Big LION Debate – African Hunters & Farmers Feeding Animal Parts Trade.
CANNED HUNTING – BREEDING – SOUTH AFRICA’S CONTRIBUTION TO FAKE TIGER BONE WINE
Tiger populations have plummeted since the 1940’s worrying conservationists and wildlife organisations around the world. The main threat to Tigers are humans but more importantly the trade in Tiger bone wine. 3,200 Tigers remain in the wild although this number could be significantly lower than previously thought. There are 9 subspecies of tiger, three of which are extinct. Habitat degradation/ fragmentation caused by human over population, mining, and increased palm oil deforestation could soon spell extinction for all remaining Tigers in the next 10-20 years. Should all last remaining Tigers vanish, bringing them back from extinction will be impossible spelling a new trend of poaching and illegal hunting. The Lion is next on the Traditional Medicine mans agenda.
For millennia, medicine men across Asia have ascribed magical powers and healing properties to the tiger, and, somehow, the cat became a universal apothecary. Nearly every part, from nose to tail—eyes, whiskers, brains, flesh, blood, genitals, organs —is used to treat a lengthy list of maladies. Tiger parts are believed to heal the liver and kidneys and are used to treat epilepsy, baldness, inflammation, possession by evil demons, toothaches, malaria, hydrophobia, skin diseases, nightmares, laziness, fevers, and headaches. The bones are considered powerful medicine. Newborn babies are bathed in bone broth so they will grow up disease-free.
There is a growing, demand for Tiger bone wine, a tonic made by soaking a Tiger carcass in rice wine. It is thought to cure arthritis and muscle pain, to stimulate blood flow and qi (the life force the Chinese believe inherent in all things), and to impart the animal’s great strength. Since 1994, a few Chinese practitioners have repudiated the efficacy of Tiger remedies, with little result. It wasn’t until three decades ago that scientists realized that TCM was responsible for a precipitous decline in Tiger numbers.
As Tiger populations in China plummeted, professional poachers fanned out, snaring, trapping, and shooting their way across Asia, targeting locations where corruption was rife, enforcement weak — and where there were few other economic opportunities. Lion breeding then became the new hobby that now sees more Lions on farms than there is within the wild. Poachers hire mostly local tribal people to hunt the cats or act as guides. Then they ran prize parts over borders to Chinese TCM manufacturers. Tigers were classified as globally endangered in 1986. The next year, an international treaty banned cross-border trade in Tiger parts, driving the market underground. China banned domestic Tiger bone trade in 1993, though shadowy networks remain.
Although Tiger hunting is illegal everywhere, the killing has accelerated. Prices for Tigers, dead or alive, continue to soar as populations collapse. Poaching for TCM (and to a lesser degree, for their skins) has become a primary threat to their survival. INTERPOL agents informed Congress in 2008 that the same sophisticated underworld crime networks that run illicit gun, drug, and human trafficking operations also mastermind the wildlife trade. With high profits and low risks, it has become one of the fastest growing and most profitable types of international organized crime, growing into an estimated $20 billion a year business that helps purchase weapons, fund civil wars, and finance terrorist activities. Still, most governments view wildlife crime as an “environmental” issue, keeping it low on the priority list.
China still farms captive bred Tigers depriving them of food at a mature age from which death is slow and painful. Activists and conservationists have called on China and Indonesian Tiger captive zoos to be closed down immediately. Unfortunately money is the main player here and whilst there is good fortune and happiness, Tiger populations will most certainly diminish unless international governments now recognize poaching as a domestic terrorist threat and not just a “conservation issue”. LION POACHING in South Africa has since increased due to Tiger populations decreasing.
In the South African National Parks (SANparks). Poachers from North Africa and even Europe are hitting the parks at an unprecedented rate worrying many. Increasingly people are appearing in court on charges of stealing white Rhino, Buffalo, and Lions worth thousands of US dollars.
Even Giraffe have been stolen – (stolen not poached). According to SA National Parks CEO, Mavuso Msimang, poachers and thieves are stealing millions of South African rands in animal, plant and marine life from our “national treasury” of reserves. “These unscrupulous people are attacking the economic fabric of our national tourism industry,” he maintains. Msimang says most of the poaching inside Kruger is under control but that there are problems just outside its border with Limpopo, where “highly organised syndicates” are operating. Illegal immigrants from Mozambique, rip huge holes in the park’s western fences, he says, adding that he has seen evidence that many Lions have been lured through these holes by foreign hunters.
South Africa has its fair share of poachers and poaching incidents, but worryingly its own citizens are cashing in on the Traditional Chinese Medicine market that is now threatening to wipe out Lion species for ever. Hunters mainly American pay in the region of $10,000 (USD) to hunt a Lion in South Africa. Big bucks for the breeder and farmers. Concerning; the breeder can then make a further $5000 selling the bones to Chinese dealers based in Africa that subsequently ship the bones out to Asia – sold as pseudo Tiger bone wine. Business is big and whilst American AND African hunters continue to feed this trade there also pushing our Lion species ever closer to the brink of extinction.
Lion murdered Janury 2014
BACK in 2011 Phichet Thongphai, 31, and Punpitak Chunchom, 44 were apprehended by South African Revenue Service (SARS) and South African Police (SAPS) for peddling Lion bones to overseas dealers. Sentenced, their punishment was a mere slap on the wrist – kicked out of the country on the next available flight. A punch in the face to many conservationists and Anti Poaching Units that unselfishly work to combat illegal animal parts trade and poaching.
The two Thai men pleaded guilty to being in possession of 59 Lion bones without a permit. The bones, which were primarily claws and parts of the paws, were found rolled up in plastic and hidden in a sock inside a piece of luggage at a house in Edenvale, east of Johannesburg. The house was raided by SA Revenue Service officials and the police, after they questioned the accused at the OR Tambo International airport. The men, Phichet Thongphai, 31, and Punpitak Chunchom, 44, were sentenced in the Germiston Magistrate’s Court to a fine of R10000 or six months’ imprisonment. A further R100000 fine or five years’ imprisonment was suspended on condition that both men take pre-booked flights out of the country that following Saturday. Phichet Thongphai claimed he worked for a Laos-based company, “Vichai company”, the “main business” of which is to trade in Lion bones. It is understood that this company’s real name is Xaysavang Export Import. Thongphai said he and the other accused “were sent to South Africa by the company to view and approve Lion bones to be bought and shipped to the company in [Laos, Thailand]”.
He further said that the “company for which I worked is usually contacted by farm owners in South Africa and advised that they have Lion bones for sale”. Magistrate Hasani Mashimbye stressed how serious the crimes were: “Future generations of this country will not know what a Lion is by the acts of people coming from outside the Republic.” Lion breeding and trophy hunting is on the increase in South Africa and yet the Department of Environmental Affairs seems non-to-interested in dealing with this major conservation problem. Hunters are contributing more to Lion populations decreasing than that of any African poacher supplying the medicine market in Asia. Hunters who do not want to keep the Lion’s head as a trophy pockets the South African farmer and breeder more rand – the skull will fetch another $1,100.
If you put your money in the bank you get 8% interest. But at present Lions show a 30% return. According to several specialists the new market is soaring. “In the past three months we have issued as many export licences as in a whole year,” says an official in Free State, home to most of South Africa’s 200 Lion breeders.
In 2012 more than 600 lions were killed by trophy hunters. The most recent official figures date from 2009, certifying export of 92 carcasses to Laos and Vietnam. At about that time breeders started DIGGING up the Lion bones they had buried here and there, for lack of an outlet. Asian traders started taking an interest in South African Lions in 2008, when the decline in tiger numbers – now in danger of extinction – became acute.
Are we being to harsh though – blaming American hunters that seem to be contributing to the trade in fake Tiger bone wine? International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa says no.
On questioning the Environmental External Affairs Department – Africa they quoted;
“Whilst there is a trade in fake Tiger bone wine and demand for Lion bones that fetches many thousands there will be a constant threat from man to line his pockets from the money made peddling in animal parts locally and across the seas especially in America”. “In 2011 five US citizens were apprehended by the state police force for digging up a Lion carcass, this poses the question again of just how big the now Lion / Tiger bone wine trade is, whilst this trade grows it will most likely meet that of the illegal Rhino horn and blood ivory trade”. “Lion farming and hunting must be banned now, sooner rather than later”. “We will make it our duty to ensure that Lion bone trade, hunting and farming of Lions is banned as with the proposed still illegal Rhino horn trade stays banned indefinitely – regardless of who and what, our wildlife must be protected for eternity”
How big is Lion bone trade in the United States?
Five people were charged with trying to steal the carcass of a Lion that was among dozens of exotic animals released from a private compound by their suicidal owner and later shot dead by sheriff’s deputies in a bizarre game hunt. Deputies said they stopped four men and a teenage boy who had loaded the Lion into a Jeep several hours after the animals ran from their cages at the Muskingum County Animal Farm near Zanesville, in eastern Ohio. Officers were forced to kill 48 wild animals including Bears, Lions and endangered Bengal Tigers during an all-night hunt after their owner, Terry Thompson, threw open their cages in the afternoon on October 18 2011 before committing suicide.
Deputies discovered the Lion after they stopped a vehicle with its headlights on near the farm just hours after the animals had been let loose. Inside the Jeep, they found the carcass of a male Lion – one of nine Lions that had been housed at the compound. It was/is (thought) the Lion was to be used for the lucrative Lion bone wine trade. Prosecutors did not say what they believed the suspects planned to do with the animal’s body although suspicions were high.
No other animal body was found to be in possession of the five men aged from 19-21 years of age. Those charged were; Cody Wilson, 21, from Byesville, Brian Matthews, 21, from Kimbolton, Richard Weidlich, 19, and Joseph Jakubisin, 21, both from Cambridge. Fake Lion bone trade is extremely rife America and Africa.
We have even located European sellers trading in Lion bones, skulls, and claws. Mountain Lion bones and carcasses typically from the United States are traded in many forums to Asian and American dealers looking for only “bones” and nothing else, the bones are then collected in large piles then shipped out to Laos, China, and Vietnam. Prices can fetch from $150 to a staggering $3000 being the highest we’ve seen from just one carcass. African and American taxidermists would normally sell the bones at a knock of price from the dead animal they are stuffing or just dispose of them. Regrettably though Tiger populations are plummeting, trade in pseudo Lion bone wine is increasing.
American hunters and taxidermists seem to be second of the largest traders worldwide. As secretive as it may be to some – International Animal Rescue Foundations External Affairs Department located on-line and in free adverts posted all over the United States and Africa many a trader. One taxidermist from Oregon, USA, quoted
“I’ve got a large lioness dew claw, some knuckle bones, and a few toes minus the claw, with the fur still attached. Wanting $150.00 for the dewclaw, am open to negotiation on the others”
A further hunter from Maryland looking only for African Lion bones quotes
“Searching for some legal exotic game bones, in particular African lion. I live in MD. PM me or send an email to ******@****** and we’ll talk. Thanks in advance!
A third hunter out of over 44 individuals trading in bones from Houston, Texas quotes, “ Looking to buy African Lion products. Looking for claws, teeth, skin scraps, mainly bones, etc. Let me know what you have and price ($300 limit) with shipping to 77459 Shoot me a message”
Exotic game farming is also on the increase in Southern Africa too. Least forgetting sales of Lion, Cheetah, Leopard, and even Tiger cubs mainly from Botswana. International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa knows to well where these animals are ending up, as well as their parts. The breeding of exotic species has become increasingly popular in recent years and, given the impressive return on investment, it is not hard to see why.
An investment of R25-million in a cattle farm in Bela-Bela would produce earnings of less than R1-million each year — a 4% return. Measured in terms of turnover, the wildlife industry has grown at an average rate of 20.3% a year over the past 15 years, although the recession is said to have stunted growth since 2008. South Africa has more than 10 000 commercial wildlife ranches occupying 16.8% of the country’s land. Half are located in Limpopo, a further 20% in the Northern Cape and 12% in the Eastern Cape.
Profits generated from the ranches vary, depending on rainfall and land prices, but research indicates that a typical commercial game ranch generates about R220 a hectare of economic output, compared with an average R80 a hectare for conventional livestock farming. Unsurprisingly, rare-game breeding — of Sable and Roan Antelope, Buffalo, Rhino and Lion — is rapidly growing as an investment choice and attracting savvy businesspeople such as Cyril Ramaphosa and Norman Adami, managing director of South African Breweries. Jacques Malan, president of Wildlife Ranching South Africa, said rare-game breeding was so lucrative that successful business-people with experience in the stock market have realized game farming could give them the dividends they want.
The Department of Environmental Affairs Hon Edna Molewa refused to comment on our findings and hard hitting evidence of over a dozen ranchers in Durban and Free State selling to our Environmental Investigators Lion bones. As rare game breeding increases – so will the trade in animal parts from Africa to Asia. Until the Department of Environmental Affairs gets to grips with this problem we have nil hope in preserving our dwindling Lion species. Officials in South Africa though seem non-to-bothered about the diminishing Lion populations as well as big cats being sold from Botswana to South Africa. The Mail quoted South African farmers are using cattle-rustling routes in the Northern Cape to smuggle wild Lions and other predators out of Botswana to supply a growing demand for Lion-bone potions in the Far East.
Conservationists said the illicit trade by organised cartels was adding to the pressures that could see the extinction of big cats in the wild within 10 to 12 years. They denounced Environment Minister Edna Molewa’s recent response to parliamentary questions that a moratorium on Lion-bone exports from South Africa was unnecessary because they do not pose a threat to the survival of the species in the wild. This is a typical response from Edna Molewa that states she is just as concerned about Rhino poaching than that of South African citizens. She most certainly has a funny way of showing it. That’s for sure. An investigator on the South African side of the border said the cartels were supplying breeders of big cats in North West, Limpopo and the Free State, where most of South Africa’s 200 lion breeders are based.
More on this story will follow soon in February 2014 PART III – External Affairs investigates and exposes just how easy it is to purchase Lion bones from Africa – transporting to Asia onto the TCM medicine market.
Please visit the site of BESUREIS Anti hunting – Vocal activists against ANIMAL ABUSE.
Here is an adapted version of “Say No”, which we wrote about trophy hunting. “Say No” appears on our debut album “Strawberry” and is available to download from www.besureis.com
Featuring the fabulous Caroline Luxton-White, Mattia & Maethew.
Big thanks to Youtube, The Mountain, Karolina Viciute, Ida-Sofie Picard and Austeja Jokubauskyte. Please share if you are against trophy hunting and animal cruelty….
Duke, Rubin & Jule – BESUREIS
Written by Duke Ingram
Co-written by Duncan McDowall
All BESUREIS work is copyrighted
All animal images are courtesy of google and are listed as “free to use or share, even commercially”