HEAR THEM ROAR!

Lion. Photot credit: Shutterstock

Belinda Glenn, EWT Marketing and Communications Manager

BelindaG@ewt.org.za

World Lion Day is celebrated in August each year, and we’ve certainly had something to roar about in 2019.

On 6 August, the Pretoria High Court set aside the 2017 and 2018 lion bone quotas, stating that these were both unlawful and unconstitutional, and that due process was not followed in the setting of these quotas. This precedent-setting judgement has much broader implications beyond the lion bone trade, and could have a significant impact on the breeding, slaughter, and selling of parts of all captive wild animals.

The EWT has been vocal in its opposition to the lion bone trade, and the setting of these quotas, as the captive breeding of wild animals for their parts offers no demonstrated conservation value for the species. We do not support the commercial captive breeding of carnivores because it does not contribute to the sustainable, responsible use of our wildlife resources and, in some cases, may have negative impacts on the conservation of these species in the wild.

Instead, we support the conservation of wild and free ranging carnivores, including but not limited to lions, in their natural habitat, where they contribute to biodiversity conservation as keystone and flagship species. The EWT therefore welcomed this landmark judgement, and applauded the NSPCA and all other parties who have persisted in their efforts to secure this victory for lions

Just a little later that same week, the EWT officially launched its lion conservation knowledge hub, the African Lion Database, with the exciting news that new records of these charismatic cats have been captured in locations where they were previously thought to have gone extinct.

The database is hosted by the EWT on behalf of the broader conservation community, under the auspices of the IUCN’s Cat Specialist Group, and will be used to compile, analyse, and store data on African Lion distribution, abundance, and population trends, and support the continuous assessment of the status of lions across the continent. This is significant because the more we know about a species the better we can protect it, by guiding conservation action and directing funding resources to where they are most needed.

This project has been collating existing data from reserve management, researchers, existing data platforms, and from governments for the last six months and already offers some exciting new insights into the distribution of lions in Africa. For example, the presence of a resident male lion in Nyika National Park, Malawi, was recently confirmed by Central African Wilderness Safaris. Months after the initial report, the EWT received photos to confirm his presence. Another exciting record comes from Angola, where a sighting of a male and female with their two cubs was recorded in Luando Special Reserve. These are the first female and cubs to be seen in more than a decade in this area and this new information offers hope that lions may be re-establishing a presence where they were thought to have disappeared. A recent Born Free expedition recorded a small pride of lions for the first time at Mpem and Djim National Park in southern Cameroon – again, in an area where lions were considered to be locally extinct. These records provide some hope that lion populations are beginning to establish and increase in areas where hope was lost.

This project is made possible with the financial support of the Lion Recovery Fund and National Geographic Society.

Keep our lions where they belong, in the wild! Take the pledge to keep our lions #wildnfree and join the fight against keeping carnivores in captivity for petting, walking-with, photo-tourism, captive hunting and the trade in their body parts. There is no conservation requirement or recommendation for any captive breeding or keeping of carnivores in South Africa. Captive breeding does not address the key threats faced by carnivores in the wild, and captive bred lions have no role to play in reintroductions and restorations of wild lion populations. The proliferation of captive carnivore facilities in South Africa is primarily for commercial gain, and at significant cost to human safety and animal wellbeing.