Born Free Foundation believes CITES has failed to adequately address one of the main threats to African lions in its decision to reach a compromise agreement on controlling the trade in lion parts and products, but failing to deal with trade from captive bred lions.
Nine west and central African countries had proposed an international trade ban on lion products for consideration at CITES, by listing African’s lions on CITES Appendix I. However, despite this, negotiations between Governments present at the meeting resulted in a compromise deal, with lions remaining on Appendix II, but with a moratorium on commercial trade in bones and other products from wild lions. The captive breeders escaped the ban, with South African only required to submit an annual quota for bone exports from captive breeding facilities.
Mark Jones, associate director at Born Free, says: “The moratorium on commercial exports from wild lions is of course welcome. However, by leaving open the door for captive lion breeding facilities to sell their lion bones, CITES Parties have failed to protect lions and other big cats from this heinous trade.
“Bones from hunted or poached wild lions and other endangered big cats will doubtless be laundered into trade, while captive breeders will continue to speed-breed lions and condemn them to short, miserable lives in commercial breeding facilities.”
However, a number of associated actions were agreed, including the need for further studies on the scale and impact of the lion bone trade, the need for lion range states to work together to develop and implement integrated lion conservation strategies, and the urgent need to work with communities to mitigate conflicts between lions and local people.
The population of wild lions across Africa has fallen to perhaps just 20 000. However, upwards of 8 000 captive-bred lions are in commercial captive breeding facilities, mainly in South Africa. Many of these lions are destined for the “canned lion” hunting trade, while other valuable parts are traded. Demand in Asia for lion bones as a replacement for tiger bones in tonics and other products is rising fast; more than 3 000 lion skeletons were reported to have been shipped from South Africa to Laos, Thailand and Vietnam in 2013-2014.