Study finds lions face new threat -poaching and trade in their body parts
Governments and conservationists should adopt holistic and collaborative approaches to preventing and halting the poaching of and trade in the body parts of lions.
This call is contained in a new study which provides evidence of this emerging threat to African lion conservation.
The study, published in October in international journal Biodiversity and Conservation, warns that this growing threat could have a devastating affect on lion populations, mirroring similar affects on wild tiger populations.
The study presented data from field surveys conducted in the Mozambican portion of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, an area between SA, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, between 2011 and 2018.
“We documented 49 lion deaths caused by humans across the study area during the entire study period,” the study said.
The targeted poaching of lions for body parts accounted for 35% of known human-caused mortalities across the landscape, it added.
The researchers also found that retaliatory killing for livestock conflict accounted for 51% of mortalities, but body parts were removed in 48% of conflict cases, suggesting that the demand for body parts was escalating conflict killings.
Teeth and claws were the parts most frequently harvested, with an alarming and dramatic increase from 2014.
“We recorded reports of four cases where lion body parts were conﬁscated in Mozambique between 2013 and 2017. Of these known cases, canine teeth and claws were conﬁscated twice, skin, meat and fat once and a full skeleton once.”
The study said two shipments of teeth and claws were conﬁscated by Mozambican government authorities in 2016 at an international airport. They were destined for Vietnam, with one of the seizures including a combination of lion parts and elephant ivory.
Lead author of the study, Dr Kris Everatt, Panthera’s bushmeat poaching programme manager, said lions already faced a litany threats, from dwindling prey populations to conflict with cattle farmers.
Everatt said the study demonstrated that lions were increasingly confronting the threat of poaching for body parts, often under the guise of human-lion conflict.
He said factors driving this type of poaching remained poorly understood, but that the number of carcasses of captive-bred lions exported from SA had grown exponentially since 2007.
This trade fed a growing market among upwardly mobile Asians for luxury products, such as lion bone wine, with lion bones used in place of tiger bones, as tiger parts become increasingly scarce.