Eight Vietnamese suspects will appear before a South African court to face charges of illegal possession of game products including lion parts and a tiger’s carcass, police said.
Police agents found lion bones, lion meat, a tiger skin, gas cylinders, gas burners, containers, a saw, knives and other equipment when they intercepted the suspects’ two vehicles headed to an unused farm in the North West province.
“As far as how many (lions), from our side there’s been no definite number really… but its quite a few of them,” Captain Tlangelani Rikhotso told AFP.
“There were different parts of the lion that were there… so you can’t exactly tell if its the stomach or whatever, but the lion in its entirety was chopped up basically.”
Local media reports at least 40 lions were killed in 48 hours.
Conservation groups in East and southern Africa say that during the past three years, increasing numbers of lions have been killed and mutilated for their claws and teeth, likely to satisfy demand in China and Southeast Asia, where the parts appear to mainly be used as pendants and amulets.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which regulates the global wildlife trade, prohibits commercial trade in the parts of wild African lions. But South Africa, which has thousands of captive-bred lions, can legally export their parts—up to 800 lion skeletons a year. According to CITES, most go to Laos and Vietnam, where the bones are used as a substitute for tiger bone wine, considered a status symbol and used for treating various ailments and giving the drinker the “strength of a tiger.”