Editorial comment: Please be aware that this news relates to captive-bred lions and not wild lions. This does not diminish the seriousness and abhorrence of this situation, but it is an important distinction.
A statement released by Blood Lions claims that there has been a mass lion shooting in the Free State Province, South Africa. The Blood Lions team and other environmentalists reacted with horror to reports that a lion slaughterhouse was established ‘overnight’ on a farm outside Bloemfontein.
The team said in a statement that 19 lions were shot on this farm last week and 80 were allegedly on their way to the Free State, or were already being held on the farm to be shot and their bones to be sent to the East. However, another source said 26 lions were shot on the farm on Tuesday and 28 more were shot on Wednesday. Allegedly the lions were anaesthetised before they got shot.
Their skeletons are then boiled until the meat falls off. After that, the bones are brought to a collecting point at a free-trade branch in the Free State where everything gets prepared for export. Traders in China and Vietnam pay for what is claimed to be as much as R100,000 for a lion skeleton exported from South Africa.
Blood Lions referred to the decision of Environmental Minister Edna Molewa, who announced last year that 800 lion skeletons may be exported to the East every year.
Ian Michler, campaigner for lions and member of the Blood Lions team says that this trend should be very worrying for South Africans because the farmers of the country’s 8,000 captive held lions will start shooting them all over the country. André Steyn’s farm, Wag-’n Bietjie, outside Bloemfontein is just the first of many to follow, says Michler. “The cruel reality is that South Africa’s iconic lions are traded on an industrial scale, to provide for China’s insatiable demand for their bones.”
Beeld was told on Thursday that lions in crates were brought to the farm from Gauteng, North West and other parts of the Free State. A source who works at a game farm in North West approached Blood Lions and asked for help after two lions were shot on the farm this week, were loaded on a truck and brought to the Free State. No permits were issued for the transport of the lions from North West to the Free State.
According to legislation, a veterinarian should have shot the lions but the driver of the truck shot them himself, he said. According to him (the source), he watched powerlessly how the lions were taken away. Steyn did not respond to inquiries. Complaints about alleged animal abuse on Wag-’n Bietjie have been received. A veterinarian, Dr. Hennie Klopper of Bloemfontein, confirmed he was involved in the anaesthesia of the lions at Wag-’n Bietjie. He said he had received permits to anaesthetise the lions.
Reinet Meyer, a senior inspector of the Bloemfontein Animal Protection Association (DBV), confirmed to have been called to the farm on Tuesday. “It was about two lions held in a very small crate for two or three days before being destroyed.” Meyer says the SPCA is investigating the incident.
Adv. Antoinette Ferreira of the National Prosecuting Authority in Bloemfontein says she has no file/info at this stage and does not know whether criminal charges can be filed. She said the big question is if there were legal permits issued for this shooting. She said the National Department of Environmental Affairs issued permits according to a quota system. The other question is if cruelty was committed to the animals when they were shot or before they were shot.
The National Department of Environmental Affairs sent Beeld to the Free State Department of Economic Affairs, Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs. This department did not respond to inquiries at any time. According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), export permits must also be obtained because lions are an endangered species.
See this short clip on the lion bone trade from Blood Lions