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Trade in Lion Bone for traditional Chinese medicine
Asiatic lions are under further threat from poachers to fill the demand in China for bone.
Export of captive-bred African lion bone has recently been approved in South Africa.
Tiger bone wine for sale at Xiongsen Tiger & Bear Mountain Village in September 2009.
Animals Asia is deeply concerned to hear of the increased trade in lion bones to meet the demand of the traditional Chinese medicine industry. The potential for this trade was highlighted over 10 years ago by Chris and Bev Mercer in their book “For the Love of Wildlife” and through their Campaign Against Canned Hunting: www.cannedlion.org
As wild-tiger populations dwindle, poachers are now turning to lions to feed the insatiable Chinese appetite for potions made from big-cat bones. The lion is genetically similar to the tiger and therefore lion bone can be promoted as having similar healing properties. The most infamous tiger-breeding farm in China, Xiongsen Tiger & Bear Mountain Village in Guilin has bred many hundreds of lions as well as tigers with tiger-bone wine openly on sale at the park.
The endangered Asiatic lion population in India is initially most at risk. In 2007, the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), raised the alarm that a new phase in wildlife poaching to meet Chinese demands could wipe out the world’s only Asiatic lion population.
WPSI said: “This serious new development points to the fact that since tigers are so scarce in the wild, these poachers are now targeting the last remaining population of Asiatic Lions. Gir’s lions are an easy target, since they are comparatively used to people and live in open scrub forest. Their bones are also virtually indistinguishable from those of tigers. There is no market for big cat parts in India, and their poaching and the trade is entirely driven by demand from outside India’s borders, for use in traditional Chinese medicine’.
Also in 2007, environmental photojournalist Debby Ng wrote in “Asia Magazine” that both leopards and lions are now used as common substitutes for tiger bones.
As well as Asiatic lions, this trade is threatening the already-declining African lion population and demand for lion bone may also be met by lion farmers in South Africa.
In December 2009, the Department of Environment, Tourism and Economic Affairs, Free State Province approved the export of lion bones from a captive-lion-breeding facility. Please read the information below from www.cannedlion.org.
“On Tuesday, 1st December 2009, the permit committee of the Department of Environment, Tourism and Economic Affairs, Free State Province decided to approve the permits for the exportation of lion bones to one Cobus van der Westhuizen. The Free State is one of the worst provinces in SA for captive lion breeding. Lions are bred in South Africa in enclosures, just as a pig farmer breeds pigs in crates, for slaughter. The difference between raising pigs and raising lions is that the lion abattoir has been turned into a lucrative 'sport,' colloquially called 'canned lion hunting.' Various spin-offs from this grisly trade have already been successfully established, including cub-petting, walking with young lions, and the promotion in USA of lion meat consumption.
We have serious problems in SA regarding conservation of biodiversity, due partly to a well-orchestrated campaign against any civilized notion of animal welfare, and partly to dysfunctionality in many areas of conservation - especially in some provinces. Now, with the approval of the permit, our worst fears and imaginings have been realized. The door to the huge market for “tiger bone” in Asia has been opened. Furthermore, *the demand for free-ranging lion bone is much higher than that for captive lions* and we fear the worst for our African lion populations. Big money is involved, and we all know what that means.
Animals Asia has signed on to a joint letter to the Department of Environment, Tourism and Economic Affairs in Free State Province. A copy of this letter is below:
Mrs S Meintjes
Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism
Directorate: Regulation and Monitoring Services
Private Bag X447
15th December 2009
Dear Mrs Meintjes,
We understand that, on December 1st this year (2009), the Permit Committee of the Department of Environment, Tourism and Economic Affairs (DEAT) in Free State Province approved permits for the exportation of lion bones from a captive lion breeding facility.
By issuing these permits, DEAT has realised the worst fears of lion conservationists around the world, particularly those who have worked for many years to reduce the demand for wildlife products, especially those from big cats, including tigers, in Asian and Southeast Asian countries.
As you are aware, the tiger is disappearing rapidly from its range in East and Southeast Asia, and the main cause of this decline is the trade in tiger parts, particularly bones, for the Traditional Chinese Medicine trade.
It is increasingly clear that as wild tiger numbers continue to decline, the trade is turning its attention to lions.
As you are no doubt also aware, South Africa has first-hand experience of the illegal lion bone trade: earlier this year a Vietnamese man was found to have numerous lion carcasses in his home in Pretoria. According to police sources, the man was working closely with Asian syndicates outside the country and was planning to export the bones.
In India, the last stronghold of the critically endangered Panthera leo persica, Asiatic lions have been poached for their bones and the culprits were already known to the police as tiger poachers and tiger bone traders.
Researchers also confirm that lion body parts are entering international trade in parts of West and Southern Africa.
It is beyond doubt that those involved in the trade increasingly see lion bone as a substitute for tiger bone. Indeed, under Chinese law, medicines sold by tiger and lion farm owners can legally be sold as “tiger bone”, provided that what they actually contain is lion bone.
It is well-known that, for the practitioners and consumers of TCM, products from wild animals are regarded as superior to those from captive animals. The provision of lion bone from captive-bred animals will not satisfy demand but will serve only to increase the appetite of consumers for lion bone products, with a premium value being placed on products sourced from wild animals.
The encouragement of lion bone consumption – which is, essentially, what these permits constitute – will pose an enormous threat to free-ranging lions, not only in South Africa, but in every range State across the continent. It is impossible for customs and enforcement agencies to accurately determine whether lion bone originates from captive bred or wild-caught individuals, providing a significant opportunity for laundering and illegal trade if any legal trade is permitted.
Lions are already under siege in many range States as a result of unsustainable hunting, habitat loss, retaliatory killings and problem animal control. It is estimated that numbers have fallen by around 70% in the last 30 years and there are now only a handful of countries with lions in significant numbers. In our view, it would be extremely dangerous to add yet another threat to the survival of this iconic species.
Historically, East Asian and Southeast Asian consumption of wildlife species has followed a specific pattern. First, East Asian species (such as rhinos, elephants and big cats) are decimated. Then the net is cast wider and species from the Indian sub-continent come under increasing pressure. Finally, the trade moves to Africa where, as South Africa must be acutely aware at this time, valuable species such as the rhino are targeted. As East Asian communities resident in Africa continue to grow, we can expect to see more, not less, of this kind of activity.
In light of the above, we urge you to consider the impact that the granting of these permits will have on the survival prospects for wild lions throughout much of Africa, to reverse DEAT’s decision to issue them if they have not already been exported, and to reject any further applications for lion bone export permits.
CEO The Born Free Foundation
CEO Born Free USA
On behalf of:
Advocates for Animals, UK
Animals Asia, International
Animal Welfare Institute, USA
Born Free Foundation, UK
Born Free USA
Campaigns Against The Cruelty to Animals, Canada
Care for the Wild International
Cetacean Society International, USA
Defenders of Wildlife, USA
Eastern Caribbean Coalition for Environmental Awareness, Martinique
Environmental Investigation Agency, International
GSM - Society for the Conservation of Marine Mammals, Germany
Humane Society of Canada
Humane Society International
Humane Society International, Australia
Humane Society of the United States
International Animal Rescue, Malta
International Primate Protection League, International
Marchig Animal Welfare Trust, UK
Pro Wildlife, Germany
Society for the Conservation of Marine Mammals, Denmark
Wildlife Protection Society of India, India
World Animal Net, USA
World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), International
cc. Kuni Ditira-Lekoeneha
Chief Operations Officer
Free State Department of Tourism, Environmental and Economic Affairs
What you can do
Please write to the South African government to express your horror and despair at these plans to allow the export of lion bones and join the many thousands of compassionate voices from across the world calling for an end to this trade. For the sake of the animals, please be their voice. Please use the letter above or write a polite letter of your own and post or fax it to the South African Ambassador or Consulate-General in your country.
Never underestimate the power of letters. We encourage you to send a letter to the relevant government or organisation concerned, from your own email address. You can copy and paste the letter below or write a letter with your own message. We believe that sending it from your personal account has a greater impact on the recipient than receiving multiple emails sent through our website.