Lion export quota for 2017 communicated to the CITES Secretariat in line with CITES requirements

28 June 2017


The Scientific Authority, through the National Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Management Authority, has determined the 2017 export quota for lion bones and other derivatives of lion.

A quota of 800 skeletons (with or without skull) of captive bred lion has been determined. Importantly, international trade is restricted to trade in skeletons only, and no individual pieces may be exported.

The decision was reached following consideration of inputs from stakeholders, as well as information on the trade database.

Most importantly it was determined following consideration of scientific research information available regarding the trade in lion bones.

The quota allocation has been communicated to all provincial conservation departments by the Minister of Environmental Affairs, Dr Edna Molewa, in a letter dated 19 June 2017. The quota will be managed at a national level.

This announcement is in line with the commitment made earlier this year by the Minister that no lion bones or other derivatives would be exported from South Africa from January 2017 until a quota has been set, and a determination made as to how the process will be managed.

Secondly, it is in line with the decision taken by the Parties to CITES at COP17 in Johannesburg in 2016 that there should be a zero quota on the export of bones derived from wild lion specimens - and that South Africa would establish a quota for bones derived from captive breeding facilities in South Africa.

Thirdly, the announcement is in full compliance with CITES requirements that the national export quota, once determined, must be communicated to the CITES Secretariat accordingly.

The South African population of Panthera leo (African lion) is included in Appendix II of CITES.

In terms of Article IV of the Convention, an export permit shall only be granted for an Appendix II species when a Scientific Authority of the State of export has advised that such export will not be detrimental to the survival of that species.

During COP17 the CITES listing for lion was amended to include the following annotation:

“For Panthera leo (African populations): a zero annual export quota is established for specimens of bones, bone pieces, bone products, claws, skeletons, skulls and teeth removed from the wild and traded for commercial purposes. Annual export quotas for trade in bones, bone pieces, bone products, claws, skeletons, skulls and teeth for commercial purposes, derived from captive breeding operations in South Africa, will be established and communicated annually to the CITES Secretariat.”

South Africa agreed to this annotation as a risk-averse intervention.

A 2015 study commissioned by TRAFFIC raised concerns around the shift in lion and tiger bone trade; namely that when the trade in tiger bone was banned; the trade shifted and bones were sourced from South Africa, available as a by-product of the hunting of captive bred lions.

South Africa reiterates its concern that if the trade in bones originating from captive bred lion is prohibited, lion bones may be sourced illegally from wild lion populations.

A well-regulated trade will enable the Department to monitor a number of issues relating to the trade, including the possible impact on the wild populations.

The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) has initiated a study aimed at increasing the understanding of the lion bone trade in South Africa and the captive lion breeding industry.

It will investigate how the trade in captive produced lion bone under a quota system affects wild lion populations, and will further strengthen the evidence base for the annual review of the quota in order to ensure it is sustainable and not detrimental to wild populations.

The study will be a 3-year project with annual reviews, which aims to inform the Scientific Authority on a sustainable annual quota.

Management of the quota:

  • The quota will be managed at a national level.
  • Applications will be lodged with the provincial nature conservation authorities, then submitted to the Department for quota allocation.
  • Upon receipt of an application from a captive breeding operation, community-based organisation or hunting farm, the province will confirm with DEA whether a quota is available.
  • The province will evaluate the application and determine whether the relevant permit can be issued. The Department will only manage the quota to ensure that we don’t go over the required 800.
  • Permits are still to be issued at Provincial level.
  • International trade will be restricted to trade in skeletons only. (no individual pieces, bone pieces et cetera may be exported.
  • Skeletons will be packed separately at source, weighed and tagged, and a DNA sample taken.
  • Quota numbers must be indicated on all permits. (e.g. killing/ hunting/ selling/ buying/ transporting/ exporting).
  • Consignments must be inspected and weighed, and the permit endorsed at the port of exit. Random DNA samples must be collected.

“The decision on the annual export quota was reached following an extensive stakeholder consultation process during which the Department considered all variables, including scientific best practice. It cannot be said, therefore that this determination was made arbitrarily or in a non-transparent manner,” says Minister of Environmental Affairs Dr Edna Molewa.

Background for editors:

In a stakeholder engagement session held in January 2017 the Department, the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) and the provincial conservation departments shared information relating to the proposed export quota for lion bones.

Stakeholders present included the South African Predator Breeders Association, lion bone traders, hunting organisations, lion bone traders, non-governmental organisations, private individuals and the media.

Discussions included, inter alia:

  • Information used to determine the quota;
  • Management interventions to monitor the trade;
  • The research to be conducted to inform future decisions relating to trade in lion bones

For media inquiries contact

Albi Modise
Cell: 083 490 2871