Illegal exportation of lion bones rife despite declining population

play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
Lion 'Maya' stays next to her cub on the first birthday at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney on August 12 2022. Saeed Khan / AFP
Lion 'Maya' stays next to her cub on the first birthday at the Taronga Zoo in Sydney on August 12 2022. Saeed Khan / AFP


The illegal exportation of lion bones continues despite the dwindling wildlife population in South Africa, in which approximately 3 000 lions exist in the wild.

This is according to a presentation tabled by Humane Society International (HSI) executive director Tony Gerrans on behalf of the Conservation Action Trust, which works to protect threatened species. Gerran was addressing Parliament's portfolio committee on forestry, fisheries and the environment virtually on Tuesday.

"These animals are often exploited throughout their entire lives. Cubs and mothers are separated, and revenue is generated by allowing cub patting. When the animals are juveniles and subadults, there is a host of interactions which is sold to the tourist industry," said Gerrans.  

He explained that when the animals are matured, canned hunting takes place, which does not allow any semblance of a fair hunt. Most lions' bones are then exported for profit. 

"This gives rise to a wide range of welfare harms that the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has issued notices to breeders about, the contravention of section 2 of the Animals Act relating to the circumstances that lions are kept in captivity, these environments are characterised by poor diets, hygiene, shelter design, unregulated slaughter and poor enclosure design," Gerrans added.

Despite the high-level panel recommendations last year to curb wild lion captivity, which poses a risk to conservation and a negative impact on eco-tourism, which in turn, funds lion conservation, captive lion breeding and illegal exportation of lion bones continue. 

The director-general of the department of environment, forestry and fisheries, Nomfundo Tshabalala, confirmed the commitment of the department and the minister in dealing with lions that are held in captivity.  

READ: African hippo population is on the brink of extinction due to high levels of trade

"The minister (Barbara Creecy) has established a lion panel to look into the issues of lions kept in captivity and ensure that all elements of the high-level panel are implemented. This is due to the complexity of issues around the industry whereby we need to secure jobs and come up with other alternatives," said Tshabalala. 

DA member of Parliament William Bryant commented that officials seemed unprepared to answer the questions posed.  

"To have the same response that will come back to you with some answers is not what a portfolio committee is about. We are supposed to be asking questions and receiving responses during a meeting; otherwise, what is the point of having a meeting? We might as well submit written questions," said Bryant. 

Meanwhile, ANC member of Parliament Simphiwe Mbatha mentioned: 

During the previous presentation on captive lion breeding, it was said that the meat was donated to nearby communities after the lions were shot. This speaks to the issues of diseases.

Mbatha added that she was not surprised that people caught tuberculosis from the lions' bones, but was concerned about the non-response from the department.

Outcomes from the international conference in Panama  

In a media statement, HSI reported success in the protection of some threatened species at the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which took place on November 14 in Panama.

“A total of 345 wild animal species will now have new or increased protection from international trade. Sharks, guitarfish rays, stingrays, glass frogs, lizards, turtles and birds are among the animals that benefited from the meeting," said spokesperson of HSI Leozette Roode, in the statement.

READ: War on rhino poaching – a never-ending bloody battle

Roode added that the greatest disappointments of the conference were the party's failure to increase the protection of hippos by ending international trade in hippo parts, mainly their ivory teeth for commercial purposes. 

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Latest issue
Latest issue
All the news from City Press in PDF form.
Read now
Voting Booth
Do you believe that the various planned marches against load shedding will prompt government to bring solutions and resolve the power crisis?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
23% - 87 votes
77% - 293 votes