Conservationists up in arms over government’s lion skeleton export policy

The killing of more than 50 lions on a Free State farm last week has conservationists in an uproar over the government’s lion skeleton export policy.

Bloemfontein SPCA senior inspector Reinet Meyer said that last week they had received a complaint that two lions were being kept in temporary containers for three days on the Wag-‘n-Bietjie farm outside Bloemfontein. What they and nature conservation authorities had discovered was a “deplorable” scene‚ which she described as a “lion slaughterhouse”.

“It was terrible. For me a lion is a stately animal‚ a kingly animal. Here he is butchered for people just to make money‚ it’s absolutely disgusting‚” said Meyer.

The SPCA was busy finalising charges of animal abuse against the farm’s owner‚ Andre Steyn‚ and his foreman‚ Johan van Dyk‚ on Monday. The Beeld newspaper reported on Saturday that lions from other provinces were also being transported to the “slaughterhouse” without permits as required by law.

It reported that a taxidermist in Bloemfontein prepares the skeletons for export to China and the Far East after the animals’ flesh is boiled from the bone.

Animal rights activists at the Blood Lions Campaign said that the department of environmental affairs’ new policy permitting the export of 800 lion skeletons every year was partly to blame.

“The sale of lions’ bones‚ for medicine to Asia‚ should be a major concern for South Africans. Currently‚ there are approximately 8‚000 captive-bred lions on farms across the country‚ all of which could be shot and processed in a similar manner‚ for export to Asia‚” read a Blood Lions Campaign statement.

“The reality is that this is part of a cycle of commercial exploitation on South African farms which involves breeding‚ cub petting‚ walking with lions‚ canned/captive hunting and the trade in bones from lions and other predators‚” it said.

Meyer said 26 lions were killed on Monday last week and another 28 the following day.

“To see 28 dead lions is not nice. These are the animals we should be preserving‚ so why are we preserving the animal but on the other hand we give licences and quotas to kill the animals and export them? It doesn’t make sense to me‚” she said.

She said the two lions which were kept in transport cages could not move around and were depressed.

“You could see they were depressed. When the lions were released from the cages the first thing they did was urinate and released their bowels. It was totally disgusting that they were kept like this. A lion is a wild animal‚ it wants its freedom but now it’s kept in a small cage for three days. It’s absolutely deplorable‚” said Meyer.

Despite numerous attempts to contact Steyn and Van Dyk‚ TimesLIVE was unable to reach them for comment.