Trade in lion bones surging

The trade in rhino horn to Asian countries has opened an avenue for the sale of lion carcasses — their bones are being used to replace those of tigers in the making of traditional Eastern wines and for bogus medicinal purposes.

Conservationists say the trade, which has taken off since 2009, has added to the pressures that have caused Africa’s lion populations to crash from about 200 000 in the 1970s to less than 20 000 today. In some range states in West and Central Africa, lions have recently been declared extinct.

Lion ‘brews’

Conservationists have previously been aware that lion bones were being used in Chinese brews believed to have healing properties, but they have only recently become aware of the scale of the trade in other Asian countries.

Before 2009, neither Vietnam nor Laos had been recorded as importing lion bones, said Chris Mercer, head of the South African organisation Campaign against Canned Hunting. “The trade in lion bones to Asia is a new development,” he said.

“With fewer than 4 000 wild tigers left and commercial trade in tiger parts prohibited under international law, traditional Oriental medicine is turning to lion bone wine as a legal substitute for tiger bone wine. Asian consumers may not know this, however, as lion bone wine is frequently sold in tiger-shaped bottles.”

Recent figures indicate the price that could be fetched for a full lion skeleton ranged between Euro 2400 and 4000, according to Pieter Kat, a trustee of United Kingdom-based conservation organisation LionAid.

“There are parallels to the rhino horn trade in the lion bone business,” he said. “The legal export and pseudo-hunters from Asia are followed by a huge amount of poaching. The supply and demand creates a market that becomes insatiable. Asian markets used to be supplied by Asian species. Those are now gone and Asia has turned to Africa.”

South Africa canned lionThe canned lion hunting in especially South Africa is also fueling this insatiable Eastern market. In this industry lions who are hand reared by humans on breeding farms are being hunted in fenced areas, where they are easy prey for -often international- hunters who pay thousands of euro’s for the shoot. Their carcasses are being traded after the hunt,  a bloody ‘by product’ which provides a double income to the owners of the farms.

For more information on lions, look at the site of LionAid

You can find more information on canned lion hunting on the site of Lion Whispers or the site of  CACH


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