Report Highlights
Ministerial Task Team
To Identify and Recommend Voluntary Exit Options and Pathways for the Captive Lion Industry
For submission to the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment
Report Highlights

• The MTT process included extensive engagement with general public, lion owners and industry
associations, government departments, existing lion safe havens, animal welfare and protection
organisations, conservation organisations, traditional health practitioners, other professionals (SAVC,
NSPCA, LiMF, SANBI) and civil society representatives.

• The audit concluded that South African currently has 7,834 captive lions in 348 facilities and about
3,163 lion skeletons and carcasses in stockpiles.

• Between 1,568 and 2,069 employees are involved in the captive lion industry and their time is often
shared between other wildlife and/or agricultural related activities.

• There is a lack of alignment of legislation between provinces and some very dated ordinances are still
in use.

• Levels of permit compliance in the captive lion industry are low and consequences for non-compliance
are minimal and seldom enforced.

• The Voluntary Exit options identified include:
     o Humane euthanasia of all lions and permanent exit from the industry
     o Phase out through trade opportunities for a period of 24 months
     o Surrender of lions to lion safe havens
Less Viable Voluntary Exit Options Involving Live Captive and/or Captive-bred Lions:
     o Surrender of lions to authorities
     o Repurposing of an existing facility to a lion safe haven
     o Repurposing of an existing facility for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use

• Viable Voluntary Exit Options involving lion bone stockpiles include:
     o Lion bone stockpiles surrendered to authorities
     o Lion bone stockpiles for trade out for a period of 24 months

• Voluntary Exit Options are not stand alone and can be combined and adapted to meet the specific
requirements of the volunteering facility.

• A set of protocols have been developed to ensure the well-being of the lions involved in the voluntary
exit process.

• Best practice guidelines for the keeping of lions that remain in captivity, as part of voluntary exit, have
been developed related to: nutrition, environment, physical well-being, behavioural well-being and
the mental domain.

Key Recommendations

• Voluntary exit should be the first step towards the longer-term objectives as outlined in the draft
Policy Position.
Since the initial establishment of the captive lion industry in the 1990s, this sector has presented
multiple regulatory challenges with no real solutions (see chapter 6). We therefore recommend that
voluntary exit from the captive lion industry should only be the first step in a longer-term prohibition,
as is outlined in the draft Policy Position on the Conservation and Ecologically Sustainable Use of
Elephant, Lion, Leopard and Rhinoceros.

• Finalise Engagement with Voluntary Exit Candidates.
Facilities that have voluntarily shown an interest in exiting the captive lion industry, need to be actively
engaged with to complete the process of exiting the industry through mutually agreed terms for
voluntary exit.

• Lion bone stockpiles
Given the reports of the illegal exports of lion bones, parts and derivatives, the MTT recommends the
rapid implementation of a government-sanctioned acquisition and mass-incineration of all known lion
bone stockpiles, to prevent its illegal export and signal its commitment to ending this practice.
Facilities that wish to take this offer must also comply with the principles of voluntary exit, namely
sterilisation, animal welfare and well-being.

• Short-term measure – Ministerial Directive
As a short-term measure and to facilitate the recent amendments in legislation, the MTT recommends
that the Minister issues a directive, to guide the issuing and renewal of permits:

a. Foster a consistent understanding of animal well-being through the necessary keeping
requirements and ensure that all facilities possess the necessary capacity, both in terms of
finances and personnel, to comply with the animal well-being requirements as in NEMBA.
b. Amend the maximum duration of permits for restricted activities involving captive and/or
captive-bred lions to a 12-month validity, with the possibility of annual extensions.
c. To support this recommendation, the capacity of provincial permit issuing authorities and
EMIs are provided through required training, in particular around animal well-being.
Furthermore, effective tools need to be facilitated to implement uniform guidelines across
the nine provinces.
d. Progressively implement permit fees that are reflective of the true administrative costs
relating to regulating the commercial captive lion industry, thus reducing the reliance on
national and provincial nature conservation budgets, releasing resources to strengthen the
required capacity for oversight of compliance of the industry, and diverting resources for the
badly needed nature conservation programmes.

• Moratorium on new facilities
To protect the benefits of the voluntary exit outcome from potential undermining through the
establishment of new facilities, the MTT proposes that the Minister and the DFFE finalize the proposed
regulations which prohibit the establishment of new captive lion facilities.

• Moratorium on breeding
To meet the longer-term objectives as outlined in the draft Policy Position, the MTT recommends to
urgently publish and conduct thorough consultations on regulations that enforce a moratorium on
captive lion breeding to mitigate population growth through single sex separation or sterilisation of
all lions. This action will aid in safeguarding the goals of the voluntary exit initiative against potential

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