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The HLP identified that the captive lion industry poses risks to the sustainability of wild lion conservation resulting from the negative impact on ecotourism – which funds lion conservation and conservation more broadly – and the risk that the trade in lion parts poses to stimulating poaching and the illegal trade. One of the key recommendations of the Panel was that South Africa does not captive breed lions, keep lions in captivity, or use captive lions or their derivates (body parts) commercially.

Importantly, the HLP also recommended that “the Minister should investigate and where necessary prevent the export of live specimens of the four iconic species outside of their range states, or into captivity in other countries, thereby protecting their iconic African status, their welfare and our unique economic advantage”. The HLP also proposed that that no individuals (lions, leopards, rhinos and elephants) may be moved from the wild into captivity other than for rehabilitation purposes and that there is a need to legislate that no individuals of these species would be exported from South Africa other than wild individuals being translocated to appropriate and acceptable in situ conservation destinations in range states.

On the 28th June 2021 the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment published the Draft Policy Position on the Conservation and Ecological Sustainable Use of Elephant, Lion, Leopard and Rhinoceros and Members of the public were invited to submit written submissions in respect thereof:

This is the excerpt from the aforementioned Draft Policy Position regarding the captive lion industry:

“The captive lion industry threatens South Africa’s reputation as a leader in the conservation of wildlife, and as a country and destination with iconic wild lions, as the housing of wild or captive-bred lions is perceived as the domestication of this iconic species.

The commercial lion business involving intensive and selective breeding, handling, canned hunting and bone and 
other derivative trade presents a threat to South Africa’s reputation with associated political and economic risks including negative impacts on the broader photo-tourism market and hunting industry, and tourism to South Africa in general.

Many cultures in South Africa identify and are spiritually aligned with lions and the captive breeding of lions is culturally dispossessing of this value to communities.

The captive lion industry does not represent ecologically sustainable use, providing very little economic activity or jobs, while benefitting a few relative to other components of this sector.

There are major concerns over work conditions and safety of workers and tourists, and zoonotic risks including from COVID-19.

The captive lion industry does not contribute meaningfully to transformation, or to the conservation of wild lions, and trade in lion derivatives poses major risks to wild lion populations, and to stimulating illegal trade. Rewilding of captive lions is not feasible from conservation principles and captive breeding is currently not necessary for conservation purposes.”