MPs seek end of captive lion trophy hunting in SA

Lawmakers will seek to end the breeding of lions for trophy hunting and the trade in their bones, setting parliament on a collision course with a powerful industry.

South Africa has as many as 8 000 lions in captivity being bred for hunting, the bone trade, tourism and academic research, according to estimates by wildlife groups.

By contrast there are just 3 000 lions in the wild, living in national parks where hunting is prohibited.

Trophy hunting is a $36-million industry, but parliamentarians have been emboldened by high-profile global campaigns to push for its demise.

The Parliamentary committee on environmental affairs recommended on November 12 that the government reconsider the rules governing the breeding of captive lions for hunting and bone harvesting.


The global trade of body parts from lions killed in the wild is banned by international treaties — but permitted for animals bred in captivity.

The MPs resolved that ministers should review the issue “with a view to putting an end to this practice”.

The decision followed two days of crunch talks between MPs, breeders and animal welfare campaigners.

‘Damage to brand South Africa’

Lawmakers also want the government to “reconsider” its recent decision to nearly double to 1 500 the quota of lion skeletons that can be legally traded this year.

In the past decade South Africa has exported the big cat bones to Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and other markets in Southeast Asia for use in jewellery as well as their supposed medicinal properties.

“South Africa is allowing a practice that everybody is turning their backs to. We need to find a solution as a country to improve the situation,” said parliament’s environment committee chief Phillemon Mapulane.

He added that the country’s strong reputation for conservation was being compromised by the situation.

“(It undermines) broader conservation, but (benefits) a small number of breeders without proper scientific or conservation basis,” said Mapulane.

“The industry is doing serious damage to brand South Africa.”

Derek Hanekom, who was acting minister for environmental affairs when parliament made its recommendations, told AFP he would appoint a special task force to examine animal breeding rules.

“We are finalising the terms of reference of the panel that will investigate and make recommendations on these issues,” he said.

The practice of hunting lions raised in captivity has long been controversial in South Africa where a large number of animals are confined to pens ringed with electric fences.

But former environment minister Edna Molewa, who died earlier this year, warned that changing the rules risked creating a situation in which “thousands of lions will have no value and there will be no income”.

She also warned that jobs could be lost if the country’s nearly 300 lion breeding facilities were closed and the trade banned.

Though the industry contributes significant tax revenues every year, activists have labelled it “unethical”.

Campaigns to ban the importation of captive-bred lion trophies have gathered steam in Australia, France, The Netherlands and the United States in recent years.

In 2016 the International Union for Conservation of Nature called on South Africa to end the practice of hunting captive-bred lions altogether.

In September, Singapore Airlines, which was the only airline involved in transporting lion bones from South Africa to Southeast Asia, announced it would no longer carry the controversial cargo.

Industry warns of job losses

“This industry is nothing but a blight on the conservation pedigree that South Africa should otherwise be able to claim,” said Yolan Friedman, chief executive of the Endangered Wildlife Trust.

“South Africa’s captive predator breeding industry is cruel, serves no conservation purpose, and damages South Africa’s reputation as a wildlife tourism destination,” added Mark Jones of the Britain-based Born Free conservation charity.

Paul Funston, a senior director at the wild cat conservation group Panthera warned that the government review could be too vague to make a difference.

“There is no real clear directive for change, it’s not a forceful directive. We are a bit disappointed that it’s not an immediate call to close the industry,” said Funston.

But Kirsten Nematandani, president of the South African Predator Association, warned that if parliament’s recommendations were implemented “it means thousands of jobs will be lost”.

© Agence France-Presse

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Susan Njanji
Guest Author
Tom Eaton
Tom Eaton works from Cape Town, South Africa. Columnist, screenwriter. Half my followers are Gupta bots. Andile Mngxitama says I have a "monopoly of stuff". https://t.co/8fpg07OXU5 Tom Eaton has over 99923 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

South Africa is suffering from the plague of political amnesia

Politicians depend on our ability to forget their worst transgressions in order to manipulate the public discourse

Hanekom latest MP to resign

The former tourism minister failed to make the cut when President Cyril Ramaphosa announced his Cabinet two weeks ago

Highlights worth looking out for at Africa’s Travel Indaba

Sho't Left Travel Week offers locals discounts of up to 50%

Search for ways to stop the land slide

Experts say an area-based approach is needed, but district and local government are not on board

Zim police detain Mawarire in wake of protests

​Leading Zimbabwean activist Evan Mawarire was detained by police on Wednesday when he was taken from his house in a widening crackdown

Money issues bedevil climate talks

But SA’s delegation leader Derek Hanekom believes everyone wants to see a deal reached
Advertising

Subscribers only

Covid-19 surges in the Eastern Cape

With people queuing for services, no water, lax enforcement of mask rules and plenty of partying, the virus is flourishing once again, and a quarter of the growth is in the Eastern Cape

Ace prepares ANC branches for battle

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule is ignoring party policy on corruption-charged officials and taking his battle to branch level, where his ‘slate capture’ strategy is expected to leave Ramaphosa on the ropes

More top stories

See people as individual humans, not as a race

We need to ingrain values of equality in education, businesses, society broadly and religious groups to see people

JJ Rawlings left an indelible mark on Ghana’s history

The air force pilot and former president used extreme measures, including a coup, enforced ‘discipline’ through executions, ‘disappearances’ and floggings, but reintroduced democracy

Sudan’s government gambles over fuel-subsidy cuts — and people pay...

Economists question the manner in which the transitional government partially cut fuel subsidies

Traditional healers need new spaces

Proper facilities supported by well-researched cultural principles will go a long way to improving the image and perception of the practice of traditional medicine
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…