Poachers now target lions for bones and body parts

lion ribs
Lion Rib Cage, Kenya. Photo: TangoPango | Flickr

Lion bones are increasingly important to the Asian traditional medicine trade, largely because the tigers that used to supply bones are facing dwindling numbers and trade in tiger parts is prohibited under international law.

Juan de Beer of the Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency’s (MTPA) special investigations unit explained that before 2008 there was no market for lion bones.

“Landowners are now digging up old bones that were buried and selling them,” he said.

The spike in the export of lion carcasses, trophies and bones since 2008 has been enough to raise red flags by conservationists and activists, who are warning that captive breeding and canned hunting programmes in South Africa are providing a viable source for the lion bone trade.

Chris Mercer, director of the Campaign against Canned Hunting has said much more than just amplifying the trend, canned hunting is in fact setting the trend.

But head of the South African Predators Association, Professor Pieter Potgieter claims no canned hunting takes place in South Africa.

As head of the association that aims to co-ordinate and promote “a healthy and profitable predator breeding and hunting industry” in South Africa, he says he has no opinion on the possibility of the legal trade of lion bones opening up avenues for lion in the wild to be poached and their bones to be smuggled through the export supply chain undetected.

According to director of Lion Aid, Dr Pieter Kat, a conservation organisation based in the United Kingdom, today a lion skeleton is worth $10 000 in the Asian countries, a rapid profit jump from $4 000 in 2010.

“Lion bones and rhino horn have become key trade targets,” Kat said.

Original Story: The Citizen