South African newspaper Times Live reports that at least five South African lion farmers are killing lionesses in Botswana and smuggling their cubs to lion farms in South Africa, to supply to the international trophy-hunting market.
“I don’t want to say lion breeders as a whole are involved but there are definitely five or six people that I know of,” said conservationist Sarel van der Merwe, chairman of the African Lion Working Group.
“About 700 lions are killed in trophy hunts in South Africa each year, with the average price for a lion hunt being R360000,” said Adri Kitshoff of the Professional Hunters’ Association of SA.
There are about 160 lion-breeding farms in South Africa in which up to 5000 animals are held in captivity, according to Fiona Miles, of international rescue organisation Four Paws.
Since Botswana’s president Ian Khama decreed a total ban on hunting from January, Problem Animal Control Group officers are calling farmers in South Africa instead of reporting the animals to their superiors, said Van der Merwe.
“If the problem animal is a lioness, she is shot and her cubs are smuggled out.
“Her carcass gets buried and later that is smuggled out too, to be sold to traders who deal with people in Asia.”
People in Asian countries believe that lion wine heals aches and pains like rheumatism, and increases virility.
A report released late last year shows that though Africa’s lion population has plummeted to only 32000, South Africa has a stable lion population, with about 3200 wild lions in national parks and on farms.