Fears over SA lion poaching

2012-08-16 09:26

Potchefstroom - Lion bones have become a hot commodity for their use in Asian traditional medicine, driving up exports from South Africa to the East and creating new fears of the survival of the species.

Conservationists are already angry over lion trophy hunting.

The skeletons are mostly shipped to Vietnam and Laos, feeding conservationists' fears that the market will drive up lion poaching - just as the illegal hunting of rhinos escalates for their horns, also popular in Asian traditional remedies.

"Suddenly, and very recently, there are a great number of people from Laos who have a big interest for trophy hunting. And that had never happened in the whole history of Laos," said Pieter Kat from conservation NGO LionAid.

Around 500 lions are hunted legally every year in SA, most of them from commercial lion breeding farms which also supply zoos all over the world.

Threatened species

Until recently hunters paid $20 000 just for a trophy to hang above the fireplace, and the carcass was thrown to the dogs.

But their crushed bones have become popular as substitute for the bones of tigers in love potions or "tiger wine". Trade in tiger parts is banned under international law as the animal is a threatened species.

Now Asian hunters buy lion trophy hunting permits to get at the bones.

"They prefer hunting lionesses, whose $4 000 price tag is more affordable than the males," Kat said.

Most swear it's about the trophy, which means safari operators and breeders can easily dispose of the carcass at the same time and make an extra buck.

A lion skeleton these days fetches up to $10 000.

A few hundred partial or complete lion skeletons were shipped out of the country in 2010, according to latest official figures - all completely legal.

The trade started in 2008.

Illegal exporters

"That trade is monitored very, very closely by provincial officers," said Pieter Potgieter, chair of the South African Predator Breeders Association.

"They don't release the bones unless they are sure that they come from a legally hunted lion or that the lion died of natural causes."

But activists cry foul play, saying it is worsening the captive breeding of lions for what has come to be known as "canned" hunting.

"Lions are now being specifically bred in captivity to be 'harvested' for their bones," said Paul Hart, who runs a lion sanctuary in the south west of the country.

Animal rights groups also say some cats are killed off on the sly, a theory possibly supported by the nabbing of illegal exporters at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

Breeders are also coy about the number of lions they have on their farms. South Africa is thought to have 5 000 in captivity.

But the bones of wild lions - thought to be more potent - are worth even more in Asia, which threatens the 3 000 big cats left in the country's reserves, animal rights groups say.


Around 700 000 people signed an online petition asking President Jacob Zuma to suspend lion bone exports from his country.

"It is just a question of time before the poachers find their way in this market and kill the lions. Why should they go and buy an expensive carcass from a breeder if they can poach it and get it for nearly nothing?" said Chris Mercer from the Campaign Against Canned Hunting.

Breeders deny the lion bone trade will spark poaching similar to that of rhino. Almost 500 were killed in 2011 alone for their horns, though the trade is banned.

"If lion bone is available legally, on the market, why would anyone choose to take all the risks and costs associated with poaching?

"The South African lion breeding industry can supply a lot of demand, and we can make a contribution toward the saving of the Asian tigers and also the South African lions," Potgieter argued.

Groups are divided over the dilemma: Maintain a legal and regulated trade in lion carcasses from animals bred in captivity or outlaw the trade and risk a spike in poaching.

Authorities, meanwhile, have remained silent.

  • deborah.vanderpas - 2012-08-16 09:39


      jacob.ndlovu.3 - 2012-08-16 13:49

      Typical of Asians who treat every living species on this planet as a mere commodity! The Millions of years, animals have lasted, Rhino's, Lions, Tigers etc and then humans find it, start factory farming every living creature and it's gone in no time in the wild. It wasn't easy to save, and was on the brink of extinction anyway, but the fact remains that we've snuffed it out. We're a society run? by greed and murder. We are the species that destroys. Is that not how humanity should be defined? Never mind the possession of consciousness, and language, and art, we are special in a different way: we are the only species capable of destroying our own habitat. Yet the more damage we do, the more plants and birds and mammals we wipe out, the more forests we cut down and the more seas we pollute, the more we seem to retreat into a secular, smiley, people-centred creed, and which insists that humans are basically, fundamentally, good. The Chinese will exploit and abuse anything that moves, and their impending world domination sounds the death knell for all wildlife; the only creatures that will be allowed to exist are those that can be utilised by the human carnivore.

  • mholthuysen - 2012-08-16 09:46

    Unbelievable - sell them Tokolosh bones...!

  • LanfearM - 2012-08-16 09:51

    Just WHAT is it with these damn Asian witchdoctors who believe that bones and nails and teeth of animals will cure you of anything? It is utter and total bullshyte! FFS! I thought Asians were educated...

  • darren.britz.3 - 2012-08-16 10:02

    WTF! Can't get anymore Rhino so all they do is change species. Maybe somebody should start a rumor saying foreign bones are valuable

  • lida.boltar - 2012-08-16 10:21

    I am starting to hate the chinese. Nothing is sacred to them and I hate all the willing South Africans who help them. Everything beautiful is getting destroyed. I see the end of a living world coming.

  • jomardl - 2012-08-16 10:27

    Why there are almost no wild animals left in China.

  • sekwati.robinson - 2012-08-16 10:29

    a petition urging Zuma to protect lions lol hahahaha yeah right joke of the century...the guy does'nt care about human can he care about animals,does he even know what 1 looks for those bruce lee's in Asia believing in dead bones to cure their bedroom problems,shame on you...they are killing whales,sharks,dogs,snakes,ants...humans are next on their list..just wait till someone tells them that consuming human brain will make them taller

  • walter.lebza - 2012-08-16 10:42

    Someone must go to vietnam, china and start a rumour which says rat teeth heals more than rhino horn and lion bones. Maybe we can stop producing rat poison and make a quick buck with this rodents and save our beautiful wildlife.

      sekwati.robinson - 2012-08-16 10:44

      hahahahaha good 1...

  • sedeshan - 2012-08-16 10:46

    Did you know that the bones of a poacher, when ground and mixed with the eyes of illegal tradesmen, form an extremely potent traditional age-reversing paste? Spread the word.

  • joahan.smal - 2012-08-16 13:12

    We are sitting in a catch 22. With East Africa as example; Kenya banned trophy hunting in 1977 and their wildlife numbers are down 76% and they have 2 000 lions left. Tanzania allows trophy hunting and their lion population stands at 15 000. The sad reality in Africa is 'if it pays, it stays'. Rhino has taught us a very expensive lesson and that is that we cannot rely on government to approach culprit countries to stop dealing in rhino horn. They will rather see the species disappear than get the Chinese and Vietnamese governments around a table to force them to take more strict action against their people. Thus at first sight it looks like a good idea to breed lions for their bones, but where do we draw the line? Should we start breeding dogs for the Asian meat market because there is a market? Should we change our attitudes towards wildlife and animals just to suit the Asians because they are stuffing the pockets of corrupt politicians? I don't think so!

      ed.gutsche - 2012-08-16 13:46

      hi johan, i cannot agree with you...i know that your sentiments are good, but your numbers are wrong. fact is that there are only about 20000 lions left in the wild, of which about 10000 are between tanzania and mozambique and kenya, mainly between the masai and selous. what people do not realise is that the chinese are moving-into africa BIG time. they are everywhere and hve now even been given permits to mine masai, serengeti and selous reserves. oh yes, they have also shot 20000 elephants in tanzania ALONE!!!! 20 THOUSAND! africa is done for, the best we can do is to hope that some little chinamen get eaten by some lions...otherwise, to save what is there, some farming needs to be done.

      jacob.ndlovu.3 - 2012-08-16 13:59

      Could you tell me where you got your information from with regards to the 20 000 elephants that got killed? I cant believe what im reading. These Chinese/ Gooks are going to wipe out Africa's wildlife in no time and then they will start using human's as a delicay. They have already been bust for using human foetosus for some sort of BS medicine in Southern China..

      joahan.smal - 2012-08-16 14:59

      Hi Ed, I got my figures from a scientific paper written by top wildlife scientists such as Dr Peter Lindsey and Dr Guy Balme. These figures were confirmed this morning by the head of a wildlife management institute of TUKS.

  • charmaine.hoffmann.1 - 2012-08-16 13:14

    Why are men so insucure (not all though) just the Asians and Chinese...and some of all countries that think they need to take potions to get a hard-on or hang a trophy on the wall and this will make them a "man"...sometimes I just cant understand the species!!!

      Quantronium - 2012-08-16 14:31

      Why are women so demanding

      charmaine.hoffmann.1 - 2012-08-18 13:13

      Maybe because we expect better!!

  • phathuchicos - 2012-08-16 13:19

    I fear African people's bones are next for making Chinese "AFRO"disiac muti...just watch the space.

  • eugene.henning.3 - 2012-08-16 13:31

    Can these "traditional medicine clan of people" not just leave our animals alone?! Please...go catch a snail and eats its shell...maybe it helps and you can source/ eat/ grind/ cook your own...without stuffing around with our animals!!!

  • ed.gutsche - 2012-08-16 13:42

    cant we please import some Asians into the country to feed to our lions? PS: dont forget the 20000 elephants that have been slaughtered this year by Chinese poachers and mineral companies in Tanzania alone. 20000.

      jacob.ndlovu.3 - 2012-08-16 13:59

      Could you tell me where you got your information from with regards to the 20 000 elephants that got killed? I cant believe what im reading. These Chinese/ Gooks are going to wipe out Africa's wildlife in no time and then they will start using human's as a delicay. They have already been bust for using human foetosus for some sort of BS medicine in Southern China..

      joahan.smal - 2012-08-16 15:10

      Ed I think you might have a problem with your calculator.

  • Quantronium - 2012-08-16 14:27

    Chicken poaching is a serious problem in mpumalanga

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