Visions of wild animals roaming free in Africa are fast becoming fantasy as we hear once again of the horrors happening to captive bred lions.
It’s been a bloody time for the South African canned lion industry. Last week, a lion ‘abattoir’ was exposed on a farm in the Free State, where close to 100 lions were reportedly to be killed and their skeletons prepared for export to Asia. Shortly after news of the slaughter broke, a game reserve owner from Limpopo was mauled by one of his captive lions, Shamba. The lion was immediately shot, causing a social media outcry. In a separate incident on another Free State lion breeding farm, six more captive lions were poisoned and their limbs cut off, allegedly for use in tradition medicine.
Experts warn that the bloodshed – facilitated by the flourishing captive-bred lion industry and SA’s Department of Environmental Affairs’ recently implemented export quota of 800 lion skeletons per year – may just be the first sight of a new demon waking from the captive-bred lion industry.
The mass-killing of captive-bred lions in the Free State was exposed after captive-bred lions were transported in crates to André Steyn’s farm, Wag-‘n-Bietjie, to be killed and their flesh removed for the bone export trade. According to Beeld, a total of 73 lions had been shot last week, with more being transported to the Free State to suffer the same fate.
Some of the lions on Steyn’s farm were kept in a small crate before being killed. Reinet Meyer, a senior inspector of the local SPCA, confirmed visiting the farm where “two lions were held in a very small crate for two or three days before being destroyed.”
According to the NSPCA, the incidences of the past fortnight will continue as long as the captive-bred industry is supported by government and regulations are inadequately enforced.
Blood Lions, who first published details of the Free State mass-slaughter, also reported that although a veterinarian should have supervised the killing of the animals, the driver of the truck shot the lions himself. According to a source who works at a game farm in North West from where lions were ‘harvested’, no permits were issued for the transport of the lions from the property to the Free State.
The Free State provincial environmental authority confirmed that Steyn’s permits have since been revoked, but only after dozens of lions had already been killed under dubious circumstances.
Although shocking, the mass-shooting of canned lions is completely legal in terms of the DEA’s approved export quota of 800 lion skeletons from captive-bred animals. The quota, which caused a global outcry and sharp criticism from conservation authorities noting that there was no scientific data nor conservation benefit to wild lions to back the proposal, was approved nevertheless; backed by the DEA’s promise that all skeletons would be closely monitored and DNA tested before export.
The ‘harvesting’ procedure from the DEA stipulated that, although managed at a national level, each province would evaluate applications for lions to be killed and exported separately, provided that valid and relevant permits were available and approved by the DEA.
The DEA’s and provincial authorities’ inadequate regulation of the bone trade, and the negative impact this would have on SA’s conservation status was highlighted in a recent report titled Cash Before Conservation: An Overview of the Breeding of Lions for Hunting and Bone Trade, published by the Born Free Foundation in March this year, warned that the DEA was damning SA’s conservation reputation to benefit a small clique of breeders by allowing canned hunting, trade in lion bones and sale of rhino horn while admitting its decisions are not backed by science or conservation information.
“South Africa has a world-class conservation reputation and the captive breeding of Lions for hunting and their bones is detracting from this,” the report reads.
According to Ian Michler, Consultant and Campaign Co-leader to Blood Lions, the lion slaughter is but the “reality of South Africa’s lion bone quota taking effect”. He warns, however, that it could be an indication of an even bigger demon than canned hunting. “We are concerned that, contrary to claims from government and the breeders and canned hunting operators that the lion bone industry is a by-product of canned hunting, the quota may well become one of the primary drivers of the breeding. It is possible that canned hunting will become a by-product of the bone industry.”
Albi Modise of the DEA advised that the welfare of captive-bred lions was not their concern as it fell under the mandate of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, when asked whether the Free State lion slaughter was what the DEA had in mind when approving the lion skeletons export quota.
Contributed by Louzel Lombard Steyn and the Conservation Action Trust
The author is solely responsible for the accuracy of this content.