Animal rights body sees 'glimmer of hope' after captive lion breeding colloquium

Animal rights body Four Paws South Africa has expressed hope about the future of captive-bred lions after Parliament's Portfolio Committee for Environment hosted a colloquium this week.

The event, entitled "Captive Lion Breeding for Hunting in South Africa: Harming or Promoting the Conservation Image of the Country", took place on Tuesday and Wednesday.

READ: Abused lion cub rescued from Paris finds new home in South Africa

Four Paws country director Fiona Miles said on Thursday that the colloquium was well attended.

"It has been 21 years since the Cook Report first exposed this atrocious industry and, whilst we never expected that one colloquium would result in the immediate banning of the canned hunting industry, comments from members of the portfolio committee, including its chairperson, leaves us with the sense that for first time, government is taking note of the negative impact that this industry is having on South Africa's international reputation and also the impact it is having on the welfare of these animals."

Miles said the importance of providing the lions with protection could not be underestimated. Figures quoted at the event placed the local captive lion population at between 7 500 and 12 500 animals on around 290 breeding farms. 

Last month, the Department of Environmental Affairs announced it had approved an annual quota of 1 500 lion skeletons for export, based on new evidence from a research project on the lion bone trade in SA.

Spokesperson Albi Modise said at the time that the study revealed, among other things, that there had been no discernible increase in the poaching of wild lions in the country, although there appeared to be an increase in the poaching of captive-bred lions for body parts.

Opening the colloquium, committee chairperson Philemon Mapulane said Parliament was committed to working with the department during its budget vote debate in May.

The commitment had been to facilitate a national dialogue on the breeding of lions in captivity for hunting and the lion bone and skeleton trade.

The committee said in a statement that diverse views had emerged during the event.

"The majority of biodiversity and conservation organisations made a call for a total ban of captive lion breeding for hunting purposes. On the other hand, there are organisations that advocate for stricter laws and regulations at which the practice could be done."

Mapulane assured in the statement that whatever emerged out of the event, "It will be followed up by the committee with the sheer tenacity of a hungry lion chasing its prey."

"The committee will accept and interrogate all views presented and make recommendations to be considered by the National Assembly for consideration and adoption."

Miles responded: "We can only hope that the optimism generated inside the room is carried forward in their recommendations and ultimately results in protection for all lions [wild and captive] that call South Africa home".

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