NSPCA battles environmental affairs over lion bone quota

The National Council of SPCAs (NSPCA) has lodged an urgent application with the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg against the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to interdict the department's authorisation for the export of lion bones.

The NSPCA says it objects to the lack of proper consideration behind the DEA's decision to increase the quota from 800 to 1 500 while a judicial review is underway.

"We do not believe that there should be a quota at all," Karen Trendler, NSPCA wildlife trade and trafficking manager told News24.

READ: Abused lion cub rescued from Paris finds new home in South Africa

She added that there were significant welfare concerns associated with the breeding of lions for slaughter.

Welfare concerns

The NSPCA listed its concerns over the quota which it argued would have a negative impact on the big cats.

"The NSPCA also believes, for both the review and interdict purposes that:

  • there is inadequate regulation of lions' conditions of captivity and slaughter;
  • the study on which the decision was based is incomplete;
  • the DEA failed to comply with its statutory duty to consult;
  • based on expert opinion and data available, considers the decision to be scientifically irrational;
  • lion bone trade may threaten the viability of lion and other big cat populations globally, encouraging consumers to utilise lion bone as a replacement for tiger bone in wine, tonics and traditional medicines and may increase demand;
  • captive lion 'farming' is an industry that has no conservation value and poses a risk to both wild lion, tiger and other big cat populations globally; and
  • The lion bone trade has links to transnational wildlife crime syndicates and other wildlife crime."

Trendler said the organisation's concerns about the African lion (Panthera leo) were shared by other organisations and were receiving attention from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites).

Habitat loss

The African lion is listed on Appendix 1 on Cites, which means it is on the list of the most endangered among Cites-listed animals and plants and is threatened with extinction.

Despite that, conservation group Born Free believes South Africa is the world's largest exporter of lion bones and skeletons; South Africa has between 6 000 and 8 000 lions in captive breeding facilities, compared to an estimate of 2 876 living in the wild.

The World Wide Fund for Nature says that African lions used to roam across most of Africa, but are now confined mostly to eastern and southern Africa.

The organisation adds that lion bones have become increasingly in-demand – sometimes as a substitute for tiger bones – as an ingredient in traditional Asian medicine.

"The global and local concerns for the captive breeding of lion for canned hunting and bone resulted in the chairman of the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environment holding a two-day parliamentary colloquium in August this year – the largest and longest parliamentary colloquium to date at which the captive lion industry and the impact on Brand SA, conservation value etc and lion bone quota were interrogated," said Trendler.

She added that the change in perception of canned hunting – the practice where lions are raised in captivity and released just before being shot – has made an impact on the demand for bones.

"Trophy hunting and canned lion hunting were for many years the main source of bone for export but with global opposition to canned hunting, and changes in trophy import regulations, lion bone became a primary product with lions being slaughtered for bone. The slaughter is not adequately controlled or regulated, and we have cruelty cases pending."

READ the court papers here:

Case86515_17_NSPCA_LionBones.pdf

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