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DFFE releases Ministerial Task Team report on the voluntary exit options and pathways from captive lion industry

FOUR PAWS commends the Ministerial Task Team's recommendations for captive lion breeding industry exit strategy


Cape Town, 05 April 2024 – Global animal welfare organisation, FOUR PAWS, commends the Ministerial Task Team for the thorough and detailed report concerning the captive lion breeding industry in South Africa, released by the DFFE after approval by Cabinet. The report, a culmination of extensive input from diverse stakeholders, offers comprehensive recommendations aimed at initiating South Africa's exit from an industry that has been a blight on the reputation of South Africa and that has enabled a legal and illegal trade, and animal suffering for decades.

Recognising the importance of voluntary exit options, FOUR PAWS highlights the report's flexibility in allowing for various strategies to suit a range of circumstances, demonstrating the Ministerial Task Team's commitment to supporting facilities in transitioning out of the industry.

FOUR PAWS expresses support for the key recommendations, endorsed by Cabinet, outlined in the report, including:

  • Voluntary exit should be the first step towards the longer term objective
  • Engage voluntary exit candidates to finalise pathways & exit terms.
  • Acquisition and incineration of lion bone stockpiles contingent upon sterilisation of lions and compliance with the voluntary exit principles.
  • Issue a short-term directive to ensure consistent application of animal well-being is assured through issuing of permits and conducting oversights.
  • Prohibit captive lion breeding in the medium term to safeguard benefits of voluntary exit.


The organisation also endorses mandatory prerequisites, such as humane euthanasia of suffering and compromised lions and population control through sterilization, before undertaking exit options. Where any euthanasia of compromised lions is undertaken, these decisions must only be made by a qualified veterinarian. FOUR PAWS urges the immediate implementation of recommendations for moratoriums on new facilities and breeding, emphasizing their importance in facilitating an effective voluntary exit.

The Report recommends that the Department must address the entire South African predator breeding industry, with a wider scope than only lions. Fiona Miles, FOUR PAWS Director in South Africa, said, “FOUR PAWS fully supports the Ministerial Task Team’s recommendation to cease captive breeding of other predator species, including tigers. The Task Team report recorded over 600 tigers kept in captivity across South Africa, as an endangered non-native species, with some of the highest restrictions on international trade, this is significant, and we urge the Department to support the proposals relating to other predator species.”

Furthermore, FOUR PAWS supports the Ministerial Task Team's acknowledgment of the surrender of lion bone stockpiles as a crucial aspect of the exit strategy. The organisation emphasizes the need for standardised, coordinated, and time-bound exit strategies to enhance the captive lion industry's transition.

While recognising the Ministerial Task Team's identification of viable voluntary exit options, including humane euthanasia, phase-out through trade opportunities, and surrender to lion safe havens, FOUR PAWS advocates prioritising alternatives to euthanasia of all animals, the captive hunting and domestic trade in live lions and parts including bones, due to welfare concerns and concerns of stimulating markets, which may complicate enforcement efforts later down the line.

Ms. Miles notes, "We are particularly concerned for the wellbeing of an estimated 10,000 - 12,000 lions and other big cat species, including an unknown number of non-native and endangered big cat species housed in confined institutions across the country, that will continue to suffer under the current circumstances whilst decisions are to be taken or should implementation be slow. For decades, South Africa's captive big cat industry has been allowed to develop without adequate monitoring and regulation, harming animal welfare, the country's global reputation, and conservation and enforcement efforts in South Africa and around the world. The animals are bred solely for commercial purposes and have no conservation value. They are utilised in tourist attractions such as cub petting, selfies, trophy hunts, and to perpetuate the global traffic in body parts. South Africa is the largest exporter of big cats and their parts worldwide. We therefore urge expediting the recommendations and confirm our commitment to breaking the vicious cycle of exploitation of all big cats through supporting the implementation of the recommendations as outlined in the report.’’

The report comes shortly after the release of the cabinet approval of the DFFE’s Policy Position on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of a number of South Africa’s species, including lions, which proposes to end the captive keeping of lions for commercial purposes and closure of captive lion facilities. Ms. Miles said, “These two documents are both strong statements and positive steps towards the closure of an industry that threatens not only the conservation of our wild species, but our reputation as leaders in global conservation. FOUR PAWS is ready to support Government’s implementation of the progressive recommendations of the Ministerial Task Team’s Report with time-bound deadlines.”

Read the Ministerial Task Team report here:

Read the approved Policy Position on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros:

Read the National Environment Management: Biodiversity Act (10/2004) Publication of the draft notice prohibiting certain activities involving African lion (Panthera leo):

Read the latest news on the Ministerial Task Team Report here:


FOUR PAWS petition to urge the South African Government to #BreaktheViciousCycle once and for all, and end the commercial trade in live animals and parts of all big cat species:

Find out more about the #BreaktheViciousCycle campaign here.


Public Relations Officer ZA

Deidre Daniels

Public Relations Officer

+27 (0)21 702 4277

+27 (0)78 675 8220

9B Bell Crescent, Westlake Business Park, 
Green Building, Cape Town, 7945

A Public Relations professional with over eight years’ experience in fostering positive relationships between organisations and media.

FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. 

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