Safari companies take a stand against lion bone trade

Singita, together with &Beyond, Great Plains Conservation, and another leading safari company, have jointly made a formal submission to the SA government – a technical five-page document, outlining why any trade in lion bone should be stopped.

“In 2016, the US banned the import of any lion trophies from South Africa, effectively terminating a huge market for the canned hunting operators and by extension, the lion breeders. Unfortunately, at COP17, CITES, whilst banning international trade in bones from wild lions, left an opening for South Africa to export bones and skeletons from captive bred cats,” said Singita in a statement.

“The predator breeding industry has since successfully lobbied the South African government, leading to an announcement in January that a quota of 800 skeletons would be allowed for export per year. The destination countries for these skeletons are in Asia, where lion is used as a substitute for tiger in consumable items such as tiger bone wine and cake.”

Singita says this quota creates and opportunity for breeders to have financial gain from the exploitation of their captive cats, especially now that their hunting market has diminished so drastically, but the government, under pressure from NGOs and civil society, has agreed to open up a two-week window for public comment.

The safari companies’ argument is two-fold:

  1. Extinction risk: Any legal trade in captive-bred lion bones opens up a channel for traders to launder illegally obtained bone from wild lions, thus leading to more demand and thus more poaching.
  2. Business risk: The risk to the photo-safari industry is high for two reasons. First, the reputational damage to South Africa as a tourism destination could be significant. Secondly, lions are the most sought after ‘must-see’ species for all safari tourists, and the loss of lions in a reserve, region or country would be devastating.