South Africa says it will end its captive lion industry in a major move for conservation that would outlaw the heavily criticized "canned hunting" of the big cats and sale of their bones, as well as popular tourist experiences like petting cubs. The policy, which still needs to be made into law, will prohibit the keeping and breeding of lions in captivity, and will effectively end the world's legal lion bone trade, per the AP. South Africa is the only country given a special dispensation by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to sell and export lion bones, claws, and teeth, and they have to be from captive lions. None of those parts from wild lions can be sold or traded. South Africa has anywhere between 8,000 and 12,000 lions in captivity, per various figures from the government and wildlife groups.
It's the only country doing "intense breeding of lions," said Neil Greenwood of the International Fund for Animal Welfare. The policy change was announced by Minister of Forestry, Fisheries, and the Environment Barbara Creecy after a yearlong study by a panel of experts. The announcement was praised by wildlife groups that want to see the iconic species left to live in the wild or in recognized conservation parks. They say the captive lion business in South Africa has been marked by disregard for the animals' welfare in favor of profit. Lions are kept in unhealthy and unethical conditions, conservationists say, and bred to ultimately be killed and their parts sold for trophies or for use in traditional medicines in Asia. "A courageous decision," said Dr. Neil D'Cruze, the head of wildlife research at World Animal Protection.
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