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Political situation in South Africa

Canned Hunting of lions is still allowed in South Africa, as the hunting and breeding industries are defending themselves by all available means against any constraints.


Some years ago the South African government wanted to achieve improvements with a list of endangered animal species (TOPS List). Following this, every species on the list must survive independently in their natural habitat for two years before they may be shot. Originally lions were also included on the protection list however, due to pressure from the breeders, they were removed from the list again in 2008.


Supreme Court rules in favour of lion breeders

In June 2009, the highest court in the South African province Free State decided that the lions could be included in the TOPS list again. However, the South African lion breeders association appealed against this judgement to the National Supreme Court.

In 2010 unfortunately, the ruling of the Supreme Court was in favour of the lion breeders. The Supreme Court of Appeal determined that the Minister of Environmental Affairs at the time, did not take a “rational decision” when she determined that captive-bred lions had to fend for themselves in an extensive wildlife system for 24 months before they could be hunted. So the hunting and breeding industry remains unregulated and lions will carry on suffering in captivity.

The TOPS list is not the best instrument to protect big cats, because it does not ban lion hunting; but including lions on the list would be an important step forward to protecting captive bred lions and regulating the industry as many lion farmers would have found it unfeasible to continue the practice.


Hundreds of lions suffer from inappropriate keeping conditions

Lions remain unprotected in South Africa

Lots of criticism was raised regarding canned hunting on the international level and potential threats for sustainable forms of wildlife tourism have been addressed over the last years. But still the South African Government ignores such risks as well as ethical and conservation arguments.


The South African Department of Environmental Affairs’ draft proposal on the first Biodiversity management Plan for the Lion (Panthera leo) in South Africa clearly shows that the Government wants to protect not regulate the lion industry.The proposal states that due to an increase in the number of lions in captive conditions in South Africa there is no longer a need for the current protection levels offered to lion as a species. A basis of this argument is that wild populations are not threatened and captive populations have increased and can further increase and therefore overall numbers of lions in South Africa is at an accepted level to decrease their protection. If accepted, this could be the world’s first Biodiversity Management Plan that actually fuels the illegal trade in a species, enables growth in the hunting sector and reduces the welfare of the animal it should aim to protect. If the South African government accepts this imprudent action plan the trade in lion parts and transport of trophies would be fuelled through weaker international restrictions. Therefore, the proposed plan would effectively provide the basis and infrastructure to increase the commoditizing of lions in South Africa which can only fuel international trade and increase hunting and exploitation of animals.


FOUR PAWS Recommendation to the South African Government

Due to the horrendous conditions of captive bred lions in South Africa and the growing international public condemnation of the Canned Hunting practice the Australian government has taken action banning the import of lion trophies from South Africa into Australia. Major airlines such as South African Airways, Emirates and others have placed embargos on carrying lion trophies on their flights. FOUR PAWS calls on the South African government to act and join the global movement by recognizing that lions in South Africa need greater protection and that any Biodiversity Action Plans must not benefit unscrupulous hunting industries. The South African government should be one of the world’s greatest ambassadors for animals such as the lion and not the target of multiple global embargos and campaigns for its role in fueling wildlife abuses. We are calling on the Government of South Africa to work on new regulations that will offer protection for lions and enable an outright ban of Canned Hunting.


International resistance against canned lion hunting

Australia bans imports of lion trophies

In March 2015 the Australian government banned the import of lion body parts to prevent hunters from bringing home lion hunting trophies. One major reason for this step was the unethical practice of canned hunting. Australia now treats the African lion as if they are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Appendix I provides the highest level of protection for species that are threatened with extinction. The new law in Australia will mean a maximum penalty for wildlife trade offences of 10 years imprisonment and fines of up to $170,000 for individuals. Corporations that breach the ban could face fines amounting to $850,000. The ban is the first of its kind and sets a global precedent for the protection of African lions and FOUR PAWS on the United States and European Union countries, the largest importers of lion hunting trophies, to follow suit. 


#FOURPAWSgowild - we want to make canned hunting less attractive for hunters

Leading airlines end the transport of lion trophies

In May 2015, South African Airways became the first airline to issue a transport embargo on trophies of lions, elephants, rhinos, and tigers. The global ban was effective immediately and does not allow any exceptions. Soon after, Emirates Sky Cargo announced an embargo on transporting of all hunting trophies of elephant, rhino, lion and tiger for carriage on Emirates services irrespective of CITES appendix. By the end of May, Lufthansa Cargo announced that it also “has decided not to transport any trophies of the African fauna, e.g. lions, elephants and rhinos, in or out of Africa – including legally hunted or legally acquired trophies.” Other aviation companies like KLM, Brussels Airlines and Qatar Airways Cargo clarified that they have a ban on the transport of hunting trophies in place. FOUR PAWS welcomes these embargos as an important step to make the canned hunting and trophy hunting business less attractive for hunters.