Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Victory at last for The King of the Jungle: African Lion protected under Endangered Species Act

22 December 2015

Categories: Big Cats Campaign News, Wildlife Trade News, Homepage News

(c) George Logan

The Born Free Foundation applauds the decision of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to list African lions under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA). The listing will limit the ability of US citizens to import lion parts and products, including hunting trophies.

In March 2011, Born Free USA, along with other partner organisations, filed a petition to list African lions as endangered. Now, more than four years later, USFWS has announced their final decision to list the African lion as endangered in west and central Africa and threatened in east and southern Africa, with a special rule pending that would require certain conditions to be met for importation of any lion trophies from countries with a threatened population. 

According to Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and the Born Free Foundation, “It has been a very long four years waiting for this decision, with each year seeing more lions slaughtered by hunters for trophies. This is a victory and we applaud USFWS for agreeing that these animals deserve significant international protection under the ESA, popularly considered one of the world’s most important conservation laws. There is now hope for future generations to be able to witness the beauty of the lion in the wild.”   

While the USFWS was delaying action, a minimum of 2,232 African lions were killed and imported into the United States over the past four years, including Cecil, who made headlines this year when he was killed in Zimbabwe by an American trophy hunter. Born Free is hopeful that the ruling will spare other lions such a cruel, barbaric fate at the hands of American trophy hunters.  

Over the past three decades, the number of African lions has declined by more than 50% as a result of retaliatory killings; loss of habitat and prey species; over-exploitation by recreational trophy hunters and commercial trade; disease; and other human-caused and natural factors. 

Today experts believe there are fewer than 20,000 lions remaining, living in a fragmented 8% of their historic natural range. Due to the dire situation the African lion is facing, both Australia and France banned the import of lion trophies this year.

Despite the significant and continued declines in population and range, the number of lion trophies imported to the United States is increasing.  In 2014 trophy imports to the United States were greater than any other year in the preceding decade and more than twice the number in 2005. 

“We are hopeful the USFWS will be rigorous when investigating any management plans in lion range states and proposed trophy imports, and that the U.S. government will set the bar incredibly high before allowing any trophies to come in,”  Roberts adds. 

The Born Free Foundation is also campaigning for a ban on imports of lion trophies into the European Union, from where many trophy hunters also originate.  

Read the full announcement

Born Free Foundation
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