Singita Stands Up Against South Africa’s Lion Bone Trade Proposal

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.

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.
This quota creates an 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.

Singita together with &Beyond, Great Plains Conservation, and another leading safari company, took the initiative to make a formal submission to the government. A technical and detailed five-page document (signed by the CEOs of the four companies) was submitted, outlining why any trade in lion bone should be stopped.

In summary the 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 one of 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.

Together with a large number of submissions made by other NGOs to the South African government, Singita believes that this contribution will assist the cause in placing additional pressure on those making these far-reaching trade decisions.

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