End of the line for the Lion King?
Africa’s lions are facing a new threat from Asia – the lion bone trade. The end for the Lion King. And it appears that South Africa’s captive lion breeding industry may be supplying lion bones and could ultimately fuel demand. We investigate the newest wildlife commodity – one which could compromise Africa’s wild lion populations forever.
Africa’s lions are in trouble. The species has declined tremendously over the past 45 – 50 years on the continent. Numbers are dropping from almost half a million to between an estimated 20 000 individuals in sub-Saharan Africa. According to UK-based NGO Panthera, lions have vanished from 90% of their historic range. There are now a mere seven African countries believed to hold more than 1 000 lions.
The report might be from 2012, but it contains the complete history how the captive Lion market developed and how the breeding farms gained momentum.
Africa’s lions are in trouble
But another, new threat faces Africa’s lions that may indicate the end of the Lion King. As with the rhino, this is fuelled by the burgeoning Asian demand for wildlife products – in this case, lion bones. South Africa appears to be at the centre of this new trade. CITES records and statistics released in 2011 by the South African DEA indicate that trade in lion bones began in 2009. In 2009 lion carcasses were first recorded as having been exported to Laos. According to a March 2011 blog by the Campaign Against Canned Hunting (CACH), 92 lion carcasses were exported to Laos in 2009. This jumped to 235 carcasses in 2010, representing an increase of 150%. This constitutes a significant injection into the Asian trade in wild cat parts and derivatives. That is likely to increase demand for lion parts. Not just those from captive-bred sources in South Africa but from all sources throughout the rest of Africa too. Indeed the leap is strongly indicative evidence that this perceived/potential increase in demand is already well underway.