Times Live (South Africa)

16 July 2018 – 19:14BY NICO GOUS
Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa says all activities involving the African lion‚ including hunting‚ possession and trade are regulated through a permit system

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa says all activities involving the African lion‚ including hunting‚ possession and trade are regulated through a permit system 
Image: Sanpark

With or without their heads‚ 1‚500 lion skeletons can now be exported annually from South Africa.

That is the quota Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa announced on Monday for this year and is effective retroactively from June 7.

The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) said the quota is based on new evidence from a research project by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and the universities of Witwatersrand (Wits)‚ Oxford and Kent which analyse and monitor the lion bone trade in South Africa.

The research found: – There is a growing stockpile of lion bones due to restrictions. There has been no discernible increase in poaching of wild lions‚ but there appears to be an increase in the poaching of captive bred lions for body parts such as heads‚ faces‚ paws and claws; and – The captive breeding industry is in a state of flux as breeders respond in different ways to the United States’ restrictions on trophies and the imposition of the skeleton export quota.

Molewa said: “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.”

The DEA added in its statement: “If there is ongoing demand for lion bones 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 lions.”

It added: “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 materialising.” The Department of Environmental affairs will regulate the implementation of quotas and the following process must be followed: – Applications to export lion bones must be lodged with provincial conservation authorities; – Provincial conservation authorities must then confirm whether the quota is available with the DEA.

Provincial conservation authorities will then assess the application and issue or deny a permit. The permit must show the permitted quota; – all skeletons must be packed separately at the supplier; – skeletons must be weighed‚ tagged and a DNA sample taken; and – skeletons must be inspected and weighed when they leave the country and checked against permits.

The DEA said they have informed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Secretariat of its decision in line with a 2015 decision taken at the 17th Conference of the Parties to CITES.

South Africa is one of only seven countries in the world that has substantial lion populations. There are 3‚500 African lions in the wild and about 7‚000 are kept in 260 captive breeding facilities.

Lions are kept in captivity for hunting and potentially breeding new populations.

“Some are sold to start new conservation areas whilst others are donated to countries whose own lions have long become extinct‚” the DEA said.