• Published:

We the undersigned attended the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs Colloquium on Captive Lion Breeding for Hunting on 21 and 22 August 2018 and/or a follow-up informal workshop on 23 August 2018. We wish to thank you and the Committee for organising such successful proceedings with fair discussion and for the opportunity of inclusion and engagement in this historical event, at a turning point in South Africa’s conservation history.

The two days of analysis, dialogue and information sharing were extremely valuable, and we believe that the key outcomes of the colloquium were:

  • There is no conservation benefit to captive breeding of lions;

  • There is no conservation value in the lion bone trade;

  • The captive lion industry smears South Africa’s image as a conservation leader and damages our tourism industry;

  • The use of lion bones, body parts and derivatives in commercial trade, including for scientifically unproven medicine, is one of the major threats to wild lions and serves as a cover for illegally wild-sourced lion and other big cat parts;

  • The lion bone trade primarily operates within an illegal market and is run by criminal networks; and

  • There is a general abhorrence to the industry across multiple sectors including animal welfare, animal protection, conservation, hunting, multi-cultural and faith-based organisations, which echo the sentiment of the South African and international public at large;

  • There is significant doubt regarding the independence of the SANBI-commissioned report;

  • The necessity for counter-evidence as documented in the South African Institute of International Affairs economics report; and

  • The lack of clarity regarding the scientific data in determining the 2018 quota, which appears to have been driven by the number of lion skeletons produced and exported by the traders and breeders.However, we are also aware that we were not able to cover all aspects of the industry in the time available and that there are many intricacies that still require further exploration and discussion including:

  • The welfare of captive lions;

  • The ethical considerations of captive breeding and keeping of lions and the use of their parts

  • and hunting trophies;

  • What constitutes “sustainable use” as envisaged and intended in Section 24 of the

  • Constitution of the Republic of South Africa; and

  • Identification and resolution of key gaps in the legal framework that confuse and complicate

  • regulation and compliance monitoring of the industry;

  • The risk of human health and safety posed by zoonosis (an infection or disease that is

  • transmissible from animals to humans under natural conditions) including tuberculosis, parasite transmission and possible exposure to lethal immobilising compounds (if the animal is humanely immobilised before being shot) that may have deposited in the bones.

  • The significant risk to human safety, including fatalities, through physical interactions with tamed lions and other carnivores, resulting in at least 37 incidents affecting no less than 40 victims since 1996 and including 12 deaths;

  • The global trend of responsible tourism moving away from exploitative wildlife interactions;

  • The counter-argument that the lion bone trade may actually trigger increased demand and violate the precautionary principle, rather than satisfying it;

  • The trade of lion bone skeletons with known criminal syndicates;

  • A preliminary assessment of the number of bona fide and equipped sanctuaries and their ability to absorb large numbers of lions from the industry.

While we hope that the outcome of this colloquium will be the beginning of a phase-out process to end the captive breeding of lions and all its associated spin-off industries for commercial gain, we recognise that the government will have to evaluate the challenges and consequences of such a decision which could include:

  • Possible legal action from industry members (and/or NGO’s if the contrary is decided);
  • Consideration of how to manage thousands of captive lions that no longer have commercial value to their owners, in a responsible, intelligent, humane and compassionate way, for example, lifetime care in bona fide sanctuaries and/or humane euthanasia; and
  • The possibility of lion breeders abandoning their lions or handing them over to government custody.

Given that it has been shown that there is no valid scientific evidence to support the lion bone trade, and that enabling illicit activities through legal trading significantly damages Brand South Africa, we propose that the trade in lion bones from South Africa be immediately prohibited. Furthermore, all facilities must immediately cease the breeding of lions for commercial purposes. We further propose a phased-out approach to the closing down of the captive lion industry to accommodate current pregnant females.

We, as a group of experts in a variety of fields, will make ourselves available to assist government in the following ways in closing this industry:

  • Holding a stakeholder meeting with the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) to discuss implementation of various outcomes;

  • Supporting the government in any resulting legal action through provision of witnesses, amici curiae interventions, and so forth.

  • Assisting with the development of any procedures required to meet the objective of closing down the industry; and

  • Any other area where the government would benefit from our expert opinions or inputs.

    We look forward to further constructive engagement with you, the Committee and DEA around the ending of captive lion breeding industry.

    Signed: Africa's Finest Animal Talk Africa Ban Animal Trading Beauty Without Cruelty - South Africa Blood Lions Born Free Foundation - United Kingdom Centre for Environmental Rights Coalition of African Animal Welfare Organisations Cullinan & Associates Inc Don Pinnock EMS Foundation Endangered Wildlife Trust FOUR PAWS Animal Welfare Foundation Future 4 Wildlife Global White Lion Protection Trust Green Girls in Africa Humane Society International - Africa National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) Outraged South African Citizens Against Poaching (OSCAP) South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute (SAFCEI) The Cape Leopard Trust WildAid - South Africa Wildlands Trust Wildlife ACT