“A formal assessment of the South African trade in African Lion bones and other body parts is necessary and urgent says various wildlife organisations”

PRETORIA – The recent meeting between breeders and hunters regarding their role in the management of the lion industry, at which the minister of environmental affairs was also present, has been criticised by conservationists and activists, who say it was one-sided. Conservationists, wildlife organisations and activists were not invited to this meeting.

Only organisations supportive of lion breeding and hunting, including the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa and the South African Predator Association, appear to have been invited.

The minister’s office said the purpose of the meeting was “to address widespread and mounting public concern” about the controversial practice of canned-lion hunting.

It comes at a time when a new documentary called Blood Lions exposes some shocking practices of this industry, and a new international report by TRAFFIC sheds light on the growing trade in these animals’ bones, involving hundreds of South African lion carcasses exported annually to supply the traditional Asian medicine market.

The Department of Environmental Affairs’ official statement about the meeting reveals a fundamental disagreement over what constitutes canned hunting in South Africa.

Although the government and the breeding and hunting industry insist that hunting of captive-bred lions represents the legitimate and sustainable use of a wildlife species, they do acknowledge that “rogue elements” and criminals operating at the fringes of this industry, should be rooted out. They also believe that all that is necessary to rectify the poor public perception of the lion breeding business is to improve and clarify the regulations which govern it.

In stark contrast, opponents claim that factory farming of lions in stressful, unnatural and unhealthy breeding farms for the sole purpose of supplying the lucrative trophy hunting industry, and the secondary income stream from the trade in lion bones, represents a violation of wildlife conservation principles and animal welfare standards, and has no conservation value.

Around 6 000 lions are currently confined in about 150 South African breeding facilities.

While government appears intent on reforming and sanitising the business of breeding and hunting lions, critics want to see it dismantled altogether.  According to the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency, no lion breeding is allowed in the Mpumalanga Province, and no permits will be issued.

The President of the Born Free Foundation said earlier that “Blood Lions lays bare the truth behind the canned hunting industry that, far from contributing to the future survival of the species, may, in fact, accelerate extinction in the wild, leaving behind a trail  littered with rotting corpses of its helpless and hopeless victims.”