POLL: Should the US extend endangered species status to lions in Africa?

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The US plans to extend its to lions in Africa, five months after an American dentist caused an international furore by killing Cecil, a famed which lived in Zimbabwe.

(FWS) will classify lions in southern and eastern Africa as threatened, with those in the central and western regions covered by full status. The move will place tighter restrictions on the import of lion “trophies”, such as paws or heads.

While the US cannot regulate hunting in other countries, the move is significant because around half of all lion hunting in Africa is conducted by Americans. According to FWS data, more than 5,600 lions have been killed and imported by American hunters over the past decade.

Cecil the lion was killed by a Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer in the summer, which caused international outrage. Photograph: Andy Loveridge/AP

Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, provoked outrage in July when he shot Cecil, a well-known lion with a distinctive dark mane. Cecil was lured outside the boundaries of Zimbabwe’s where Palmer, who had paid thousands of dollars to kill a lion, shot Cecil with a bow and arrow.

Palmer said he would not have shot Cecil if he knew the lion had a name. His dental practice closed temporarily due to vociferous protests, with the opprobrium prompting regulators to look at new ways to curb .

Under the new FWS rules, bringing lion parts to the US will be banned in most circumstances if the animal is from a country where lions are endangered. Hunters will have to show the trophies were “legally obtained” from countries that have a “a scientifically sound management program that benefits the subspecies in the wild”.

This regulation is expected to place a far greater burden of proof upon hunters who claim that the money from lion hunting has been used to help communities in Africa and the overall conservation of lions. The persistent downward trend in lion numbers, due to and hunting by locals and foreign tourists, suggests there has been little conservation benefit from organised hunts.

An international study, published in September, found African lion numbers have decreased by half since 1993, with a further 50% decline expected over the next 20 years for populations in west, central and east Africa.

Lion populations are only increasing in southern Africa, the study found, adding: “Many lion populations are either now gone or expected to disappear within the next few decades to the extent that the intensively managed populations in southern Africa may soon supersede the iconic savannah landscapes in east Africa as the most successful sites for lion conservation.”

Despite this alarming slide in numbers, lions are only listed as vulnerable, rather than endangered, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The organisation’s red list estimates there are around 20,000 left in Africa. A separate population of Asiatic lions, numbering around 520, live in the Indian state of Gujarat.

“The lion is one of the planet’s most beloved species and an irreplaceable part of our shared global heritage,” said Dan Ashe, director of the FWS. “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 and conserve lion populations.”

Conservation groups welcomed the new rules but said they would monitor how they will be applied in practice.

“These new regulations will take away a primary motivation for American hunters to kill the lions, since they almost certainly will not be able to bring the lions’ heads and hides back into our country,” said Wayne Pacelle, chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States.

“By highlighting the plight of the animals, and restricting gratuitous killing, the listing decision should encourage photographic tourism and other forms of wildlife appreciation.

“The world must get past an era of a handful of people killing the most magnificent animals in the world to adorn their trophy rooms. These creatures have their own desires to live, and we shouldn’t snuff them out for bragging rights and a higher perch in the pantheon of the trophy-hunting world.”

In November, France banned the import of lion trophy parts, while the UK announced it will bring in a similar ban by 2017 unless there is a “significant improvement in the performance of the hunting industry”. Australia outlawed the import of lion trophies in March.

Cecil the lion’s lineage looks set to continue, with his son having been observed mating. Scientists expect the birth of Cecil’s grandcubs in March. They are sure that Xanda is Cecil’s offspring because Cecil was the only pride male around at the time of his birth in 2011.

His movements have been tracked by Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, which as researched lions in Hwange since 1999.

This article was first published by The Guardian on 21 Dec 2015.

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4 thoughts to “POLL: Should the US extend endangered species status to lions in Africa?”

  1. Scientists Tell U.S.FWS African Lion Is Not Endangered

    Washington, DC – Today, experts on the status of the African lion explained to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that the African lion is not on the brink of extinction. Their testimony contradicts the claims in a petition filed by several anti-rights groups asking the service to list the African lion as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

    Safari Club International Foundation (SCI Foundation) participated in an exclusive workshop hosted by the FWS. SCI Foundation Conservation Chair Dr. Al Maki outlined current conservation efforts across the lion’s range and focused on Tanzania’s successful management of the species.

    “Today’s presenters and scientists agreed with SCI Foundation’s position that the majority of African lion populations are secure,” said SCI Foundation President Joe Hosmer. “We are glad that SCI Foundation’s extensive lion population research could shape today’s important conservation and thus prove the African lion is not on the brink of extinction.”

    “With years of experience researching lions in southern Africa, I was originally concerned that the FWS’s deliberations would not be based on the best available science,” Dr. Paula White. “I was pleased to see that the overwhelming evidence that was presented today demonstrated that lions are certainly not on the brink of extinction.”

    “Lions reproduce like rabbits making habitat and prey the primary factor. Habitat and prey are secured for at least 100 years in the world’s largest protected areas,” stated John J. Jackson, President of Conservation Force.

    “After today’s successful meeting, the FWS will be faced with a decision whether to list the African lion on the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Our expectation is that it will not be necessary as the scientific research demonstrates that there are strong stable lion populations throughout southern and eastern Africa,” said Dr. Al Maki. “The fact is that 70% of all African lions live in strongholds that are large, stable and well-protected.

    About SCI Foundation’s Conservation Programs for African Lions:

    SCI Foundation’s mission is to fund and direct worldwide programs dedicated to wildlife conservation and outdoor education, using its financial resources to support scientific and technical studies that categorically improve management practices for keystone species like African lions. SCI Foundation has provided the majority of financial support for research to be conducted on the conservation status of lions in Tanzania (2010), Mozambique (2009), Malawi (2010), and Zambia (2009) which included conservation strategy and action plan for the country.

    MEDIA CONTACT: Nelson Freeman;

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