Minister Edna Molewa establishes lion bone export quota for 2018

Stephen Wiggins Article 1 Comment


In accordance with advice provided by the Scientific Authority, the Department of Environmental  Affairs has determined the 2018 lion bone export quota [now up to 1,500 skeletons from 800 in 2017 – questions still remain on how the 2017 lion bone trade quota was set, let alone the new one – are these quotas set, purely for commercial animal exploitation ‘needs’ with no real science?].

The approved quota of 1500 skeletons (with or without the head) is effective from 7 June 2018.

The determination has been communicated to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Secretariat in line with a 2015 decision taken at the 17th Conference of the Parties to CITES.

The decision reads: “annual export quotas for trade in bones, bone pieces, bone products, claws, skeletons, skulls and teeth for commercial purposes, derived from captive breeding operations in South Africa, will be established and communicated annually to the CITES Secretariat.”

It is important to note that at COP 17 a zero annual export quota was established for lion bones, bone pieces, bone products, claws, skeletons, skulls and teeth removed from the wild.

The implementation of the quota will be managed by the Department of Environmental Affairs, and strict processes must be followed in line with provincial and national regulations; namely:

  • Any application to export lion bones must be lodged with provincial conservation authorities.
  • Upon receipt of an application, provincial conservation authorities must confirm availability of quota with the DEA.
  • Following an evaluation of the application, the relevant provincial conservation authorities will determine the issuance of a permit.
  • The permit must indicate the quota permitted.
  • It is mandatory that all skeletons be packed separately at the source.
  • The skeletons must be weighed, tagged and a DNA sample taken.
  • All consignments must be inspected and weighed at the ports of exit, in order to confirm the information contained in the relevant permit.

The 2018 export quota is based on new evidence from a research project [“South African Lion Bone Trade – Interim Report 1,” VL Williams & M ‘t Sas-Rolfes, November 2017] established by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) in collaboration with the University of the Witwatersrand, Oxford University and the University of Kent that analyses and monitors the lion bone trade in South Africa.

The research study has revealed, inter alia that:

The Scientific Authority gave careful consideration [really? Where is the evidence of that “careful consideration?”] to whether setting the quota too high or too low poses the greater risk to wild lion populations [both domestic and continent wide wild lions considered, or just South Africa? Reference A Roaring Trade,” October 2017 or how South Africa’s lion bone trade exacerbated the demand for tiger parts and derivatives].

If there is ongoing demand for lion bone [which South Africa is stimulating] 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 lion [then enforce the law and prosecute the illegal activity, don’t help to encourage and justify demand, thus providing a legal mask for such illicit activity].

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 materializing [South Africa has already helped to encourage and establish such illegal supply chains and the unregulated breeding of exploited animals for profit!].

The African lion (Panthera leo) is included in Appendix II to CITES [because (behind closed doors) there was collusion at CoP17 not to uplist Panthera leo to CITES Appendix I protection]; meaning it is not threatened with extinction.

South Africa is one of only seven countries in the world that has substantial lion populations. According to the Non-Detriment Finding (NDF) [which did not consider the captive lions’ welfare and/or the continent wide threats of the trade] for Panthera Leo made by the Scientific Authority and gazetted in January this year, there are 3 500 African lions in the wild in South Africa. The same NDF found there are presently no major threats to our wild lion population[but, it’s not just about South Africa’s lions is it! It should be about the wild species as a whole and the threats faced to the species’ long term survival].

In addition approximately 7 000 lion are kept in around 260 captive breeding facilities in South Africa. Lion are bred in captivity for various reasons; including hunting but also as a potential source for the establishment of new lion populations. Some are sold to start new conservation areas whilst others are donated to countries whose own lions have long become extinct [let’s see the evidence to back such claims – but there is no proven conservation need for captive lion exploitation that somehow tries to justify the exploitation with a self-approved (but unproven) veneer of conservation].

“Hunting is part of South Africa’s policy of sustainable utilization of natural resources [such ‘claimed needs’ and justification are lacking as is the credibility of South Africa’s policy of ‘sustainable utlization’] – a principle supported by multilateral environmental agreements such as CITES and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). All activities involving the African lion, including hunting, possession and trade are regulated [no, it is not well regulated – also reference “Fair Game,” Endangered Wildlife Trust, Centre for Environmental Rights, June 2018] through a permit system; and our policies are supported by solid scientific evidence [where is it?],” says Minister of Environmental Affairs Dr Edna Molewa.

For media queries contact :
Albi Modise
Cell: 083 490 2871

Further Reading

Lion bones and predator farming – picking on the carcass of SA tourism,” Ian Michler, Daily Maverick, 17 August 2018

Captive Lion Breeding, Canned Lion Hunting & the Lion Bone Trade: Damaging Brand South Africa?” CACH and SPOTS (Netherlands), August 2018

South Africa almost doubles annual quota of lion bones exported for traditional Chinese medicine,” Jane Dalton, The Independent, 22 July 2018

Dodgy skeleton traders and lion slaughterhouses exposed in damning report,” Don Pinnock, The Daily Maverick, 19 July 2018

Damning New Report Suggests South Africa’s Lion Bone Trade is a Sh*t Show,” Rhishja Cota, Annamiticus, 19 July 2018

The Extinction Business – South Africa’s ‘Lion’ Bone Trade,” EMS Foundation and Ban Animal Trading, July 2018


Head should roll over “lie” decision made on lion bone quota,” Elise Templehoff, Netwerk24, 17 July 2018

Fair Game,” Endangered Wildlife Trust, Centre for Environmental Rights, June 2018

Cash before Conservation,” Born Free Foundation, March 2018

A Roaring Trade? The legal trade in Panthera leo bones from Africa to East-Southeast Asia,” Vivienne L. Williams, Andrew J. Loveridge, David J. Newton, David W. Macdonald, PLoS One, Published October 2017

The Lion’s Share – South Africa’s trade exacerbates the demand for tiger parts and derivatives,” Environmental Investigation Agency, July 2017

South Africa’s Claimed ‘Need’ for Wildlife Utilisation,” IWB, 7 July 2017

South African Lion Bone Trade; a Collaborative Lion Bone Research Project,” Williams VL, ‘t Sas-Rolfes M, for the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), November 2017

9 myths about captive bred lions,” IWB, 29 March 2016

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