South Africa approves sale of lion bones

News24 reports lion bone export quota in South Africa is a done deal. The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) officially announced a government-approved annual export quota of 800 lion bone skeletons, despite worldwide revulsion and opposition to South Africa’s captive lion breeding and canned hunting industries.

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

News24, in communication with several stakeholders, confirmed Environmental Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa 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 featured in the documentary film Blood Lions, said: “Given the trade-offs and outcomes of the CITES CoP17 conference in 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.

A number of NGOs 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 DEA, 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.”

Research data shows the lion bone trade is targeted particularly by a network of underground traders in South East Asia: Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and China. Over the past 21 years, the number of wild lions have almost halved as demand for their bones for Chinese medicine soared. Lions 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. 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.

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