Cape Town – The global wild cat conservation organisation Panthera has added their weight in the plea against the Department of Environmental Affairs’ plan to legally export 800 captive-bred lion skeletons from SA this year.
“Panthera is calling on the DEA to institute a moratorium on lion bone exports, effective immediately,” the organisation said in an official statement.
Addressing SA’s DEA and conservationists globally from New York in the US, Panthera’s Lion Program senior director Dr Paul Funston elaborated on the statement saying the SA “government’s proposed quota of 800 lion skeletons for legal export has absolutely no grounding in science.
“It is irresponsible to establish policy that could further imperil wild lions—already in precipitous decline throughout much of Africa—when the facts are clear; South Africa’s lion breeding industry makes absolutely no positive contribution to conserving lions and, indeed, further imperils them,” Funston says.
Local conservationists were also furious at the DEA’s initial proposal to legally export the lion skeletons, and further slammed the government for not giving the public enough time to oppose the proposal.
The DEA publically announced their plans on 25 January this year and gave only one week notice (until 2 February) for public participation and opinion.
“The decision is misguided and shameful,” Audrey Delsink, Africa’s director of the Humaine Society International told Don Pinnock of the Conservation Action Trust in an article published on Traveller24.
“Breeding captive lions is not only cruel and contrary to the global shift against captive wildlife but is a potential threat to wild lions,” Delsink says.
Threat to captive and wild lions
During the same time the proposal was announced, SA also suffered a spate of horrific lion poaching incidents, in which the animals were gruesomely killed and their body parts removed – an indication of ‘harvesting’.
Panthera warns that the legalisation of a trade in lion bones will stimulate the market and endanger both captive and wild lion populations.
“There is significant evidence that South Africa’s legal trade in captive-bred lion trophies is accelerating the slaughter of wild lions for their parts in neighboring countries and is, in fact, increasing demand for wild lion parts in Asia — a market that did not exist before South Africa started exporting lion bones in 2007,” they say.
This is according to Panthera President and chief conservation officer, Dr Luke Hunter emphasising again that “there is not one shred of scientific evidence showing that canned hunting and legal lion bone exports take the poaching pressure off wild lion populations. In fact, it is increasingly clear that these practices stimulate demand for wild lion, leopard and tiger parts throughout the world.”
A stain on SA’s national pride
External parties, including some leading global safari operators, also backed conservationists’ stand against the export, saying the move threatens wild lions as a natural resource.
Singita’s Janalyn Theodosiou says no response has been received from the DEA about the detailed five-page document signed by the CEOs of the four safari companies outlining why any trade in lion bone should be stopped. She says the DEA has also given no indication of how long they will take to review the process.
Panthera’s statement also refers to this, with Dr Funston saying, “It is confounding that a country whose iconic wild lions are such a source of national pride — not to mention tourist revenue — would take such risks to sustain a marginal captive breeding industry that is condemned globally for its shameful practices.
“The legal farming of lions for tourists to bottle-feed, pet, and ultimately hunt in tiny enclosures is a stain on South Africa’s reputation as stewards of Africa’s wildlife.”
Wild lion populations are on a steep decline, with an estimated 20 000 remaining today, down from some 30 000 just two decades ago, according to Panthera reports.
The jury is still out on whether the DEA will approved the legal export of the 800 captive-bred lion skeletons in 2017, and requests by Traveller24 to the DEA on where there process currently stands are yet to be answered.