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After careful consideration we vote for a ban on importation of lion trophies


It seems that Australia might become the world leader in placing extremely strict measures on further imports of lion “products” including hunting trophies

Let me back up a little bit and explain the difference between national and international wildlife trade regulations. Any sovereign nation can decide for itself on whether to allow trade to take place in all manner of wildlife products. In Australia, this is a decision to be made by the Department of Environment. That department is now holding a number of consultations, including input from the public and stakeholders. Once the information has been assembled, the department will make a decision based on (one would sincerely hope) scientific data to assess the need to revise import legislation.

The international trade in wildlife is determined by CITES, and their decisions are equally binding on member states. CITES consists of over 170 member states, and often their decisions are delayed for a number of non-scientific reasons and/or influenced by vested interests.

And then of course there are the nations involved in the export trade – they can also independently decide to list a number of nationally protected species no matter whether CITES allows trade.

As a final bit of information, some sovereign nations have decided to cede their national priorities to a bloc vote. This happens in the European Union, where all member states agree to abide by the overall consensus among the 27 member states.

So – this is why a great diversity of different rules and regulations exist about imports and exports of all manner of wildlife products. Some nations have decided that such imports and exports are fine and dandy and rely on CITES to inform them while others exercise their sovereign right to make independent decisions.

Let me give you an example. The USA will not allow imports of trophies of polar bears and cheetahs as their USFWS has decided that such trophy hunting is not conducive to the conservation of those species. Similarly, the USFWS has placed a (temporary) ban on imports of elephant hunting trophies from Tanzania and Zimbabwe. But the EU seems to have a different take for some reason and polar bear, cheetah, and elephant trophies from all over are not restricted in any way as the EU follows CITES rulings. However, the EU does not allow imports of seal skins from Canada and Namibia while the USA has no such restrictions.

Are you confused? I certainly am. If there is good scientific evidence that guides the USFWS to disallow imports of cheetah and polar bear trophies into the USA, why does the EU not make a parallel assessment?

But let’s come back to Australia. There is a clear need for a nation to take an independent stance on imports of lion trophies. Australia is not a major player in the lion trophy hunting game – over the five years 2008-2012 Australia “only” imported 44 trophies and 14 skins, virtually all from captive bred lions in South Africa. Nevertheless, one would hope that if Australia takes a strong stand against these imports, other nations might just follow. Or at least pay better attention.

The USFWS completed all preliminary requirements for an assessment of lion product imports late last year and was due to announce their decision in January this year. That decision has been repeatedly delayed and we are still waiting. Similarly the EU was to announce stricter import regulations on lion products this year as well. Again, we are still waiting.

So well done Australia as a sovereign nation for taking a very close look at the conservation status of lions versus continued trade.

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Add a comment | Posted by Chris Macsween at 15:23

 EU import ban for all  wild lion trophies from South Africa.

LionAid recently revealed the great discrepancy between “wild” lion sport hunting trophies exported yearly from South Africa (an average of 265 per year over 2000-2009 according to CITES records) and the very small number of truly “wild” lions available (perhaps 15 per year from hunting concessions bordering on Kruger National Park for example).

LionAid is delighted to be able to report that the Scientific Review Group (SRG) of the EC Wildlife Trade Regulations has considered the issue, and recently formed a “negative opinion” on all wild lion specimens originating from South Africa. This means there is an import ban in place as of 10th November 2011 into the European Union for all lion trophies from South Africa designated as “wild”.

The Scientific Review Group judged that “wild” lion trophies (and all other lion products designated by CITES export permits as coming from a “wild” source) were being mislabelled. In other words, the SRG formed the same opinion as LionAid – there was either a “leakage” of captive bred lions into the “wild” category, and/or that such “wild” lion trophies might have originated from neighbouring countries (Zimbabwe, Mozambique) and declared in South Africa.

Such mislabelling had been going on for many years, and we commend the SRG for this decision. It will not prevent “captive bred” trophies from being imported into the EU, but stands as a clear message to the exporting authorities and hunting operators in South Africa that mislabelling will no longer be tolerated by the European Union.

We have also been assured in a meeting with the EU Directorate General for the Environment on January 11th that they will place all African lion imports into the EU on SRG agendas this year, with special emphasis on western and central African lion populations.

The decision by the SRG on South African wild lions indicates once again the value of careful consideration of scientific data to guide informed opinions and policies. The SRG can revise the negative opinion in the future, but in the mean time a clear message has been sent to South Africa – amend your reporting to end mislabelling and fraudulent declarations, or suffer an import ban to the European Union. We would strongly advise the USA Management Authority (the US Fish and Wildlife Service) to take note of the SRG decision and follow suit. After all, close to 70% of “wild” South African lion trophies are imported into the USA…

Add a comment | Posted by Pieter Kat at 17:43