In terms of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites), provided the required permits are in place, commercial international trade in lion is regarded as legitimate, the Department of Environmental Affairs (DoE) said in Pretoria yesterday.
A 2008 study by The International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List pegs Panthera Leo at vulnerable, which meant the iconic African symbol was “considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild”.
Magdel Boshoff, acting director of threatened or protected species at the DoE, said the South African lion population strength was healthy.
“We are reassessing its conservation status and according to what we have … the status for the South African population should actually be at ‘least concern’. The criteria for ‘near threatened’ stipulates there has to be fewer than 1 500 adults in the wild. We have more than 3 000 lions.”
The DoE considers habitat loss and land conversion as the biggest threat. “The lion bone trade and hunting could be regarded as a threat on a wider scale but that is not a threat in the South African context,” Boshoff said.
In 2012, the income generated by trophy hunting from fees and daily rates was about R807 million.
Boshoff noted a 2013 study by the SA National Biodiversity Institute found “currently trophy hunting of lion has no detrimental impact on the wild lion population, as fewer than approximately 10 wild lions are trophy hunted each year”.
However, even though legislation was tough, Boshoff acknowledged “capacity to enforce to the extent that we would like it to be enforced may be a challenge”.
It is going to take public input and a multigovernmental department approach to clamp down on illegal activities, the DoE said.