Cape Town - Despite South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) outlining various ways they will ensure that only captive bred lion remains are traded from South Africa in a legal process, the trade's ugly underbelly has already been exposed.
Over the past weekend, three lions were killed for their body parts at a Turffontein farm near the Ranch conservancy and resort outside Polokwane.
Police told News24 they suspect the lions were poisoned.
"Two of the lions, both males, had their heads and paws cut off. The third one, a female, was not cut," said police spokesperson Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo.
On Friday, a Facebook post by the Wildlife Poisoning Prevention and Conflict Resolution programme also shared a shocking image to social media, saying there have reports of 'six lions poisoned in Limpopo province'.
It is unclear whether the three lions poisoned on Turffontein farm were part of the lions mentioned below.
This latest incidents seen below come after similar cases of poaching, previously reported in Tzaneen, Mara and Hoedspruit.
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT - NOT FOR SENSITIVE VIEWERS
Wildlife enthusiasts were enraged by the latest poaching incidents. One social media user, Paul Tully, commented on Wildlife Poisoning Prevention and Conflict Resolution's post saying, "SIX lions poisoned. Likely captive lions (given lion condition & fence in background). If they are captive, then it is further evidence of the mess that the captive breeding industry is..... and South Africa want to trade lion bones to perpetuate this?!"
While lions are being poached for the body parts - which are used in traditional medicine - the DEA is considering the export of 800 lion skeletons, which they say will only be derived from captive animals.
This, they say, is in accordance with the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) agreement, which stipulated that the Department could determine a quota of captive-bred lion bones permitted to be exported from South Africa in 2017.
But, conservationists argue that the stimulation of a lion bone market will be fuel to a fire that will see a mass-killing of lions in South Africa - regardless of whether they are captive-bred of wild.
The latest poaching of lions in Limpopo - where the animals' body parts were removed - confirms conservationists' fears.
Once killed and cut up, it is virtually impossible to tell which animal parts are derived from captive-bred lions, and which come from wild lions. And although the DEA says it will 'manage' the trade by only exporting whole lion skeletons which have been confirmed captive-bred through DNA sampling, the stimulation of the market will create a force too difficult to regulate.
Quota still being established
The poaching incidents come as the jury is still out on what the quota for captive-bred lion parts will be in SA for 2017.
The DEA has emphasised that no exports of lion bones will be authorised in 2017 until the export quota for the trade in these specimens has been established and communicated to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Secretariat.
Before that, members of the public are invited to submit written comments on or before 2 February 2017 for consideration by the CITES Management Authority and Scientific Authority before the final quota is communicated to CITES Secretariat in March 2017.
Submissions can be sent to Mpho Tjiane via telephone on 012 399 9596, or via email.
Alongside the DEA request for comment, the Humane Society International has launched a petition, pleading with the Director of CITES Policy Development and Implementation to ban the trade of lion bones - regardless of whether they are wild or captive.
"The South African government cannot make a scientifically based determination that the export of these 800 skeletons is not detrimental to the survival of the wild population as required under international law. In the absence of this non-detriment finding, we urge you to establish a zero export quota and thus end the trade in lion parts," the petition reads.
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