charity, Born Free Foundation, has warned that South
Africa’s intention to grant an annual commercial export
quota of 800 skeletons sourced from captive-bred lions
raised in canned hunting facilities could threaten wild
populations and perpetuate suffering.
release of the film Born Free in 1966, Africa’s lions
have declined by at least 80 per cent.
Today, as few as 20,000 individuals occupy just eight
per cent of their historic range across Africa, with
populations in West Africa classified as Critically
In 2016, the International Union for the Conservation
of Nature estimated that lions had declined by
approximately 43 per cent across the continent over the
previous 21 years, and scientists predict further
devastating declines in the coming decades in the
absence of concerted conservation action.
While loss of habitat, reductions in prey species
and conflict with human communities are major causes of
lion decline, increasing international trade in lion
body parts, particularly bones, has been recognised as a
main threat by lion range States.
As a result, Parties to the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) agreed
to ban international trade in bones and other body parts
from wild lions at their meeting in Johannesburg in
They also called for studies to establish the impacts
of the bone trade on lion conservation.
However, worryingly South Africa was permitted to
continue trading the body parts of captive-bred lions
provided it established an annual quota.
Commenting on the proposed quota, Born Free
Foundation President, Will Travers OBE, said:
"It seems the South African authorities have crumpled
in the face of pressure from commercial lion breeders
who are only interested in maximising their profits from
this despicable practice.
"In proposing an export quota of 800 skeletons, the
authorities have assumed, wrongly in my view, that the
trade will have no impact on wild lions, without any
evidence to back that up.
"Indeed, they haven’t even delayed their decision
until the studies on the impacts of the bone trade,
agreed at the last CITES meeting, have been completed.
"Born Free and many conservation organisations
believe that the trade will further stimulate demand in
Asia for lion bones and perpetuate the demand for tiger
bone tonics which often contain lion bone.
"This will, in turn, put already beleaguered wild
tigers, as well as lions, at greater risk from poachers
seeking a quick profit by laundering bones from wild
lions and other big cats into the trade.
"South Africa’s commercial lion breeding industry is
unspeakably cynical and cruel, poses a threat to wild
lions and other big cats, and needs to be shut down."
Across South Africa, as many as 8,000 lions and other
big cats are kept on 200 or more ‘predator breeding
These animals are intensively bred for the sole
purpose of making money, and are exploited at every
stage of their often short lives, through bogus
‘conservation volunteering’ programmes and ‘walking with
lions’ opportunities for unwitting tourists and
well-meaning gap year students.
When they are old enough, many of these lions are
released into enclosures to be shot by paying trophy
hunters in so-called ‘canned hunts’, from which there is
Finally, when the hunters have taken their trophies,
the bones and other parts of these poor animals are sold
into lucrative international markets for use as a
replacement for tiger bone in ‘medicines’ and tonics.
In 2013 alone, South Africa declared exports of more
than 3,000 captive-bred lion skeletons to South East
Asian countries, a huge increase over previous years.
"Lion breeders can sell lion skeletons to dealers for
over US$2,000, and the prices being paid by consumers in
Asia will be far higher.
"If this trade is allowed to continue and demand
expands, this will inevitably lead to increased poaching
of wild lions as criminals seek to make a killing.
"We call on the South African authorities to reverse
this decision and adopt a precautionary approach by
establishing a zero export quota without delay."
At its World Conservation Congress in September 2016,
the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
passed a Resolution calling for an end to the captive
breeding of lions and other predators for commercial,
non-conservation purposes including canned hunting.
South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs
has invited comments on its quota by 2nd February.
About the Born
The Born Free Foundation is a dynamic
international wildlife charity, devoted to compassionate
conservation and animal welfare.
Born Free takes action worldwide to protect
threatened species and stop individual animal suffering.
Born Free believes wildlife belongs in the wild and
works to phase out zoos.
We rescue animals from lives of misery in tiny cages
and give them lifetime care.
Born Free protects lions, elephants, tigers,
gorillas, wolves, polar bears, dolphins, marine turtles
and many more species in their natural habitat, working
with local communities to help people and wildlife live
together without conflict.
Our high-profile campaigns change public attitudes,
persuade decision-makers and get results.
Every year, Born Free helps hundreds of thousands of
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