Cape Town – CITES CoP17 has dealt what is believed to be a devastating blow to African lions, critically endangered with an estimated 20 000 lions left in the wild.
Nine African nations, namely Niger, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria and Togo wanted to raise protection for lions by uplisting them to Appendix I, the maximum level of protection.
The move was intended to end the lion bone trade.
However Lions remain on CITES Appendix II with a “zero annual export quota for bones, bone pieces, products, claws, skeletons, skulls and teeth removed from the wild and traded for commercial purposes.”
‘A compromise proposal’
The compromise proposal was drafted at CoP17, currently underway in Johannesburg until Wednesday 05 October is said to be an “attempt to appease the fierce opposition from lion bone and body part traders and the hunting for entertainment enthusiasts”.
According to the document prepared by the European Union and Niger in their role as co-Chairs of the Working Group on African Lion, South Africa has been permitted to set its own export quota for the same body parts and products from their captive breeding operations.
‘You can’t tell the difference between wild or captive bred lion bones’
In response Blood Lions says, ”The trouble is, nobody can tell the difference between wild lion bones and captive bred lion bones. Tragically, it does not include lion skins or parts/derivatives obtained through captive breeding.”
ADI responded by saying, it is deeply dissappointed and believes his move actually “encourages opening markets in lion bone trade”.
“Countries that are not currently trading in lion bones will now want to join the trade. ADI strongly opposes canned hunting, trophy hunting, and all trade in live lions or their parts and derivatives. We urge all ADI supporters to take up this issue and take forward the battle to save the world’s lions.”
The decision is in stark contrast to the recent IUCN call for an end to captive bred lion hunting operations, and the recent recognition by the countries with wild lion populations, that the increasing lion bone trade poses a serious risk to the survival of the species in the wild.
‘Opening markets in lion bone trade’
Blood Lions maintains Lions desperately need Appendix I protection, “Canned hunting operations and commercial lion trade is not conservation, but actually fuels illicit trade.”
Added to the proposal, it states that subject to external funding, the Secretariat shall, in collaboration with African lion range States, the Convention on Migratory Species and IUCN investigate possible mechanisms to develop and support the implementation of joint lion conservation plans and strategies. It must also develop an inventory of African lion populations across its range, as well as develop strategies to reinforce international cooperation on the management of lions by undertaking studies on legal and illegal trade in lions to ascertain the origin and smuggling routes, in collaboration with TRAFFIC.
However, in a Conservation Action Trust piece written by Blood Lions Documentary maker Ian Michler, he says, “Contrary to the promotional claims, much of what takes place behind the fences of South Africa’s predator farms adds up to an industry that cannot be sustainable. Those involved won’t see it, and neither will they listen to words of warning because of the lucrative returns they currently make. And government, a rather odd bed-fellow to this constituency, seem to have been seduced by flimsy short-term economic arguments. “
Michler goes on to say that the notion of ‘sustainability’ has become the most overused and consequently meaningless phrase within conservation and wildlife circles.
“Used in equal measure by those that manage responsibly and the abusers of wildlife, it’s hardly surprising then that the predator breeding and canned or captive lion hunting industry is also invoking the term as a way of trying to sanitize what they do.
But how sustainable will it all be when the ‘wildness’ and the thrill has gone?”