High court rules lion bone export quota 'unlawful'

Deputy chief CEO of the National Nspca, Este Kotze and wildlife trafficking manager Karen Trendler. Photo: Zelda Venter/Pretoria News.

Deputy chief CEO of the National Nspca, Este Kotze and wildlife trafficking manager Karen Trendler. Photo: Zelda Venter/Pretoria News.

Published Aug 6, 2019


Pretoria - The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, in a groundbreaking judgment Tuesday morning set aside former minister Edna Molewa’s quotas set in 2017 and 2018 for the exportation of lion bones.

Judge Jody Kollapen declared the quota set in 2017 on 800 lion bones and the 2018 quota of 1 500 lion bones as unlawful and constitutionally invalid.

The judge said the reality is that the trade export has been completed in lion bone arising out of 2017 and 2018 quota determinations and it would be impossible to reverse those processes. 

Thus his order only pertains to the decisions which were under review.

South Africa’s controversial lion bone trade came under the judicial spotlight when the National SPCA attacked the method used by the former minister to determine the quotas.

The president minister, Barbara Creecy is still due to set the quota for 2019.

Although the National SPCA is against the export of any lion bones, they want the government to make an informed decision and to consult them and other role players before deciding on the quotas.

It was argued that the minister should have considered some of the conditions that these captive-bred lions are kept, which according to the National SPCA, is “nothing short of horrific.”

The animal rights organisation said it tried to make submissions to the minister in the past when she considered the quotas, but their letter in this regard was simply ignored.

Judge Kollapen delivered a comprehensive judgment on all these issues, in which he criticized the government for its lack of consideration towards animal welfare issues in deciding on the export quota.

The judge said when one has regard to the connection between the welfare interests of animals and conservation, it is inconceivable how the State could have ignored the welfare considerations of lions in captivity in setting the annual export quota.

“What in essence occurs is that the quota is signalling to the world at large and the captive lion industry in particular that the state will allow exports in a determined quantity of lion bone.

“It cannot be correct to asset that such signalling can occur at the same time as indicating to the world and the industry that the manner in which lions in captivity are kept, will remain an irrelevant consideration in how the quota is set.”

The judge said this is illogical, irrational and against the spirit of the Constitution in regard to the welfare concerns  of animals.

“Simply put, if as a country we have decided to engage in trade in lion bone, which appears to be the case for now, then at the very least our constitutional and legal obligations require the consideration of animal welfare issues,” the judge said.

Karen Trendler, NSPCA wildlife inspector, said this judgment means so much for lions and welfare in general.

Pretoria News

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