The U.S. Moves to Protect African Lions from Big Game Hunters

The government proposes to put the predator on the endangered species list.

(Photo: Getty Images)

Oct 27, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Taylor Hill is an associate editor at TakePart covering environment and wildlife.

African lions don’t roam the United States, but the government’s proposal on Monday to put the animal on the endangered species list could provide the imperiled predator with much-needed protection.

Why?

Big game hunters—a disproportionate number of whom come from the United States—would still be allowed to bring home lion trophies but only from countries with sufficient management plans to conserve the species.

Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA, which pushed for the endangered species listing, said he expects those standards would be so high that many countries won’t be able to meet them. That in turn should discourage hunting as big game shooters probably would not want to spend thousands of dollars to travel to Africa if they can’t return with a trophy of their kill.

“For the first time, American trophy hunters will have to justify their destructive behavior by applying for permits and showing conclusively that the nation where lion hunting occurs can properly manage the species for the long-term,” Roberts said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed the African lion be listed as threatened under the federal endangered species list.

“Lion numbers have declined by more than half in the last three decades,” Jeff Flocken, regional director at International Fund for Animal Welfare, said in a statement. "We thank the U.S. government for acknowledging that this iconic species is in grave trouble and that unsustainable trophy hunting is a part of this problem."

Lion numbers are down to around 32,000, according to International Union for Conservation of Nature, owing to disappearing habitat, the expanding human population, and increased poaching and hunting.

Conservation groups in 2011 petitioned to have the lion listed under the Endangered Species Act.

“We observed the perilous plight of the lion...and the ongoing onslaught of trophy hunting, predominantly perpetrated by American trophy hunters,” said Roberts.

A listing would strengthen U.S. enforcement and monitoring of international trade and imports of lion parts.

“We’ll also be able to provide additional law enforcement and on-the-ground conservation support in partnership with African countries and partner organizations,” Dan Ashe, the FWS director, said in a statement.

A 90-day public comment period runs through Jan. 27, 2015. The agency then has 12 months to list the African lion as threatened, withdraw the proposal, or hold a public hearing.