South Africa, considered a top destination for trophy hunting of captive bred lions, is the world’s largest legal exporter of lion bones and skeletons, with currently around 6,000 to 8,000 lions held in captivity in more than 200 breeding facilities across the country.

But in an international report by Blood Lions, it claims that these figures were taken from a report that is already three years’ old and that circumstances have changed. It also states that the same fate is facing tigers. Blood Lions have on various occasions raised their concern “at the way the DEA continues to be involved in matters involving the captive lion breeding industry when they themselves claim their mandate to be solely about biodiversity conservation!’

Conservationists have slammed the new lion bone export quota released by the Department of Environmental Affairs DEA Minister Dr Edna Molewa.

The quota of 1 500 skeletons of captive bred lions may now be exported annually from South Africa, effective from June 7, double the amount from last year. According to the DEA, this figure was decided on after research undertaken by the South African National Biodiversity Institute SANBI , in collaboration with the Universities of the Witwatersrand. Oxford and Kent, which showed a growing stockpile of lion bones due to restrictions.

Captive bred lions are poached for their heads, faces, paws and claws in Africa and breeders of these lions which never see the wild, are in dire straits as the USA and UK have now restricted animal trophies into these countries.

The DEA said in a statement that there was a demand for lion bones and if supply was restricted from the captive breeding facilities, dealers might seek illegal ways to source bones or start poaching lions. Molewa said, “South Africa has learned through its experience with rhino and abalone poaching that these illegal supply chains are very difficult to disband once they become established, and seeks to avoid such a scenario materialising.”