Nairobi — Lion farming in South Africa is threatening the very existence of the species in the rest of Africa.
Body parts, especially bones from big cats such as lions and tigers are used in traditional Asian medicine, found mainly in Asian countries such as China and Vietnam. Although there's little to no robust evidence to suggest that these products have any medicinal value, the demand for wildlife traditional Asian medicine is growing.
A research by World Animal Protection (WAP) reveals that lions and tigers of all shapes and sizes around the world are being poached from the wild for their body parts and bones which are used in products believed to treat rheumatism, promote strength and increase sexual vigour. Some are used to make tiger bones wines and ointments.
In a report by WAP, the high demand for lions and tiger bones for medicine in the Asian markets is fueling the suffering and killing of lions across continent.
"The factors contributing to this trend include: an increase in people with higher disposable incomes in regions where products are popular, a lucrative business thriving from the industry, and recently, an endorsement from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In 2018, WHO included Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in the 11th version of its respected "International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems" (ICD) for the first time.
In addition to concerns about safety and health, wildlife advocates are worried about the impact an increase in TCM could have on animals in the wild.
The WAP report documents the suffering that these animals are subjected to, caged in tiny enclosures resembling industrial factory farms. "In Asia, rows of bare and barren battery-style cells house hundreds of tigers as well as lions. In South Africa, lion cubs are kept deplorable conditions; some with deformities such as missing limbs because of inbreeding," says the report.
According to Dr Patrick Muinde a Research Manager at World Animal Protection, big cats, mainly lion cubs, are born into a life of exploitation. "Some are snatched from their mothers in the wild, and many are born at breeding facilities. They start their lives on petting farms, then once juveniles, they are used for 'walking with lions' experiences."
"Their lives then take a deadly turn as they are moved to game farms for sport hunting. Skins and heads are taken as trophies, and bones are legally exported through the skeleton quota - unique to South Africa. The bones are exported to Asia to supplement the illegal trade of tiger bone products, where they are processed into medicines and wines," details the researcher.