The Hustle

Lion skeletons are haunting US trade officials

Lion bones have become big business.


July 17, 2019

Looking to sell a tiger-skin rug? Good luck dodging international authorities. 

But if you’re in the market for a lion skeleton, you’re in luck: The sale of lion bones is completely legal under international law.

And the market for lion bones is alive and well

All big cats are protected by international trade treaty — except for lions.

So as long as lions are bred in captivity, their bones are open for business — and, according to The New York Times, they’ve spawned a lucrative industry

The price of lion skeletons has risen 20% since 2012. On average, female skeletons today sell for $3.1k and male skeletons sell for $3.7k

But HOW did bones become such big business?

Ironically, the bone boom started when the US Fish and Wildlife Service banned the importation of lion pelts as trophies in 2016. 

The ban led to lost business for lion breeders, so they shifted away from skins and toward skeletons. Skeleton exports increased 125% the year after the ban.

But as the sale of skeletons increased, so did the prevalence of poaching: At some parks, poachers caused lion populations to plummet by 68%.

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