Private lion breeders in the North West say tourism in the province is under siege. They say poaching and the growing demand for lion skin and bones in local traditional medicines and Asian markets pose significant threat.

Breeders say while an export quota was established to reduce exports of lion bones in 2017, poaching of captive lions has instead persisted and doubled, with at least 31 lions killed between June 2017 and May of 2018.

“It is a high amount of money to raise just one lion. To get it at a certain age where the poachers will just come and take it, that lion would have cost you about R60 to R80 000. We have put up immense security systems around our cages, guards walking at night patrolling at night and also we have a lot of anti-poaching groups in the areas that want to get their training here,” says Ben van Staden of Kudus Rus Lion Farm.

South Africa is already the largest legal exporter of lion bones to Asian countries. And so the trade in lion bones remains a thorny issue for conservationists.

“As four paws, we actually demand that government stop cross-border trade of lions. The tourism industry will be strongly affected because people come from all over the world to view the incredible wildlife that South Africa has to offer. People actually want to see the wild animals in the natural habitat,” says Four Paws Non-Governmental Organisation’s Fiona Miles.

According to the current export quota, only 800 lion skeletons can be exported from South Africa annually.