Monday, December 21, 2015

US Extends Protection to African Lions

credit: UK Guardian
Five months after an American dentist caused an international incident by killing a collared lion outside the boundaries of a national park in Zimbabwe, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is poised to extend protections under the Endangered Species Act to African lions. Lions in Africa face a catastrophic population decline due to poaching, habitat destruction and human conflict so the change in legal status is long overdue. Under the proposed rules lions in southern and eastern Africa will be classified as "'threatened" and lions in central and western Africa will be classified at the highest level of protection, "endangered". The change in legal status will place tight restriction on the importation of carcasses as trophies into the US.  Although the US cannot regulate hunting in other soverign nations, it is closing down a market in the United States. Half of all lion hunting is conducted by American citizens.  Under the new rules, hunters will have to prove their 'souvenirs' were legally obtained in a country that has a "scientifically sound management program" in place that benefits lions in the wild.

That may be a difficult burden since studies show that African lion populations have plummeted to half since 1993 and another 50% loss in the next twenty years for populations in west, central and east Africa. Only in southern Africa are lion populations increasing under a program of intensive management.  the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates there are only 20,000 lions remaining in the wild. The US will join France which banned importation of lion trophies in November, Australia which banned lion parts in March and the UK which pledges a similar ban by 2017 if the hunting industry does not improve its conservation performance.

All of this action comes to late to protect a beloved lion king, Cecil [photo]. But the good news is his line continues in Hwange where his son, Xanda, has been seen mating. Cecil's grand-cubs are expected in March. May they live long and prosper!