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Lion waiting to be slaughtered for his bones © EMS
Lion waiting to be slaughtered for his bones © EMS Foundation

South Africa’s parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs will be holding a two-day colloquium to review the unregulated captive-bred lion industry. The colloquium, titled Captive Lion Breeding for Hunting in South Africa: Harming or Promoting the Conservation Image of the Country, will be open to the public and will take place on August 21 and 22.

The event will allow members to present arguments for and against the captive breeding of lions, and to facilitate constructive debate around the future of the industry in South Africa. After the discussions, a decision will be made by the committee as to whether the legislation needs to be reviewed and/or amended, or whether to initiate new legislation through parliament.

Recently, the EMS Foundation and Ban Animal Trading released a report, The Extinction Business: South Africa’s ‘Lion’ Bone Trade‚ that revealed startling and alarming factors that have a significant negative impact on worldwide big cat conservation.

The report suggested that the South African government’s strong support of the captive-bred lion industry – that has strong links with international criminal networks – fuels the demise of wild big cat populations by providing a legal channel for the trafficking of illegal big cat parts. It also questioned why the South African authorities seem to believe that this industry is a sustainable and ethical option. It highlighted that the CITES permitting and enforcement process has substantial loopholes and management shortcomings that enable illegal wildlife trafficking, along with poor management by the South African authorities.

In July, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) announced a new lion bone export quota of 1,500 lion skeletons from captive-bred lions –  nearly double the number from last year’s quota of 800 lion skeletons.

Responding to the DEA’s announcement, the team behind the global documentary Blood Lions released this official statement:

‘Blood Lions condemns the recent announcement from DEA that the lion bone quota for export has been doubled to 1,500 carcasses. Unofficial reports in this regard had been circulating for months.

It would seem that the Minister has used a 2015 report, Bones of Contention, put out by Wildcru and the University of Witwatersrand as the basis of the decision. It is worth pointing out that the data in this report is now at least 4 to 5 years old, and that the circumstances around the captive breeding, hunting and export of bones has shifted somewhat. The bone trade may no longer simply be a convenient by-product of hunting, poaching of lions, both wild and captive is on the rise, and so is the demand for lion bones. And the DEA have missed one of the most important cautionary tones in this report: “the trade in tiger bones is an established threat to tiger conservation”. If this pertains to tigers, why would it not be the same for lions?

And Blood Lions is increasingly concerned at the way DEA continues to be involved in matters involving the captive lion breeding industry when they themselves claim their mandate to be solely about biodiversity conservation.’

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