South Africa’s President Ramaposa petitioned to halt big cat breeding

South Africa’s President Ramaposa petitioned to halt big cat breeding

While South Africa’s government, wildlife farmers and NGOs remain locked in discussion about the future of lions, elephants, rhinos and leopards, the British conservation organization, Born Free, has called on SA President Ramaposa to close down the predator breeding industry.

Born Free has gathered around 250 000 signatures calling on the South African authorities to end the hunting of captive-bred lions as well as breeding and keeping them in captivity for commercial purposes.

It says that if South Africa is to be regarded as a responsible and ethical custodian of its wildlife and a country that cares about wildlife, urgent action needs to be taken to bring an end captive breeding and the sale of lion bones and skeletons into international markets.

Failure to do this, it warns, will have a huge impact on international tourism to the country, which is already struggling to recover from Covid-19 lockdowns.

“The industry’s unashamed exploitation of lions as cheap tourist props,” say Born Free, “is seriously damaging South Africa’s reputation as a wildlife tourism destination. Our petition, consisting of a quarter of a million signatures, demonstrates the strength of international public feeling.”

There has been widespread concern about tourism activities promoted by the predator-breeding industry, including cub petting, walking with lions and the exploitation of unwitting volunteers who pay to help raise captive-bred lion cubs in the mistaken belief that they’re orphans destined to be returned to the wild.

Since 2008, South Africa has also exported more than 6 000 lion skeletons weighing at least 70 tonnes, mainly to Lao PDR and Vietnam. Most of these are from captive breeding facilities.

According to the UN Office of Drugs and Crime, SA’s lion bone industry is known to have close connections to international wildlife trafficking, with poachers laundering illegal bones and other body parts into the legal trade. It says the trade undermines lion conservation efforts of other countries such as Kenya.

In 2018, following a recommendation from the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee of Environmental Affairs, the South African Parliament adopted a resolution saying: “The Department of Environmental Affairs should as a matter of urgency initiate a policy and legislative review of the captive breeding of lions for hunting and lion bone trade, with a view to putting an end to this practice.”

Since then, the Government has failed to act on this recommendation, instead appointing a High-Level Panel packed with breeders and hunters to ‘review’ the situation. Many conservation NGOs say its conclusions are unlikely to be in line with wild animal welfare.

“For the past 20 years,” says Born Free, “the South African authorities have consistently facilitated the growth of South Africa’s captive predator breeding industry by maintaining legislation which enables provincial officials to issue permits for lion breeding and hunting and the export of lion bones.

“As president, you have the power to immediately initiate the actions necessary to humanely and permanently close the commercial [this] industry.”

The Born Free petition follows a call by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) at its World Conservation Congress calling on South Africa to terminate the practice of breeding lions in captivity for the purpose of canned shooting.

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