The South African government has seized almost 800 pounds of lion bones on its way to Malaysia. The hoard of 12 boxes containing lion bones weighing 342 kg was seized at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Two Zimbabweans and one Congolese were arrested for the undocumented shipment.
Albi Modise, a spokesman for the Ministry of Environment, said airport authorities flagged the shipment because of poor documentation. An inspection of the boxes revealed they contained lion bones bound to Asia, where they are usually used for medicinal purposes.
Born Free Foundation, an international wildlife agency working against poaching of wildlife animals, said over 6,000 lion bones had been smuggled out of South Africa to Asia in the last ten years. Modise disclosed that it is perfectly legal to ship out bones of lions bred in captivity in South Africa. Still, the three traders were arrested because they failed to obtain the necessary permits required for the export.
Wildlife experts say more than 10,000 lions are roaming the wilds of South Africa, with between 6,000 to 8,000 others bred locally in farms within the country. Born Free Foundation is calling on the government and the international community to ban the trade in lion bones and other endangered wildlife since this leads to illegal poaching.
“Captive-bred lions and other predators are exploited for profit at every stage of their lives. Many of these animals end up being targets for trophy hunters in cruel canned hunts, or being brutally slaughtered so their bones can be exported,” said Mark Jones, head of policy at Born Free Foudation.
Thousand other animal skeletons, including elephant tusks and rhinoceros remains, are transported illegally to Asia and Europe every year, with wildlife advocates calling for stringent measures against the practice.