The two white lionesses were "so very tame." They grew up in Taso Christoforou's home. "You could go into their cage, they were that tame."
And now they're dead. During the night some despicable fiends cut away the wire fence of their cage and lured them out with a chunk of meat. This was to be their final meal, laced as it was with a potent poison. Their deaths were swift but agonizing. Once they'd curled up in the tortured rictus of their death postures, the poachers moved in, hacked away the lionesses' heads and paws which they removed presumably for use in muti, the traditional medicine of Africa.
There is very little consolation to be drawn from this gory scene. A man's beloved animals were cruelly exterminated and mutilated. The only sliver of solace is that in the bigger conservation picture the deaths of these two marvellous animals had a definite meaning. The immediate conservational impact of their deaths was… zero. They were bred and raised on a farm. The wild lion population has not been diminished in the least. But, if not for Taso's lions, it could have been.
There is a definite, robust demand for lion products. Locally a small but insistent market for lion body parts to be used in rituals won't easily evaporate. And the oriental demand for lion bones is set to expand rather than shrink. The brokers in these industries won't be denied. They will not leave empty-handed. If the ranch lion industry can't ensure a regular supply of these products, they will look for it elsewhere. And that means the wild lion population of South Africa.
Currently lion poaching is mercifully rare in South Africa. The products for which buyers can conceivably turn to a poacher, are openly available at low cost and that is due to the efforts of lion breeders in South Africa. The supply is easily satiating the demand. Should lion breeding be banned, however, and this is exactly what some ill-informed animal rights activists are clamouring for, wild lion populations could soon find themselves under attack from poachers.
Nature conservation officials have indicated to SAPA that they are concerned about the probable fate of wild lions should the ranch lion industry no longer be able to satisfy the demand for lion products. Poaching a lion is a relatively easy thing. These predators are easily lured to their deaths.
Mr Christoforou is grieving for his two beloved lionesses. There is some small consolation in the knowledge that somewhere, today, in a national park, two lions are alive, blissfully unaware of the sacrifice made by a pair of unknown, tame cousins, for their continued existence.
The South African Predator Association will do everything in our power to stop the poaching of lions. Please show your support by liking our page below.
The South African Predator Association with the backing of the SAPA Conservation Fund is now offering a reward of up to R 100 000 for information leading to the arrest and successful prosecution of individual poachers and/or syndicates poisoning/killing wild or captive-bred lions.