The South African Department of Environmental Affairs’ (DEA) officially announced today a government-approved export quota of 800 lion bone skeletons to Asia this year; a decision made despite worldwide opposition to South Africa’s captive lion breeding and canned hunting industries and condemnation from conservationists.
“It is irresponsible to establish a policy that could further imperil wild lions,” said Dr. Paul Funston, Senior Director of the Lion Program for the Panthera Organization earlier this year when the DEA first proposed its plans, this was noted in an article posted today on the Conservation Action Trust website.
Funston who claimed that the quota had “absolutely no grounding” in science also argued that South Africa’s lion breeding industry makes no positive contribution to conserving lions. Further, he warned, legislation such as this encouraging trade in lion bones would stimulate the market and endanger both captive and wild lion populations.
“Given the trade-offs and outcomes of the Cites COP17 conference at Sandton last October, and given our knowledge and experience with the government with the way they conduct their environmental policies, the decision was not unexpected,” a disappointed Ian Michler, South Africa’s leading campaigner against captive lion hunting said in a News24 report.
Michler was also featured in the documentary Blood Lions which brought the horrors of predator breeding, canned hunting and a variety of other exploitative activities to the world’s attention after it was released last year. The film served as a compelling call to action to have these practices stopped.
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What is not clear yet regarding the new ruling, however, is what criteria was used to determine the quota of 800 lion bone skeletons, or what considerations were given to the public’s fears of opposition to the move.
The lion bone trade is allegedly fueled by a network of underground “snake-oil” traders in South East Asia: particularly in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and China.
As a result, it has been estimated that there are currently a mere 20,000 African free-range lions remaining compared to 30,000 that were in existence two decades ago.
Shockingly, lions have replaced tigers as the main source of big cat body parts, which like so many others, are sadly and incorrectly believed to have magical medicinal powers.
The DEA maintains that the export will only be from captive-bred lions which is sadly legal under the Convention on the Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) as long as the transaction “will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild.”
Further, according to the article, the DEA reportedly asserts that the sale from captive-bred lions will, in fact, “reduce the Asian appetite for wild lion parts from a growing market for exotic products such as tiger-bone wine.”
Many have already called out the DEA’s “complete disregard for glaringly obvious facts.”
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