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Lion skeletons hung out to dry

It was always predicted to happen, was it not? Southern African countries were going to look in envy at the profits being made from lion products by South Africa and join in the commercial trading frenzy.

CITES records show that Namibia sent 13 lion skeletons to Vietnam in 2013 and then 23 skeletons to Vietnam in 2014. The source code indicates these were skeletons from wild lions.

This trade by Namibia is of course dwarfed by South Africa. That nation exported a total of 3,918 lion skeletons in 2013 and 1,158 lion skeletons in 2014. SA exports went mostly to Laos and Vietnam, but also Thailand. Interestingly, while we largely accept that such skeletons originate from the South African lion captive breeding trade, the CITES source codes reveal that 175 skeletons in 2013 and 87 skeletons in 2014 were listed by South Africa as having a “wild” origin. For sure, Asian “traditional medicine” values “wild” sources for their products much more highly, as supposedly “stronger”.  But South Africa always fiddles with source codes to make their lion products more valuable.

Recently, the CITES CoP 17 decided that “wild” lion bones were no longer to be entertained in trade. Laughable, as the local CITES authorities will just change the source codes to suit no matter the actual origin of the lion product.

I would ask Namibian citizens to assist by accessing additional data from the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism. CITES trade data are always two years behind, so we all need to ascertain how many lion skeletons and bones were shipped from Namibia to Asian destinations in 2015 and 2016.

Also we need to establish to what extent captive lion breeding facilities are being established in Namibia and for that matter Zimbabwe. Permits for captive breeding need to be applied for, and via freedom of information such requests to see permit applications should be made available to citizens according the Namibian Constitution. In reality, access to such information appears not to be forthcoming in Namibia.

Meanwhile, Namibia should be asked to cease and desist from following the South African lion skeleton trade model to Vietnam etc. Might bring some profits in the short term, but has already resulted in increased lion poaching across Africa?

Picture credit: Brent Stirton

Posted by Chris Macsween at 21:02

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