A new report says the government is fuelling SA’s ‘cruel’ lion bone trade.
Johannesburg - South Africa’s captive big cat industry is making the country an international pariah, but instead of closing it down, the government is steadfastly supporting it.

This is one of the charges levelled against the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) in a new report released this week, “The Extinction Business, South Africa’s Lion Bone Trade”.

“It (the government) is facilitating its conversion into an even crueller industry: captive breeding and farming lions so they can be slaughtered solely to feed the problematic big cat bone trade in Southeast Asia,” said the report’s authors, the EMS Foundation and Ban Animal Trading.

The report said: “This is evidenced by the emergence of lion slaughterhouses in South Africa, as well as the fact that we have clear evidence that 91% of the ‘lion’ skeletons exported from South Africa in 2017 included skulls.

“Thus showing that South Africa’s lion bone trade is not a by-product of an existing industry (trophy hunting) but an entirely separate industry.

“Consequently, a trade in wild animal body parts with links to international criminal networks in countries where they are attempting to lower demand for big cat body parts is being stimulated.”

The report was released this week as the DEA announced it had doubled the number of captive lion skeletons to be exported from 800 to 1500 a year.

The report found substantial loopholes in the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) system.

“There is a lack of verification. One example is that more than the 2017 set quota of 800 skeletons went out of South Africa with legal Cites permits.”

There was a lack of required due diligence by the Cites management authorities on both the exporting and importing side.

“This has created a situation where the legal trade in ‘lion’ bones is fuelling the illegal trade in lion and tiger bones and providing laundering opportunities for tiger bones in Asian markets.

“This is brewing into a toxic mix, particularly when it is placed in the context of the widespread overlap between those involved in international lion trade, trade in tigers and other Cites-listed species, and the routine leakage of imported lion products into illegal international trade.”

South Africa, it recommended, should place a zero export quota for lion and other big cat body parts for commercial purposes, including from captive sources, and should undertake a forensic investigation into the financial affairs of all lion breeders and lion bone traders.