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South Africa does well out of captive lions

Wednesday 20th August 2014

Captive bred lions 

From South Africa, I supply the world...



As many of you know, CITES publishes a trade database on the Internet. But the records are always about two years behind – apparently this delay results from processing hand-written records.

But in 2012, South Africa exported these amounts of lion products:

  • 170 lion “bodies”, an increase of 290% over the average from the past four years. “Bodies” are exported to Asia for the medicine trade
  • 846 kg of lion bones for the Chinese Medicine Trade
  • 274 live lions, an increase of 180% over the average from the past four years, most exported to highly dubious destinations
  • 178 lion skins, an increase of 274% over the average from the past four years
  • 132 lion skulls, an increase of 200% from the average of the past four years
  • 901 lion “trophies” – a slight increase from the average of 891 trophies over the past four years

It would seem captive lion breeding is doing well in terms of earning income.

As for wild lions, trophy hunting exports show the following:

  • Burkina Faso exported no trophies during 2011 and 2012
  • Benin exported 3 lion trophies in 2012 from a very small and declining population
  • Cameroon has not exported lion trophies from 2009-2012. Not surprising as there are perhaps 100 lions left in that country
  • Mozambique exported 31 lion trophies, over double of the 14 exported in 2011
  • Namibia exported 22 lion trophies, a slight increase from 17 in 2011
  • Tanzania exported 62 lion trophies, a slight increase from 55 in 2011
  • Zimbabwe exported 68 lion trophies, a 136% increase over 2011

So overall the pattern looks like this: South African captive bred lions are dominating all aspects of the trade in lion products. This could be for several reasons -

  • Buying a lion in South Africa brings a guarantee of a trophy as these animals are captive bred and put out in a field for the “hunter” to shoot.
  • Buying a captive bred lion in South Africa is cheap compared to a wild lion.
  • Due to excessive hunting in the past, there are few wild lions left, so the only place to go trophy “hunting” these days is South Africa.
  • Over the past five years to 2012, South Africa exported 4,473 lion trophies. Over that same period, Zimbabwe exported 270, Zambia 337, Tanzania 527. 
  • It is said there are 8,000 lions in captive breeding programs in South Africa. This would seem an underestimate to be able to supply 4,473 adult lion trophies, 440 skins and 932 live lions for export over the five years 2008-2012. 
  • There are good organizations in South Africa attempting to make a change in this captive lion breeding, but the increases in all categories quoted above means they must work much harder.
  • At the end of the day, it is only strict import restrictions of captive bred lion products from South Africa that will make any forward progress. Local programmes would seem to be equivalent to attempting demand reduction of ivory in China – it will be very slow progress at best.

So what is the take-home message from the above?

  • Wild lions have already decreased to the point that their trophy hunting numbers have dropped radically. This is despite all efforts by hunting operators to “deliver” lions to their clients including baiting and calling.
  • Nobody knows how many wild lions remain. There should be an immediate moratorium on all wild lion trophy hunting until independent surveys can establish remaining lion numbers.
  • South Africa provides a “service” for lion trophy hunters via captive bred lions. This “service“ should be banned as it is based on animal cruelty. All importing nations should ban any further (CITES approved) entry of any lion product from South Africa. Lions should not be bred for the bullet. 
  • Lions should be placed on the endangered species lists of all international organizations. The reluctance to do so has been greatly influenced by trophy hunting pressure. If trophy hunters did indeed “conserve” lions by hunting them there should be many more thousands of wild lions in Africa. LionAid calls on WWF, IUCN and similar organizations that still think lion trophy hunting conserves lions to rapidly change course to a more educated reality. 
  • LionAid would call on all African countries to declare lions as a nationally protected species.

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Posted by Chris Macsween at 18:13

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