Plan for export of 800 lion skeletons
The move has come under fire from local and international environmental organisations, and follows controversy about South Africa’s lion-breeding industry that promotes cub petting, lion walks, canned lion hunting and the supply of lion body parts.
“The decision is misguided and shameful,” said Audrey Delsink, Africa’s director of the Humaine Society International.
“Breeding captive lions is not only cruel and contrary to the global shift against captive wildlife, but is a potential threat to wild lions.”
According to Pippa Hankinson, the producer of the film Blood Lions, the quota appears to lack scientific basis.
There was no formal document to support how the quota of 800 skeletons was arrived at, or how it would be enforced.
In 2015, the Professional Hunters’ Association of South African (Phasa) dissociated itself from the captive-bred lion industry “until such a time that the industry can convince Phasa and the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) that the practice is beneficial to lion conservation”.
Last year, the IUCN adopted a motion to terminate the hunting of captive-bred lions and captive breeding for commercial, non-conservation purpose.
The Department of Environmental Affairs made the 800-skeleton decision without public consultation, but was forced to hold a stakeholder meeting this week as a result of Cites quota conditions.
There are between 6 000 and 8 000 captive-bred lions in South Africa, more than twice the number of wild lions.
An estimated 1 200 lion skeletons a year are being exported, so 800 would mean a reduction, but represents tacit support for captive lion breeding.
The government’s 2015 Biodiversity Management Plan mentions captive-bred only in passing, saying “there is intense controversy over the merits and ethics of the captive breeding and subsequent release for hunting of captive-bred lions, although it remains legal to do so”.
There are also questions about whether the quota could be policed.
According to Michelle Pickover of the EMS Foundation, there should be a moratorium on issuing any wildlife export permits because of the country’s poor legislative and enforcement issues.
“They leave this totally up to the industry itself. So it’s in essence secret and self-policed. There is also no transparency and this situation is worsened by massive corruption,” Pickover said.
“Their position is clearly that because there is already a trade, it should continue. This is illogical. If they themselves are motivating for the need for research, then this suggests they do not have enough information.”
According to Pickover, because the US no longer allows the importation of captive trophies, there has been a shift to bone trade. ‘They are reporting a decrease of 320 lion hunts and a loss of 660 jobs and are supporting an offtake of 1600 animals a year.