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Born Free gives evidence against lion breeding in South Africa

Born Free’s Head of Policy Dr Mark Jones gave evidence at this week’s Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs’ colloquium on the future of South Africa’s cruel and cynically commercial lion breeding industry.

The two-day colloquium (21st-22nd August) in Cape Town – chaired by Africa National Congress MP Mr Mohlopi Philemon Mapulane – took evidence from a large number of stakeholders and attracted a great deal of national and international interest and media attention.

Born Free’s Head of Policy Mark Jones, who was the sole overseas NGO representative to be invited to give evidence to the Committee, said: “This colloquium was the first real formal opportunity for those who take issue with the breeding and exploitation of lions and other predators for tourism, canned hunts and the bone trade, to voice their concerns directly to Parliamentarians in South Africa. The Committee Members can have been left in little doubt about the damage this heinous industry is causing to South Africa’s reputation as a responsible custodian of its wildlife, and the threat it poses to the future of wild lions and other big cats across Africa and beyond.”

Drawing from Born Free’s report Cash Before Conservation, published in April 2018, Dr Jones outlined how the industry in South Africa has grown over the past decade to involve more than 260 facilities containing 8,000 or more animals; how lions and other captive predators are cynically exploited for profit at every stage of their usually short lives; and how the vast majority are destined to be killed as trophies in ‘canned hunts’ or slaughtered to supply bones and other products for the international trade.

Key players in the industry have been closely associated with wildlife trafficking, and thousands of skeletons have been exported in recent years to trading companies in Laos and Vietnam well-known for illegal activities. In spite of this, the growth of the lion breeding industry has been actively encouraged and supported by key provincial and national political figures within South Africa, including the current Environment Minister, despite controversial claims that it promotes the ‘green economy’ and represents a form of ‘sustainable utilisation’.

The colloquium, which was addressed by Environment Minister Edna Molewa, took evidence from Government officials from the Departments of Environment and Agriculture, South Africa National Parks, Brand South Africa, various hunting organisations and representatives of the predator breeding industry, as well as wildlife and animal welfare organisations and economists. Strong calls for the closure of the industry came from both animal protectionists and from some within the hunting sector.

Dr Jones added: “The colloquium was well chaired, and at times the proponents of the predator breeding industry were left squirming in their seats amidst a torrent of criticism from many fronts, including from the Chair himself. We hope and trust the Committee will provide a robust report directing South Africa’s lawmakers to wind up this vile industry. Born Free stands ready to work with others to ensure that any such process is conducted with intelligence, humanity, and above all compassion for the animals concerned.”

The Committee is due to report to Parliament in the coming weeks.