POTCHEFSTROOM, South Africa — Lion bones have become a hot commodity for their use in Asian traditional medicine, driving up exports from South Africa to the East and creating new fears of the survival of the species.
Conservationists are already angry over lion trophy hunting.
The skeletons are mostly shipped to Vietnam and Laos, feeding conservationists' fears that the market will drive up lion poaching -- just as the illegal hunting of rhinos escalates for their horns, also popular in Asian traditional remedies.
"Suddenly, and very recently, there are a great number of people from Laos who have a big interest for trophy hunting. And that had never happened in the whole history of Laos!" said Pieter Kat from conservation NGO LionAid....
...Asian hunters buy lion trophy hunting permits to get at the bones.
"They prefer hunting lionesses, whose $4,000 price tag is more affordable than the males," Kat told AFP.
Most swear it's about the trophy, which means safari operators and breeders can easily dispose of the carcass at the same time and make an extra buck.
A lion skeleton these days fetches up to $10,000.
A few hundred partial or complete lion skeletons were shipped out of the country in 2010, according to latest official figures -- all completely legal.
The trade started in 2008....