By Mduduzi Malinga
For the past few years, there have been many concerns around captive lion breeding, canned lion hunting and the lion bone trade in South Africa. According to various figures from the government and wildlife organisations, an estimated 7,000 to 14,000 lions and thousands of other big cats, including tigers and cheetahs, are held in captivity and bred in South Africa.
These animals are being slaughtered for their bones and other body parts to be used for medicine and jewelry among other things, many of which are sold in Asia.
In 2018, the Portfolio Committee on Environmental Affairs hosted a Colloquium on Captive Lion Breeding that recommended putting an end to lion breeding in South Africa. A range of national and international organisations gave evidence to the Committee.
However, according to the report of the Portfolio Committee, which was later adopted by Parliament, there was a predominant view that the captive lion breeding industry did not contribute to conservation, and was doing far more damage to South Africa’s conservation efforts and its tourism reputation. The Portfolio Committee requested the department to initiate a policy and legislative review, with a view of putting an end to this practice in South Africa.
A few weeks back, Barbara Creecy, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment, after a year-long study by a panel of experts, announced that in South Africa captive lion breeding has no place and it should be banned.
Many wildlife groups praised the announcement because they believe that iconic species should be left to live in the wild or in recognised conservation parks.
The practice of captive lion breeding been quite damaging to the country’s image and reputation particularly the tourism sector. Part of Brand South Africa’s mandate is to ensure positive positioning of the country for global competitiveness.
With the new policy to be put in place, it will contribute to ensuring Africa’s coherence and unity in relation to conservation, sustainable use and management of these species and will prohibit the keeping and breeding of lions for commercial purposes.
“Preventing the hunting of captive lions is in the interests of the authentic wild hunting industry, and will boost the hunting economy and our international reputation, and the jobs that this creates” said Barbara Creecy.
According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) study, the number of African lions has fallen by 40 percent over the last three generations. Three-quarters of the current population is in decline, and there are just 20,000 animals left in the wild.
Dr. Audrey Delsink, wildlife director of HSI-Africa celebrated the call by the Minister saying lions will no longer have to suffer for canned trophies or have their body parts harvested for wines and powders.
In addition, according to an HSI analysis of trade data found that, 4,176 lion trophies were exported from South Africa between 2014 and 2018. Approximately 18,500 trophy hunters visit the African continent each year to kill around 105,000 animals. HSI also notes that nearly 15,000 of these trophy hunters are from the U.S.
Therefore, we have have to play our part by making sure that we don’t pose threats to these rare species that are Africa’s legacy and help to protect them for future generations.