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Matt Armstrong-Ford
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

Trade in Lions

DSWF’s position on the trade of lion parts, captive breeding farms and canned hunting.

In just 20 years, African lion populations have fallen by 43%, with as few as 20,000 left in the wild. Now extinct in 24 of their former range states, we urgently need to address the threats facing this iconic species.

The growth of human populations, coupled with competition for land, has led to declining wildlife habitats and increasing human-wildlife conflict around the world.

Lion populations are becoming increasingly isolated and threatened due to changes in land use by humans, affecting their genetic distribution and ability to healthily procreate.

Another concern facing the species is the potential growth of lion poaching to fuel the consumptive trade in lion bones from Asia.

DSWF actively campaigns for:

  • A total ban on the international trade in lion parts and derivatives
  • The closure of all lion breeding farms and canned hunting facilities

DSWF actively promotes:

  • Law enforcement and park protection initiatives to protect wild lion populations
  • Ground-based research into genetic population distribution
  • Human wildlife mitigation initiatives
tiger chained up, tiger farms, animal cruelty

What are lion parts used for?

Used as a substitute for tiger bones, lion parts and derivatives are perceived to hold medicinal and curative values and are utilised in traditional Chinese medicines and as trinkets.

Humans have poached tigers to the brink of extinction for their parts and derivatives for traditional Chinese medicines, and lions are now taking their place. Bones are also used in jewellery and other trinkets.

Do breeding farms reduce incentives to poaching wild lions?

Breeding farms DO NOT reduce incentives to poach.

The notion that breeding farms reduce incentives to poach is a myth that needs to be refuted. Not only does the legal trade condone the consumptive use of lion parts, but it stimulates the demand.

As seen with tiger breeding facilities in China, increased availability leads to increased demand – a demand that cannot be met and must be propped up by the illegal poaching of wild lions.

Uganda Conservation Foundation
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

What is canned hunting?

David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation

’Canned hunting’ is the hunting of wild animals in confined areas from which they cannot escape. Lion cubs, born in captivity are taken from their mothers within days of birth.

Placed in petting zoos, they are unknowingly ‘tamed’ by volunteers who help to raise them, and by tourists. Once they are too large to be easily handled, the animals are released into caged compounds.

Reared by people, they have minimal fear of human interaction, and consequently they are easy prey for hunters who pay high prices for the ‘sport.’

In South Africa, there are at least 200 captive breeding farms raising over 6,000 animals destined for this gruesome fate.

What are the main threats that captive breeding farms pose to wild lions?

Captive breeding farms offer a perfect guise for illegally poached wild lions to be laundered into a legal market and makes differentiating their source almost impossible.

With a total ban, the issue becomes about effective legal enforcement, and nothing else. We have a responsibility to remember we are discussing a species vulnerable to extinction, and that any trade stimulating demand for products derived from them, puts the species at risk.

Captive breeding farms also encourage the belief that lion parts and derivatives hold medicinal value, perpetuating the trade. Instead, we need to endorse conservation values that stress lions are not to be bred for human consumption or trophies and should remain free and wild in their natural habitat.

What is the historic range of lions?

The International Union for Conservation (IUCN), respected as the global authority on the status of the natural world, places lions on its ‘Red List’, classifying the species as vulnerable.

The assessment in 2014 indicates that lions currently exist in 25 countries, but are already extinct in 26 countries, and fears they are also extinct in a further 7 countries. For more information on the historic range of lions, please visit: IUCN Red List Lions

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Lion sat in trees
Matt Armstrong-Ford

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