The increasing trade in lion bones has led to close to 100 lions being slaughtered in the Free State, prompting an outcry from the National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) and conservationists.
The NSPCA raised its serious concern last week after it emerged that scores of lions had been transported to the Free State Farm, Wag ‘n Bietjie, to be killed and their bones exported to Asia.
“A total of 73 lions were shot a few weeks ago and more are being transported to the Free State to suffer the same fate. I visited the farm and two lions were held in a very small crate for two or three days before being destroyed,” said Bloemfontein SPCA senior inspector Reinet Meyer.
Meyer said the killing of lions would continue “as long as the captive-bred industry is supported by the government and regulations are inadequately enforced”.
Louzel Lombard Steyn of the Conservation Action Trust cited the proliferation of the captive-bred lion industry, saying that the Department of Environmental Affairs’ quota for the export of 800 captive-bred lion skeletons per year effectively made the mass shooting of “canned” lions legal.
Six lions on a Free State lion breeding farm were also recently poisoned and their limbs cut off, said Steyn.
“The quota has caused a global outcry and sharp criticism. Conservation authorities noted that there was no scientific data or conservation benefit to wild animals to back the proposal. However, it was approved nonetheless and was backed by the department’s promise that all skeletons would be closely monitored and DNA tested before export.”
The Born Free Foundation also condemned the quota, saying the department was “damning SA’s conservation reputation to benefit a small clique of breeders by allowing canned hunting, trade in lion bones and sale of rhino horn while admitting its decisions are not backed by science or conservation information”.
The foundation added that the inadequate regulation of the bone trade would have a negative impact on South Africa’s conservation status.