Public invited to make written submissions on proposed lion export quota to the department in line with CITES requirements
Department of Environmental Affairs
25 January 2017

The Department of Environmental Affairs has emphasised that no exports of lion bones will be authorised in 2017 until the export quota for the trade in these specimens has been established and communicated to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Secretariat.

The Department has made the assurance following a CITES stakeholder feedback session in Pretoria on 18 January 2017, where the public raised concerns about how the Department will determine the quota of lion bones permitted to be exported from South Africa, and how it will be managed.

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; information used to determine the quota; management interventions to monitor the trade; and the research to be conducted to inform future decisions relating to trade in lion bones with stakeholders, including the South African Predator Breeders Association, lion bone traders, hunting organisations, lion bone traders, non-governmental organisations, private individuals and the media.

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 the 17th Conference of the Parties to CITES held in Johannesburg in 2016, the Parties agreed 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. South Africa agreed to this annotation, as a risk-averse intervention.  This is considered a risk-averse intervention because of concerns relating to the shift in lion and tiger bone trade observed and recorded in a study commissioned by TRAFFIC.

It was noted 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. One of the main concerns is that lion bones may be illegally sourced from wild lion populations if the trade in the bones originating from captive bred lions is prohibited.  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 CITES listing for lion was amended during the COP 17 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.”

This annotation requires that South Africa, through the National CITES Management Authority, in consultation with the Scientific Authority, establish a national export quota to be communicated to the CITES Secretariat.

Based on an assessment of previous year’s trade data (including trade in bones and hunting trophies) a quota of 800 skeletons were proposed. The following procedure was also proposed for the management of the 800 skeletons that will be exported from South Africa in 2017:

  • The quota will be managed at a national level
  • International trade will be restricted to trade in skeletons only (not individual pieces, bone pieces, etc)
  • Upon receipt of an application from a captive breeding operation (CBO)/hunting farm, the province will confirm with DEA whether a quota is available
  • The province will evaluate the application and determines whether the relevant permit can be issued
  • Skeletons will be packed separately at source (CBO/hunting farm), weighed, tagged and a DNA sample will be taken
  • Quota numbers will be indicated on all permits (e.g. killing/ hunting/ selling/ buying/ transporting/ exporting)
  • Consignment to be inspected (and weighed) and permit endorsed at port of exit; random DNA samples will be collected.

The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) will also initiate a study to monitor the lion bone trade in South Africa. The study will aim to increase the understanding of the lion bone trade in South Africa and the captive lion breeding industry, and will investigate how the trade in captive produced lion bone under a quota system affects wild lion populations. 

It will also 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.

The public are invited to submit written comments to the department on or before 2 February 2017 for consideration by the CITES Management Authority and Scientific Authority before the final quota is communicated to CITES Secretariat in March 2017.

Submissions can be sent to:

Mr Mpho Tjiane
Tel: +27 12 399 9596
E- mail

For media inquiries contact:

Albi Modise
Cell: +27 83 490 2871