Male and female lions behind fence

#BreaktheViciousCycle: Man arrested for illegally transporting lion bones from South Africa

FOUR PAWS warns of exploitative big cat industry that cruelly profits off big cats and the trading of their parts. 


Cape Town, 27 June 2023 – A man was arrested at OR Tambo International Airport last week, while attempting to travel to Vietnam, via Qatar, from South Africa whilst in possession of five lion carcasses. This incident is not the first of its kind and evidences just how out of control South Africa’s commercial big cat industry has become. South Africa’s commercial exploitation of big cats is not only a conduit for the illegal trade of big cat body parts to Asia but is also a primary source of the parts. According to the HAWKS media statement where the information was made public, the investigation to arrest more suspects continues and FOUR PAWS applauds the HAWKS for taking action.

“The country is now the largest exporter of big cats and their parts from anywhere in the world. Commercial exploitation on this scale comes with significant animal welfare concerns: exploiting captive animals and threatening wild populations of big cat species.” says Fiona Miles, Director at FOUR PAWS South Africa

Ms. Miles states “The scale of this trade undermines conservation and enforcement efforts in South Africa and other countries that are home to wild big cat populations and where big cat parts are in demand for use in traditional medicine or as luxury goods items. FOUR PAWS is campaigning to end the commercial trade of all big cat species from South Africa and urges the South African Government to include all big cat species within the current voluntary phase out and any future phases of the captive lion breeding industry. We must address the commercial trade of big cats, as well as tackling the illegal trade of big cats and their parts.”

The South African Government announced back in 2021 that it will phase out the captive lion breeding industry. FOUR PAWS remains committed to big cat protection and ensuring animal welfare is a high priority throughout this step in the phase out.


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

Find out more about the #BreaktheViciousCycle campaign here.

According to a recent public polling on the public’s awareness of the big cat trade industry in South Africa commissioned by FOUR PAWS, the majority of South Africans agree that the country’s reputation is damaged by the live export of big cats and trophy hunting. 66% do not support big cat farming for commercial purposes in South Africa and 94% of South Africans say big cats should be better protected by the country’s laws and regulations. Read more 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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