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Threat to conservation: Lion bone trade on rise

The Times of india, Ahmadabad, 25th June, 2013

The international market value of lion bones range between $ 300 and $ 500 for every kilogram. The bones are used in China for traditional Chinese medicines. Lion bones are being used as substitutes for tiger bone potions, finds Empower Foundation, a Mumbai based NGO working on Sanjay Gandhi National Park's man-animal conflict.

In 2007, eight lions were killed in Gir by poachers from MP. Investigations carried out by CID (Crime) officials had concluded with the arrest of several poachers including Sarkas Lal, leader of this poachers' gang.
 In that case too, CID officials had concluded that the lion bones were passed off as tiger bones and were smuggled to China for "medicinal purposes."

The report submitted to the government stated that South Africa has been supplying a considerable volume of lion bones to mainly Laos, Vietnam and China. A warning against such trade has been issued by LionAid, an organisation which is into lion conservation. LionAid has warned that such trade could well stimulate a demand that would increasingly involve poaching of lions.

The South African trade involves lion breeders, canned lion hunters and taxidermists. The value of a lion skeleton could therefore be in excess of $10,000. "In China, lion bones are soaked for a variable period in rice wine, whereas in Laos and Vietnam, the bones are made into a paste with added ingredients like herbs. The paste is then dissolved in rice wine. Such bone tonics are used to treat a variety of ailments. Bones from wild lions are considered more efficacious than those bred in captivity. In South Africa, Vietnamese and Thai nationals have been arrested at O R Tambo International Airport with illegal lion bones in their luggage, but levels of the illegal trade are considered much higher than such occasional seizures suggest.

The report stated that lion carcasses should now be treated with the same degree of suspicion. As per LionAid, in India, all carcasses of tigers are considered poaching incidents and same treatment has to be given to lion carcasses.