The proposal to move the African lion from CITES Appendix II to CITES Appendix I was officially defeated today at the 17th CITES Conference. Lions will remain on Appendix II with a new provision that regulates commercial trade in lion bone. Trade in lion hunting trophies, including skulls and bones, will not be affected in any way.
The African lion debate was one of the most contentious of the entire Conference. The debate was settled with a compromise reached after four days of closed discussions among lion range states and private organizations. The compromise includes a zero annual quota for commercial trade in lion bone derived from wild sources and limits commercial trade in lion bone derived from captive breeding facilities in South Africa to annually established export quotas.
Restricting lion bone was a preemptive action taken to prevent an escalation of illegal trade in bone from Africa to Asia for the purpose of traditional Asian medicine.
The compromise also initiated a scientific review of the taxonomy of the lion (Panthera leo), which will be completed over the next three years by the CITES Animals Committee. The outcome of the taxonomic review will inform the 18th CITES Conference on the proper listing of lions in the CITES Appendices. Any change in taxonomy may clarify distinct subspecies that have a different conservation status.
Lastly, new lion conservation and management initiatives were institutionalized by CITES. Initiatives include the development of a range-wide inventory of lion populations, the creation of relevant lion databases, the launch of a study looking at legal and illegal trade in lion parts, the establishment of a Lion Task Force, and several measures to support the capacity of range states to conserve lions.
Safari Club’s delegation of CITES experts played an important role with the creation and adoption of the compromise and the new lion conservation measures. If Safari Club was not present at this Conference, this issue would most certainly have had a different outcome.