Just 5 months after the death of Cecil the lion, the U.S. is making moves to protect lions all the way in Africa.
The U.S. plans to extend its endangered species protection to those big cats, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will classify lions in southern and eastern Africa as threatened and those in central and western Africa as fully endangered. This will put into practice tighter restrictions on the import of lion trophies and body parts.
This plan is significant because around 50% of all lion hunting in Africa is carried out by Americans. More than 5,600 lions have been poached and imported by American hunters in the last 10 years, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
With these new rules, people will be prohibited from bringing lion parts into the U.S. if the lion is from a country where they are endangered. In addition, any hunter that does bring a trophy in, will have to show that they were “legally obtained” from countries that have a “scientifically sound management program that benefits the subspecies in the wild.”
An international study found that the number of African lions have dropped by half since 1993 and are expected to decline another 50% the next 20 years in west, central and east Africa. Decreasing lion populations are caused by hunting, as well as habitat loss, and these new rules put the burden of proof on hunters.
Although lions are suffering these dramatic declines, they are only listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The organization estimates that there are around 20,000 lions total left in Africa.
Director of the FWS Dan Ashe says:
“The lion is one of the planet’s most beloved species and an irreplaceable part of our shared global heritage. If we want to ensure that healthy lion populations continue to roam the African savannas and forests of India, it’s up to all of us – not just the people of Africa and India – to take action. Sustainable trophy hunting as part of a well-managed conservation program can and does contribute to the survival of the species in the wild, providing real incentives to oppose poaching and conserve lion populations.”