The exploitation of big cats in South Africa continues to grow and includes not only indigenous species such as lions and leopards, but also exotic species like tigers and jaguars.
The demand for big cats has meant they are now intensively bred and commercially traded in vast numbers across the globe:
- Legally: The commercial trade means they can be bred in captivity and exploited for profit (for tourist interactions, kept as pets, trophy hunting, or for entertainment)
- Illegally: South Africa is one of the biggest exporters of big cats and their parts to Asia, where they are primarily used in traditional medicine
South Africa is farming numerous big cat species for the commercial international trade and is one of the biggest exporters of big cats and their parts to Asia. The illegal wildlife trade is the fourth largest criminal activity in the world, and it is being fueled by the trade in big cat products from South Africa. This is driving consumer demand, largely from Asia, for their parts.
Due to direct human influence, four (lion, tiger, leopard, jaguar) out of the five big cat species are facing unprecedented issues that are not only defined as an animal welfare crisis but are also contributing to the decline of the species in the wild.