Photo: Conservation Action Trust.

The NSPCA has laid criminal charges against Jan Steinman, a lion farmer in North West, for several contraventions of the Animal Protection Act after 108 lions, caracal, tigers and leopards were found in filthy and parasitic conditions.

National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) inspectors found 27 lions with severe mange, two lion cubs unable to walk, obese caracal unable to groom themselves, overcrowded and filthy enclosures, inadequate shelter, lack of water and parasitic conditions at Pienika Farm located near Lichtenburg.

Senior inspector Douglas Wolhuter, NSPCA Wildlife Protection Unit manager, confirmed that charges had been laid following the horrific visit to the farm. 

“On May 2, 2019, the NSPCA laid criminal charges against the owner of the farm at the SAPS Lichtenburg station based on several contraventions of the Animal Protection Act.

"It is deplorable that any animal would be forced to live in such conditions, with such medical ailments. The fact that these are wild animals that are already living unnatural lives in confinement for the purposes of trade, just makes it more horrific".

Photo: Conservation Action Trust.

Steinman is listed as a council member of the South African Predator Association (SAPA).

The association has claimed that no welfare issues existed on member lion facilities. 

SAPA president Kirsten Nematandani previously stressed to the Portfolio Committee of Environmental Affairs (PCEA) that “SAPA sets very high standards for [its] members”, at a Parliamentary Colloquium on Captive Lion Breeding in August 2018.

Nematandani had further assured the PCEA that they had “implemented SAPA’s Norms and Standards [N&S] for Breeding and Hunting to make sure everything is above board”.

These norms and standards are binding to all SAPA members and failure to comply will supposedly lead to disciplinary action and possible expulsion of the offender, according to the SAPA website.

However, despite Nematandani's assurances, the conditions found by NSPCA inspectors at Pienika, where predators are kept for trophy hunting and the lion bone trade, are not only in breach of national legislation on animal welfare, but also several SAPA regulations, including those on animal welfare, husbandry of lions for hunting, minimum enclosure size, and the trade of lion products.

Some of the enclosures on Steinman’s farm housed in excess of 30 lionesses, giving them less than one quarter of the prescribed minimum space set by SAPA’s norms and standards.

“However, the very fact that SAPA have qualified their norms and standards with the word 'undue' negates their norms and standards”, said NSPCA Wildlife Trade & Trafficking Portfolio manager Karen Trendler.

“SAPA basically suggests that there are justifiable times for an animal to be hungry or thirsty, or suffer from fear, pain or disease, which is totally unacceptable in terms of animal welfare.”

Back in 2016, in response to a public outcry over emaciated lions on Walter Slippers farm in Limpopo, SAPA publicly distanced themselves from Slippers, stating “if Slippers had been a member and owner of a SAPA-accredited facility, we would have taken note of the unfolding tragedy and would have been in a position to act much earlier to prevent this lamentable state of affairs”.

However, that same year, then SAPA chairman Prof. Pieter Potgieter admitted in a Four Corners interview that some SAPA member facilities don’t comply with their “ethical code”. 

He also stated that out of the 200 SAPA members, he only managed to visit five farms.

It is unclear how SAPA enforces its norms and standards or how it deals with non-compliances of member facilities but Slipper’s non-membership was a convenient way out for association. 

However, this time they must now be held to accountable to take appropriate action against Steinman as the latest animal cruelty case of a SAPA member facility once again demonstrates that the captive predator breeding industry continues to operate unchecked and unregulated, and animal welfare remains a huge concern.

There is no incentive to keep lions in a healthy condition, as all that is used are the skeletons for the lion bone trade. 

While the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has set a legal annual export quota of 800 lion skeletons, normally used in the Traditional Chinese Medicine market or to be carved into jewellery, the same department backtracked on the Parliamentary Resolution to introduce legislation to end the captive breeding of lions in South Africa and proposed instead to allow the industry to continue with the introduction of regulation and appropriate legislation.

Conservation Action Trust