The department of environmental affairs (DEA) says it has approved an export quota of 1,500 lion skeletons with effect from June 7.

JOHANNESBURG - The department of environmental affairs (DEA) says it has approved an export quota of 1,500 lion skeletons with effect from June 7.

The department said the determination had been communicated to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) secretariat in line with a 2015 decision taken at the 17th conference of  parties to the convention.

The implementation of the quota will be managed by the department with strict processes to be followed in line with regulations which stipulate, among others, that any application to export lion bones must be lodged with provincial conservation authorities, who must must confirm availability of the quota before issuing a permit.

It is mandatory that all skeletons be packed separately at the source and they must be weighed, tagged and a DNA sample taken. All consignments must be inspected and weighed at the ports of exit, in order to confirm the information contained in the relevant permit.

"The 2018 export quota is based on new evidence from a research project established by the South African National Biodiversity Institute in collaboration with the University of the Witwatersrand, Oxford University and the University of Kent that analyses and monitors the lion bone trade in South Africa," the DEA said.

The study revealed that, due to quota restrictions, there appeared to be a growing stockpile of lion bones in South Africa and there had been no discernible increase in poaching of wild lion, though there appeared to be an increase in poaching of captive bred lions for body parts including heads, faces, paws and claws.

If there was ongoing demand for lion bone and the supply from captive breeding facilities was restricted, dealers may seek alternative sources, either through illegal access to stockpiles or by poaching both captive bred and wild lion.

"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.

South Africa is one of only seven countries in the world that has substantial lion populations, with data pointing to 3,500 African lions in the wild and approximately 7,000 kept in some 260 captive breeding facilities.

“Hunting is part of South Africa’s policy of sustainable utilization of natural resources – a principle supported by by multilateral environmental agreements," environmental affairs minister Edna Molewa said.

"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."

- Africa News Agency (ANA)