The Lion bone trade is another spin-off from breeding lions in captivity.
Tiger bones have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries. The Chinese believe that it can cure numerous diseases and increases potency. There has been no scientific research to show that there are in fact any medicinal benefits to be gained from these products.
Since the tiger has been protected as an endangered species, it has been much harder to obtain tiger bones. The Chinese government banned the trade in tiger parts in 1993, although in 2018 they were looking at reintroducing the trade with captive bred tigers. Due to international commotion this has been put on hold for the moment.
It is virtually impossible to distinguish tiger bones from lion bones, so Asian tiger bone syndicates have been looking for a new supply.
South Africa has been exporting lion bones since 2008. Upon pressure of South Africa, it was decided during the latest CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) meeting of the Conference of the Parties in 2016 that South Africa is entitled to continue trading in bones of captive lions. No explicit number was agreed upon and South Africa raised the number of exported lion skeletons from 800 in 2017 to 1500 in 2018. This number has been readjusted to 800 skeletons in December 2018. The 2019 quota has not been issued yet.
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Main image courtesy of SPCA Bloemfontein