Big Cats


An Open Letter to the Minister of the Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Barbara Creecy

25th March 2020

Dear Honourable Minister Creecy,

Since at least as far back as the late 1990s, various NGOs have warned your department about the harmful and negative effects of breeding lions (and other big cats) in captivity. Yet, the South African government has done nothing to slow the growth of the captive lion breeding industry, nor has it given any indication of wanting to do so. This letter lays bare the facts and calls for immediate action.

First, it details the risks embedded in captive lion (and other big cat) breeding and why the industry should be terminated.

Second, we note that letter after letter to your Ministry and Department goes unheeded. It seems that industry voices – those with a vested interest in acquiring short-term benefits from exploitative breeding of lion (and other big cat) cubs for human interaction, canned hunting and the lion bone trade – provide the tune to which the policy fiddle dances.

Finally, tourism – the goose that lays the golden egg in the South African economy – is dead for the foreseeable future. Not only has South Africa’s willingness to supply Asian wildlife markets created zoonotic disease spillover risks, which have led to the need for travel bans, but the imposition of the latter means that thousands of captive lions (and other big cats) will now be left to starve to death without tourism dollars. Had the government acted in 2009 (when a plan was presented to your Department) and when there were far fewer lions (and other big cats) in captivity, this catastrophe would have been avoided.



The South African Captive Bred Lion Industry and Associated Global Health Risks

Memorandum Of Demand

The Presidency


Cape Town



Minister of Tourism

Private Bag X424




Minister of Health 

Private Bag X828




Minster of the Environment, Forestry and Fisheries

Private Bag X447




Ambassador to South Africa

25 Rhodes Avenue





21ST March 2020

The Honorable Mr President Cyril Ramaphosa, Minister Kubayi-Ngubane Mmamoloko, Minister Zweli Mkhize, Minister Barbara Creecy, Ambassador Lin Songtian,

On the 21st and 22nd August 2018 a number of wildlife organisations made detailed and compelling presentations to Parliament on the massive problems and concerns with South Africa’s Captive Lion Breeding industry. 

This included a presentation on an 18-month research and investigation report into South Africa’s role in the international lion bone trade. 

As a consequence of the extensive evidence presented against the captive big-cat breeding industry and its abhorrent offshoots such as canned hunting and the unregulated lion bone trade, Parliament instructed the Minister of Environmental Affairs (at the time) and her Department – in December 2019 – to shut down the industry, which is a major ethical, legal and administrative embarrassment for South Africa. 



Alleged Smuggling of Lion Bones Called “Legal” by Minister’s Spokesperson

Media Release from Members Of The Wildlife Animal Protection Forum South Africa (WAPFSA)

The recent news release of 342 kg of lion bones discovered on an outbound flight at OR Tambo Airport on 1st October 2019 which was subsequentially confiscated, has had extensive media coverage.

The comment from the Director of Communications at the Department of Environmental Affairs, Albi Modise was that “although the export of lion bones born in captivity was legal, a special permit was required to send them out.” This statement was reported by a number of media outlets, including World News, The Straits Times, BBC News, EWN, MSN, Business Standard, 7D News, and This is Money UK, Getaway, Jacaranda FM, and NST.

The export of lion bones from South Africa is currently illegal. In order to be legal, a yearly quota is supposed to be proposed by the South African Scientific Authority including the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) through the National Convention on the international Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Management Authority, then approved and communicated to all provincial conservation departments and managed at National level under the authority of the Minister of Forestry and Fishery and Environmental Affairs, Barbara Creecy.



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