With or without their heads‚ 1 500 lion skeletons of captive-bred lions can now be exported annually from South Africa, Dr Edna Molewa, Minister of Environmental Affairs (DEA), announced recently.
This new quota is nearly double the number of last year’s quota of 800 lion skeletons and is effective retroactively from 7 June 2018.
The DEA said the quota is based on new evidence from a research project by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and the universities of the Witwatersrand (Wits)‚ Oxford and Kent which analyse and monitor the lion bone trade in South Africa.
According to the research:
- There is a growing stockpile of lion bones due to restrictions.
- There has been no discernible increase in poaching of wild lions‚ but there appears to be an increase in the poaching of captive bred lions for body parts such as heads‚ faces‚ paws and claws.
- The captive breeding industry is in a state of flux as breeders respond in different ways to the United States’ restrictions on trophies and the imposition of the skeleton export quota.
“All activities involving the African lion‚ including hunting‚ possession and trade are regulated through a permit system‚ and our policies are supported by solid scientific evidence,” Molewa said.
In a statement, the DEA said: “If there is ongoing demand for lion bones and the supply from captive breeding facilities is restricted‚ dealers may seek alternative sources‚ either through illegal access to stockpiles or by poaching both captive bred and wild lions.
“South Africa has learned through its experience with rhino and abalone poaching that these illegal supply chains are very difficult to disband once they become established and seeks to avoid such a scenario materializing.”
The DEA said they have informed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Secretariat of its decision in line with a 2015 decision taken at the 17th Conference of the Parties to CITES.
South Africa is a favourite destination for trophy hunting of captive-bred lions and the world’s largest legal exporter of lion bones and skeletons.
There are about 3 500 African lions left in the wild and about 7 000 are kept in more than 200 breeding facilities.