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Minister Molewa announces 2018 lion bone export quota

Jul 17, 2018
Minister Molewa announces 2018 lion bone export quota

In accordance with advice provided by the Scientific Authority, the Department of Environmental Affairs has determined the 2018 lion bone export quota.

The approved quota of 1500 skeletons (with or without the head) is effective from 7 June 2018.

The determination has been communicated to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Secretariat in line with a 2015 decision taken at the 17th Conference of the Parties to CITES.

The decision reads: “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.”

It is important to note that at COP 17 a zero annual export quota was established for lion bones, bone pieces, bone products, claws, skeletons, skulls and teeth removed from the wild.

The implementation of the quota will be managed by the Department of Environmental Affairs, and strict processes must be followed in line with provincial and national regulations; namely:

  • Any application to export lion bones must be lodged with provincial conservation authorities.
  • Upon receipt of an application, provincial conservation authorities must confirm availability of quota with the DEA.
  • Following an evaluation of the application, the relevant provincial conservation authorities will determine the issuance of a permit.
  • The permit must indicate the quota permitted.
  • It is mandatory that all skeletons be packed separately at the source.
  • The skeletons must be weighed, tagged and a DNA sample taken.
  • All consignments must be inspected and weighed at the ports of exit, in order to confirm the information contained in the relevant permit.

The 2018 export quota is based on new evidence from a research project established by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) in collaboration with the University of the Witwatersrand, Oxford University and the University of Kent that analyses and monitors the lion bone trade in South Africa.

The research study has revealed, inter alia that:

  • Due to quota restrictions, there appears to be a growing stockpile of lion bones in South Africa;
  • There has been no discernible increase in poaching of wild lion in South Africa, though there appears to be an increase in poaching of captive bred lions for body parts (heads, faces, paws and claws);
  • The captive breeding industry is in a state of flux as breeders respond in different ways to the US’ restrictions on trophies as well as the imposition of the skeleton export quota.

The Scientific Authority gave careful consideration to whether setting the quota too high or too low poses the greater risk to wild lion populations.

If there is ongoing demand for lion bone and the supply from captive breeding facilities is restricted, dealers may seek alternative sources, either through illegal access to stockpiles or by poaching both captive bred and wild lion.

South Africa has learned through its experience with rhino and abalone poaching that these illegal supply chains are very difficult to disband once they become established, and seeks to avoid such a scenario materializing.

The African lion (Panthera leo) is included in Appendix II to CITES; meaning it is not threatened with extinction.

South Africa is one of only seven countries in the world that has substantial lion populations. According to the Non-Detriment Finding (NDF) for Panthera Leo made by the Scientific Authority and gazetted in January this year, there are 3 500 African lions in the wild in South Africa. The same NDF found there are presently no major threats to our wild lion population.

In addition approximately 7 000 lion are kept in around 260 captive breeding facilities in South Africa. Lion are bred in captivity for various reasons; including hunting but also as a potential source for the establishment of new lion populations. Some are sold to start new conservation areas whilst others are donated to countries whose own lions have long become extinct.

“Hunting is part of South Africa’s policy of sustainable utilization of natural resources – a principle supported by multilateral environmental agreements such as CITES and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). All activities involving the African lion, including hunting, possession and trade are regulated through a permit system; and our policies are supported by solid scientific evidence,” says Minister of Environmental Affairs Dr Edna Molewa.