GNF - Lion Bone Trade

Lion Bone Trade

The lion bone trade is a relatively new revenue stream for the breeders and farmers and has come about as lion bones are now being used as an alternative to tiger bones in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Although ‘tiger bone wine’ has been used in TCM for at least 1,000 years or more for, e.g. the treatment of rheumatism, there are no known medicinal properties. Besides his bones, other body parts of the tiger are demanded in treatment, too, as the animal represents strength and bravery, which are believed to be transferred to the patient.


Today, over 1,000 lions are killed annually for the burgeoning lion bone trade. This number has more than tripled in the last years, from 287 carcasses exported in 2010. Especially female lions from breeding farms are being used after they became too old for the intensive repetitive reproduction cycles and because they are less requested for canned hunting.


As it has been the case with various other wildlife species, such as elephants, a legal trade promotes demand and a parallel illegal market. This in turn fuels poaching, illegal wildlife trade and will inevitably put pressure on wild lion populations. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the increasing demand for lion bones as a growing threat to wild lion populations, which are already in alarming decline.


Besides the lion bone trade, lions and other predators are also being exported to private collectors, mostly in the Middle and Far East. These collectors are keeping the animals under appalling conditions, often confined to small spaces within the boundaries of major cities. A second stream is the sale of lions to private and public zoos around the world – many of which are in a poor state – often under the guise of scientific and/or research purposes.