Tigers have lost more than 90 percent of their habitat and now number only about 3,200 cats in the wild. One of the biggest threats has been the wildlife trade — every part of the beautiful striped kitties is used in traditional “medicine.”
And now, says the Guardian, there are so few tigers that vendors have switched to lions, which are more numerous (though still vulnerable) and, conveniently, raised by the hundreds for perfectly legal trophy hunting in countries like South Africa:
After the kill [lion breeder Koos] Hermanus will be paid $10,000, but he can boost his earnings further by selling the lion’s bones to a Chinese dealer based in Durban. At $165 a kilo (an average figure obtained from several sources) the breeder will pocket something in the region of $5,000.
If his client does not want to keep the lion’s head as a trophy, the skull will fetch another $1,100. “If you put your money in the bank you get 8% interest,” he explains, “but at present lions show a 30% return.”
Some breeders are reportedly slaughtering their lions, without getting proper permits, just for the bones.
This legal market may be appalling, but it’s only half the trade in lion bones; the rest comes from poaching. Lions are under incredible pressure from the human population in Africa. According to a report last year from Panthera, lions have already lost 75 percent of their habitat, and another report from 2008 found that lion numbers had dropped by more than 75 percent.
A person can sympathize with people in Africa who kill lions because the cats are killing their livestock or, worse, members of the village. But to lose lions to superstitious nonsense is ridiculous. Tigers may be extinct by 2022 — will lions soon follow?
Image courtesy of flickr user Earth-touch Admin