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lion bones resizedThere has been much news today about the “decision” by the SA government to sell 800 lion skeletons annually to Asian consumers.

This decision has history, and is supported, to some extent, by CITES.

We will remember the CITES Conference of Parties that took place in Johannesburg in September/October 2016. There, a proposal by several African nations to place lions on Appendix 1 of CITES (no commercial trade) was not even voted on. Instead, a “compromise” was engineered by the EU delegation to prohibit commercial traffic in bones, teeth and claws of wild lions. Hunting trophies were still going to be allowed, and any product from captive bred lions were just OK.

CITES caved in once again on issues concerning lions.

CITES then said this -

“Annual export quotas for trade in bones, bone pieces, bone products, claws, skeletons, skulls and teeth for commercial purposes, derived from captive breeding operations in South Africa will be established and communicated annually to the CITES Secretariat. “

In January 2017, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) proposed, out of nowhere, that the annual quota should be 800 skeletons. Where this number came from is still a mystery. Why not 700 or 900 or 675? But that number seems to have stuck.

“The decision to make this recommendation was made prior to public consultation and without the appropriate scientific basis required under South Africa’s obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. The DEA has now opened a two week comment period – ending on 2 February, 2017 – to collect input on the recommended quota.”

Comments were duly submitted and duly ignored it would seem. The Department of Environmental Affairs liked the 800 number and rubber stamped it.

Notice that CITES seems to have little ability for input – all they said was that SA lion bone exports “…will be established and communicated annually to the CITES Secretariat. “

In other words CITES will also just rubber stamp the export of the 800 skeletons.

Meaning that all opposition to the export of lion bones is now null and void, and that all caution put forward to warn the SA government that such trade is reckless (can anyone tell the difference between a poached wild lion bone and a captive bred lion bone?) ignored.

Perhaps South Africa just does not care. The government recently also allowed the sale of rhino horns from stockpiles “nationally”. I don’t even want to get into the appropriate storm that created.

South Africa, after all, seems only concerned about the maximum commoditization of wildlife and does not take into account the knock-on effect of their decisions on wildlife in other nations. CITES and many other conservation organizations like the IUCN have played along.

South Africa is just about South Africa it would seem. There is no concern or worry about forming a collective partnership with other nations in Africa to best conserve wildlife. South Africa is about trade at all costs?

Change must come, but we will need active participation by the South African “conservation” organizations – for example to take the decision to sell 800 lion skeletons to court. The DEA did not do their due process in public consultation, the DEA cannot prove that those 800 skeletons are all from captive bred lions, the DEA cannot prove that the decision will NOT promote poaching of wild lions for their bones. We would have that any competent lawyer should be able to run with these instructions in order to seek at least an injunction against this proposed sale.

Picture credit - Brent Stirton

Add a comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 15:09