Rack-and stack captive-bred lion bones ready for export. File photo: African News Agency (ANA)
The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) has filed an urgent interdict in the North Gauteng High Court to suspend the issuing of permits for lion skeleton exports by the Department of Environmental Affairs.

The department earlier this year increased the export quota of 800 skeletons for the international trade in lion bones to 1 500 skeletons.

The department said the implementation of the quota would be managed by the department in line with regulations which stipulate that any application to export lion bones must be lodged with provincial conservation authorities.

In their application, the NSPCA referenced a report by the South African National Biodiversity Institute that found applications to export 800 skeletons were exhausted in five weeks.

In the application, expected to be heard next month, the council argued the quota was detrimental not only to the lion population in South Africa but globally.

They argued that lions were a keystone species of ecological importance to the ecosystem.

“Anthropogenic factors such as retaliation killing due to livestock predation, prey competition with humans, loss of habitat and conversion, along with the poaching of lions affect their ability to cope in the environment. These factors challenge the conservation and the welfare status of this species and are cause for concern.

“Secondly, there is no legislation that establishes standards for the keeping of lions in captivity and the manner in which they are to be slaughtered,” argued the NSPCA.

The NSPCA also argued that, based on expert opinion and data available, the quota was scientifically irrational; lion bone trade might threaten the viability of lion and other big cat populations globally, encouraging consumers to use lion bone as a replacement for tiger bone in wine, tonics and traditional medicines, and might increase demand; and captive lion “farming” was an industry that had no conservation value and posed a risk to both wild lion, tiger and other big-cat populations globally.

The department did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

Last month, the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs hosted a two-day colloquium titled “Captive Lion Breeding for Hunting in South Africa: Harming or Promoting the Conservation Image of the Country”.

Humane Society International approached Ipsos to conduct a national poll regarding South African opinions towards lion cub petting and canned lion hunting in the country.

Most agreed that the industry was harming South Africa’s international reputation, with 65% strongly agreeing and 21% strongly disagreeing.