fierce opposition from lion bone and body part traders and the hunting for entertainment enthusiasts".

SEE: 'Blood Lions' filmmaker Ian Michler speaks out on canned hunting and trophies


According to the document prepared by the European Union and Niger in their role as co-Chairs of the Working Group on African Lion,  South Africa has been permitted to set its own export quota for the same body parts and products from their captive breeding operations. 

However the latest decision sends a strong message from SA's largest hunting market. Michler told Traveller24, “We need to applaud the decision by US Fish & Wildlife. Having them engage on these issues is significant as the vast majority of canned or captive hunters come from that country.”

“There are still loopholes and this does not mean that the number of canned lions into the USA will fall to zero, but we now have a legal framework that we can monitor and hold accountable.”  

So what does the future hold for the estimated 7 000 captive-bred lions, owned by farmers who now face the reality of a declining revenue stream?  It certainly raises the need for a more targeted approach to help these lions, says Michler.

“Despite the growing global opposition, it would seem the breeders, SAPA and the authorities are still digging in. This is all about money so they will start looking for new markets – the Far East for example, and the lion bone trade and petting industries still remain sources of revenue. So the global campaign to end these horrors still has much work to do.”       

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