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“Many wild lion populations in Africa have crashed in recent decades, mostly due to habitat loss and increasing conflict with rising human populations, and conservationists have been pushing for years for lions to be “uplisted” to CITES Appendix 1 for greater protection. The most recent CITES general meeting, held in Johannesburg in 2016, saw a showdown between a southern African bloc led by South Africa, which wanted to maintain the lion on Appendix 2, and a much larger group of countries, including the U.S., that wanted to uplist it.
A backroom compromise demonstrated the residual power of the captive-breeding industry; lions remained on Appendix 2, but with a treaty annotation that forbade international trade in lion parts such as bones, claws, and teeth, except if they came from captive-bred lions in South Africa. South African exports would not be unlimited, as they were before, but would be subject to a nationally determined quota, which was set at 800 skeletons for 2017.
Conservationists and international hunting groups continue to oppose captive-breeding of lions because the breeders have been unable to show real benefit to conservation. The standard for reintroduction projects, says Panthera’s Hunter, is to use wild-caught animals, as has been done very successfully across southern Africa. “There’s simply no need to resort to captive-bred cats, where there is a much higher chance of genetic problems and diseases,” Hunter says. Captive-bred lions also haven’t developed hunting skills and are abnormally socialized.”
Photo: EMS Foundation