Prior to listing lions as a vulnerable species on the US Endangered Species Act, US “hunters” flocked to South Africa to hunt captive raised lions. Many of them became infamous – like Melissa Bachman and all ten members of the Bob Vitro hunting party.
All US hunters, supported by organizations like Safari Club International, Conservation Force and the Dallas Safari Club, claim to be hunting these tame lions legally, and that is true. In fact, the Safari Club International “accepts animals killed on captive hunts for inclusion in its record books. Captive or "canned" hunts are staged on game ranches where animals … are shot within fenced enclosures.”
Over the five years 2010-2014, CITES records show that US hunters imported 2,582 lion trophies from South Africa, accounting for 55% of all South African trophy exports.
The USA was clearly the largest world market for South Africa’s canned lion hunts. But now the brakes have been applied.
According to Blood Lions, an organization we work with closely, “Dan Ashe, The Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that, “Beginning today, the United States will not allow the import of lion trophies taken from captive lion populations in South Africa.”
[Ashe] then went on to say that, “In order to permit the import of lion trophies under the [US Endangered Species Act], exporting nations like South Africa must provide clear evidence showing a demonstrable conservation benefit to the long-term survival of the species in the wild. In the case of lions taken from captive populations in South Africa, that burden of proof has not been met.”
The lion breeders in South Africa have long ago acknowledged in court that their breeding activities have nothing to do with wild lion conservation. So no wonder the burden of proof failed.
Given the massive income depletion via US trophy hunters, South African lion breeders must now attempt to find replacement markets. For trophies, these still could be China, Mexico, Russia and the European Union. Yes, the EU where over 90% of citizens oppose lion trophy hunting. Yet where EU delegates to the recent CITES conference supported sales of lion products from South Africa’s lion breeding industry. The EU has the same information available to them as the USA. Yet the EU makes very different decisions on lion product trade? Hmmm.
More work to be done for sure. Let’s begin by demanding some accountability from EU CITES delegates and their bosses at their Ministries?
Picture credit: randomstory.org