Last week, “Quenching a Thirst for Lion Bones“ by Fiona Macleod appeared in the weekly Mail & Guardian newspaper (South Africa).
This article again highlights the concerns about the emerging lion bone trade facilitated by CITES permits issued by South African authorities, a supply made available by South African captive lion breeders, and the growth of legal but nevertheless “pseudo trophy hunts” engaged in by Laos nationals. It follows on from Pieter’s article “A worrying parallel between rhino poaching and trade in lion bones?" (10th March).
Even without the ongoing catastrophic declines in African lion populations, this new trend is indeed a very worrying development – it could lead to specific poaching of lions for their bones. In 2008, it was estimated that a kilo of lion bones was worth about $10. Two years later in 2010, one kilo was now worth $300, an increase of 2,900%. What are they worth now? Certainly enough to support the trophy fees and associated costs of pseudo trophy hunters from Laos, who bagged at least 54 lion trophies in 2010? And to profit Laotian companies that received 250 kg of lion bones provided by South Africa in 2009? So is a kilo of bones now worth maybe $500? $700? $1000? Nobody yet knows, but a lion probably has about 30kg of bones, so possibly worth $30,000? Certainly enough to stimulate an interest in among the poaching syndicates so effectively working to smuggle elephant ivory and rhino horns from Africa to Asian paymasters.
I’m tempted to say that while South Africa has prided itself on wonderful conservation initiatives that have placed wild species in private hands, many aspects have gone wrong. So I will. South Africa needs to realize that their actions in terms of exports of lion, rhino, and elephant body parts echo negatively across other African range states, and need urgent revision. It might be commerce, but is not conservation.