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Born Free deeply saddened at CITES failure to prevent trade from captive bred lions

3 October 2016

Categories: Wildlife Trade News

International trade from wild lions banned, but CITES fails to deal with captive trade

International wildlife charity, Born Free Foundation, has stated that 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, said: “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.”

While the outcome of the listing proposal was disappointing, 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 languish in commercial captive breeding facilities, mainly in South Africa. Captive lion breeding is a cynical business. Cubs are separated at a very young age so their mothers come back into breeding condition, turning them into little more than breeding machines. Every opportunity to make money from the animals is exploited as they grow, through bogus volunteer programmes and ‘walking with lions’ opportunities. When they are big and impressive enough, most of the lions are released into small fenced areas to be shot by paying trophy hunters in so-called ‘canned hunts’. Even after they have been killed, any valuable parts left over after the ‘trophy’ is removed 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.

Born Free will continue to work for greater protection for lions across their range, and for an end to the captive breeding of lions and other big cats for commercial purposes.

CITES aims to ensure that international trade in a species of animal or plant does not threaten their survival. It is an international treaty between governments and is legally binding. Every three years, the member countries (or Parties) of CITES meet to review the impact of international trade on various species at the CoP, making changes to their protection and to how the Convention operates.

Support Born Free's work for wildlife at CITES here

*Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species

Born Free Foundation
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