A legal dispute is brewing between a Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and the Department of Rural, Environmental and Agricultural Development in the North West.

The center wants a lion, which has been in its care, to be released into a sanctuary. But the department wants to auction it.

Three-year-old Mufasa has been living at the rehabilitation center for two and a half years. He was confiscated from a family who kept him as a pet without a permit.

The center has spent about R300 000 on his rehabilitation. The center fears Mufasa could be turned into canned meat or his bones could be exported to Asian countries.

Dr. Tjitske Schouwstra of Veterinary Services says: “We’ve had the situation before where we’ve rehabilitated wild animals and we have been given permits to either release them or send them to a sanctuary so that they can live out their lives as they’re supposed to naturally. It was always my understanding that the same thing would happen with Mufasa and that is why we have been looking after him at our own cost for the last two and a half years. So we are not going to give it up just like that.”

Mufasa cannot be used for breeding as he has had a vasectomy.

Carel Zietsman Dr. Schouwstra’s attorney says: “Once Mufasa is out on auction, there are only two markets for him. One would be either to be hunted and the other one would be slaughtered and exported as lion bones and legally, we think that the department of nature conservation has a moral and legal obligation to look after wild animals, of which Mufasa is one. So that is why we are now resisting that sale.”

North West Environmental Affairs authorities, declined to comment, as the matter is in court.