Why this is important
The White Lion is a critically endangered animal, originating from South Africa’s Greater Timbavati region in the heart of the UNESCO Kruger-2-Canyons Biosphere Reserve region. White Lions hold significant conservation and cultural value for the indigenous Tsonga and Sepedi communities of the region and for many cultures across Africa and the world. Carrying a unique genetic marker, the White Lions are a rare phenotype with profound cultural and conservation significance. Today, there are fewer than 12 White Lions in the wilds of their endemic habitat. Despite ongoing forced removals from the K2C biosphere, this genetic rarity continues to occur and is an important part of the biodiversity of this region.
White Lions lack national and international legislative protection and are victims of habitat encroachment, poaching, and human-wildlife conflict. In particular, they are hunted as trophies in captivity through the legal ‘canned’ hunting industry. White Lions are forcibly removed from their natural habitat, sent to zoos and circuses around the globe, dismembered to provide unproven medical benefits, speed-bred in commercial captive breeding operations, and transferred from cub-petting to captive slaughter farms to be shot as tame adults.
Without increased protection, the White Lions of Greater Timbavati face extinction in the near future. We urge CITES, the IUCN and the South African Government to list the White Lion (Panthera leo tsau) as a critically endangered sub-population and increase protection measures of this rare and culturally revered animal.
Lions are considered a keystone species, a natural indicator of the health of an ecosystem; the threatened status of the White Lions and African lions in South Africa reflect a dire conservation and socio-economic situation in the Greater Timbavati region. The following statistics highlight the trophy hunting threats that White Lions and African lions face: there are over 5,000 South African lions in captivity, compared to the remaining 2,000 South African lions in the wild; there are over 160 lion-breeding farms in South Africa; lion trophy exports from South Africa increased 326% over the past 10 years; and the trophy price for a captive African lion ranges between $5,000- 25,000 USD; the trophy price for wild male White Lion is over $120,000 USD.
According to African elder and traditional healer, Credo Mutwa, African kings declared the Greater Timbavati region a sacred site long before the declaration of Kruger National Park. The name “Tsimba-vaati” is derived from the ancient XiTsonga language meaning “the place where star-lions came down”: the White Lions are the sacred heart of the Greater Timbavati region. Please help protect White Lions and the indigenous culture that reveres them: the future of the Greater Timbavati ecosystem and its people depend on our collective conservation efforts.
Global White Lion Protection Trust Overview: Founded in 2002 by author and conservationist Linda Tucker, the Global White Lion Protection Trust (WLT) is a non-profit organisation with a dual mission to protect the critically endangered White Lions and preserve the rich cultural heritage that celebrates these magnificent animals.
The WLT is headquartered in the Greater Timbavati region, the endemic habitat of the White Lion and part of the UNESCO Kruger-2-Canyons Biosphere Reserve region. The WLT collaborates with local and international communities to protect these rare iconic animals as global living heritage, of significant conservation and cultural value. The WLT ensures the survival of 3 different free roaming prides in their endemic heartlands. The recent discovery of the genetic marker after 7 years of genetic research reinforces WLT’s campaign to declare White Lions as a protected sub-species or critically endangered sub-population through international regulatory institutions. Visit www.whitelions.org for more information.
Support for an online campaign calling for an end to the trade in lion bones has surged to a new record.
In an incredible leap of faith that speaks volumes for worldwide concern over the future and fate of African lions, the global online Avaaz advocacy campaign that calls for South Africa to end the trade, announced this week that its campaign support had virtually surged overnight, mushrooming to a record new high of more than a million signatures.
And now Avaaz, which has the backing of more than 27 million members globally, is asking for another tidal wave of support to reach 1.25 million voices.
This firmly puts the heat on the South African government to end the much reviled canned lion hunting industry and clarify its national position on conservation which currently allows the export of lion bones and carcasses to Asia where they are ground into powder as a cake mix.
The surge in momentum comes after the Johannesburg High Court ruled in Avaaz’s favour recently on controversial campaign posters.
The court ruling injected new life into the campaign, which collected more than 250 000 additional signatures in less than a week.
In August last year, Airports Company SA, worried about a political backlash that would turn into a public relations nightmare, demanded that the advertising arm of media giant Primedia pull down the Avaaz posters at OR Tambo Airport within 24 hours.
The posters show a lioness looking down the barrel of a gun with an image of a thoughtful President Jacob Zuma superimposed in the background.
The caption reads, “President Zuma Can Save Her Life”.
Underneath the poster the campaign sponsor’s name is printed with the message: “Our lions are being slaughtered to make bogus sex potions for Asia. Will President Zuma save them? Urge him to stop the deadly trade now.”
“Ripping down these ads smacks of censorship and silences the voices of 700 000 people who care deeply about saving South Africa’s lions.
“Instead of worrying about bad PR at the baggage carousel, government authorities should be acting to stop the brutal trade in lion bones,” Patel said.
Avaaz filed a legal challenge arguing that Acsa violated the constitution’s guarantee of freedom of expression when it censored the ads, as well as the constitution’s guarantee of fair administrative process.
Judge Frank Bashall ruled that Acsa had violated the public’s constitutional right to freedom of expression, and prejudiced Avaaz by denying them fair administrative procedure.
Ian Bassin campaign director for Avaaz, welcomed the decision.
“Acsa has kept these posters down long enough, while the fate of South Africa’s lions is hanging in the balance.
“They tried to exercise the kind of censorship that has no place in democracies, and it backfired, as it always does when you attempt censorship.”
Acsa studied the court ruling for a week before taking the decision not to oppose the court’s order to reinstate the posters.
Spokeswoman Unathi Batyashe-Fillis said: “We certainly regret how the matter was handled in as far as not having had clear standards to guide not only our concessionaires, but more importantly our employees as well, when it came to evaluating potentially objectionable/offensive or factually incorrect advertising content without necessarily infringing upon rights to free speech.
“We will certainly ensure that the court order is adhered to and that the posters, as per the verdict, are reinstated.
“Acsa will abide by the decision of the court regarding the removal of the anti-lion trade campaign posters in August 2012 from its arrival terminal at OR Tambo International Airport.
“In line with the ruling, the company will allow Avaaz to place the anti-lion trade campaign posters for the remainder of the contract period,” she added.
The company says it is currently reviewing its advertising content approval processes and procedures to prevent such incidences from reoccurring.
Primedia did not oppose the Avaaz court action, and Acsa was ordered to pay legal costs.
The rhino poaching crisis, also orchestrated by Asian organised crime syndicates who sell the horns as a cure-all potion, mainly in China and Vietnam, has plunged South African wildlife conservation into the abyss with over 800 rhino slaughtered so far in 2013. – Sunday Independent
Ivan and Cornel, 4-year-old lions, stand inside a private roadside zoo in Novi Pazar, Serbia on September 23, 2012. Three lions Ivan, Cornel and Lepa were acquired from the Belgrade Zoo by a private person in 2009, before the Serbian legislation that prohibits possession of dangerous wild animals came into force in 2010. The Serbian CITES management and enforcement authority confiscated the animals and asked Four Paws Animal Welfare Foundation to transfer them to Africa. On September 25, 2013, that’s just what happened, when the three lions from Serbia and the two tigers from Germany were released into Lionsrock Big Cats Sanctuary in South Africa.
It taken us a while to get to a place where we can get signal for internet but finally we have it. Some news from the bush.
Finding the Lions are taking longer than expected and with each reserve we will find some hiccups. The Nxai Reserve is one of the most beautiful reserves in the whole world but truly demands respect. The conditions are extremely tough with very little grounds for mistakes but we will carry on trying to establish how many Lions reside within the Nxai National Park.
So far we would like you all to meet Tlotla, meaning respect. This male Lion is extremely sensitive to close game viewing and is always alert and ready for any signs of trouble. He is currently mating with a female of the Nxai Pan and we will name all of them as the time goes on. Previously we never used to name Lions but instead gave them Codes, but due to these Lions being able to live in these harsh conditions, we decided to give them proper names. So far we have not been able to use Camera Traps as they will be used later during the survey.
We trust you are all doing well and we will try and be in touch as much as possible.
WFL Ground Team
Mmegi sent Kobotwe a questionnaire three weeks ago.Bringing DWNP on record about the ongoing smuggling, exportation and importation of predators between Botswana and South Africa, is akin to trying to squeeze blood out of a stone. Mmegi could not get any response from the department about individuals who have licences to import, export and keep lions and cheetahs in their game farms. Mmegi investigations have turned up a report by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) which suggests that live lions legally exported from Botswana to South Africa between 2000 and 2011 totaled 45, 19 by 2001 and 27 in 2011. Live lions imported from South Africa to Botswana totaled 63 within the same period with 2008 seeing 29 lions imported.