The Bone Breeders



When people think of canned breeding and hunting, they often forget that these lions and other wild cats are also bred for their bones, which are used to make “Tiger Bone Wine”. Due to the shortage of tiger bones they are having to resort to substituting the tiger bones with lion bones.

South Africa issued export permits of about 1,300 dead lions from South Africa to China from 2008-2012. The majority of these dead lions were exported to the the Xaysavang import and export company in Lao PDR / Viet Nam. This same company was involved in the importation of rhino horns obtained through pseudo hunts, a form of hunting where trophy hunting is used to obtain rhino horns by abusing trophy hunting permits. According to LionAid’s website, the skeleton of a lion sells for between $1,500 to $2,000.

Letsatsi la Africa, owned by the van der Westhuizen family, were named as one of the biggest exporters of lion bones to this company.  Canned Lion Org state on their website that they have evidence that shows that Letsatsi la Africa are involved in the breeding, raising and the killing of these lions.

In 2010 Letsatsi made news headlines when the owner,  Kobus van der Westhuizen, told investigative journalists from Carte Blanche that he was given permits by CITES to euthanize 20 lions so he could sell their bones. When he was approached by journalists from the Volksblad for a comment, he said the following: “Tell the Greenies to go to hell and go moan somewhere else. I don't know if a permit was granted. I don't know if I applied for a permit.”

In 2007, A. W. Brothers, a company based in Pakistan purchased six lions at $600 a head and two tigers at $700 each from Letsatsi La Africa. These animals were illegally imported into the country. Letsatsi clearly demonstrating that they were in business with people involved in the illegal trade in wildlife species, even if it was no a direct involvement.

In the indictment document for the Groenewald trial, Johannes Jacobus van der Westhuizen from Letsatsi la Africa is mentioned. He acted as a middleman in a transaction where he purchased two rhino bulls from Plettenberg Game Reserve on the 20th of October, 2009. Davie Groenewald, a man who has been in the news for numerous incidents of rhino related crimes, is another dodgy business partner one can therefore link to Letsatsi.

In 2008 Kobus van der Westhuizen asked Jurg Olsen, owner of the Jukani Wildlife Predator Park in Mossel Bay, to help him import four white tigers from the Elmvale Zoo in Canada. At the time Van der Westhuizen did not have the necessary import permits, to do so, he had to use Jurg Olsen to obtain the tigers. He later got permits for two tigers, and the other two, Angelo and Mich, it was agreed would remain at Jukani, but any babies produced would go to van der Westhuizen. In July 2009, Angelo was diagnosed with progressive retinal atrophy, an incurable genetic disease. This meant that Angelo was not suitable for breeding, and therefore no offspring would be produced.

In July 2011, van der Westhuizen obtained a court order where Jurg Olsen would have to pay him R250,000 for each of the tigers, and if he failed to do so would have to return the two tigers to Letsatsi. Jung Olsen then started a fundraiser and managed to get the money together to pay van der Westhuizen.

In August 2011, an advertisement was published in the Landbou Weekblad, an agricultural magazine. It advertised a liquidation auction which was to be held at Letsatsi on August the 19th in which 30 lions, a leopard, two hyenas, three cheetahs and two serval cats would be sold, along with the house, chalets and a conference centre. The auction was due to a court order by Azalea Trading, which claimed that Letsatsi owed the company more than a million rand.

From the above, one can see that Letsatsi does business with some pretty dodgy people, but one organisation that is linked to Letsatsi does not fall into this category. A French NPO, Cresam, has been helping Letsatsi la Africa breed cheetahs. The company specializes in the breeding of endangered predators through various scientific methods, like the use of artificial insemination. The fact that a company that claims to be in the business of saving endangered species is willing to partner with Letsatsi la Africa makes me question their ethics.


Letsatsi la Africa: