August 10, 2018 –BOSTON/VIENNA-- This year’s International Lion Day (10 August) could be the start of a big turning point for the future of the majestic animals.
The iconic animal, once feared and awed as the ‘King of the Jungle’, has recently been degraded to a commercially available, traded skeleton by the authorities in South Africa. Lions there were already bred to be hunted as adults, but in 2017, the authorities took this to another level with the introduction of a lion skeleton export quota of 800 lions per year. The lion skeletons are sold in Asia where they are used as ingredients for traditional Chinese medicine.
Besides the commercialization of their lions, South Africa deliberately puts other big cats’ populations at risk elsewhere. With a two-day meeting on the captive lion breeding in South Africa coming up in August, FOUR PAWS urges the authorities to drop the quota and take a first step to ban the breeding and trade of captive lions.
Legal trade putting wild lions at risk
The trade in endangered big cats is wide reaching, with evidence of illegal activity across Europe. But captive lions of South Africa are involved too, and with full support from their government, which introduced a lion skeleton export quota of 800 skeletons in June 2017. Despite controversies and protests, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) announced an increase to 1,500 skeletons on July 16 this year. This is expected to have even worse detrimental effects on wild lions, which is evidenced by increases in poaching of wild lions for body parts over recent years. The export quota also blatantly dismisses the efforts of other countries to protect lions at the international level.
“Lions need protection and not an increase on their skeleton export quota. It is an illusion that the trade with captive lions does not have an effect on the wild populations. It is all interlinked and legal trade will fuel illegal trade. In the end, African Lions are a threatened species and it is in our power to protect them or let them become extinct. And it would be a great loss indeed, if the ‘king of the jungle’ would be no more.”
Barbara van Genne, Project Lead for Big Cats at FOUR PAWS
Why lions and tigers are all in the same boat in the end
Just two weeks ago, FOUR PAWS revealed how the global trade of tigers and their body parts is flourishing. Tiger bones and other tiger products, such as bouillon cubes, are sold for a lot of money on the black market. And the increased export quota for lions adds pressure to other big cat species threatened with extinction, such as tigers, by creating more demand for big cats products. It’s practically impossible to determine the difference between the bones of a lion or bones from a tiger poached from the wild, whose bones are not allowed to be traded. At a recent meeting with FOUR PAWS undercover investigators, an illegal trader told the investigators that once skinned, tigers and lions look the same.
Turning point or charade?
A colloquium titled ‘Captive Lion Breeding for Hunting in South Africa: Harming or Promoting the Conservation Image of the Country’ is planned for August 21st and 22nd. It will provide stakeholders an opportunity to present arguments for and against captive breeding of lions. The outcome of the discussions may drive a change to the current legislation.
“We hope that it is part of a catalyst for change from a government point of view. This cannot be another two days discussion without clear objectives and impact.”
Fiona Miles, Country Director FOUR PAWS South Africa, will join the colloquium meeting and is cautiously optimistic about the progress this colloquium can mean for lions
FOUR PAWS has started a petition and asks supporters to call on the South African Government to end its breeding and canned lion hunting and additionally ban all trade of the species: https://help.four-paws.org/en/stop-lion-hunt