USA to protect wild lions from trophy hunting after Cecil’s death
THE United States of America government took steps on Monday to protect lions in Africa from American big-game trophy hunters by listing two lion subspecies under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
In response to the dramatic decline of lion populations in the wild, Panthera leo leo lions, located in western and central Africa and India, will be listed as endangered, and Panthera leo melanochaita lions, located in eastern and southern Africa, will be listed as threatened, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced in a news release.
The steps were taken five months after the notorious killing of “Cecil,” a star lion that was a tourist attraction in Hwange National Park of Zimbabwe, by Walter Palmer, a U.S. dentist in the state of Minnesota.
The killing sparked widespread anger and protests at big-game trophy hunting in Africa, though Palmer was cleared of wrongdoing by Zimbabwean authorities who said he did not break the law.
Concurrent with this listing rule, USFWS director Dan Ashe issued an order to strengthen enforcement of wildlife permitting requirements “to protect lions and other foreign and domestic wildlife from criminal activity.”
Under the order, American violators of wildlife laws will not be granted permits for future wildlife-related activities, including the import of sport-hunted trophies.
There are only about 1,400 of the P. l. leo lions remaining, including 900 in Africa and 523 in India.
With the endangered listing, imports of the P. l. leo lions will generally be prohibited, except in certain cases, such as when it can be found that the import will enhance the survival of the species.
The numbers of the P. l. melanochaita lions are estimated at between 17,000-19,000 across southern and eastern Africa. The USFWS determined that this subspecies, which is less vulnerable and not currently in danger of extinction, meets the definition of a threatened species under the ESA.
The agency is finalizing a rule under the ESA to establish a permitting mechanism regulating the import of all P. l. melanochaita parts and products into the U.S. to ensure that they are legally obtained in countries as part of a scientifically sound management program that benefits the subspecies in the wild.
Permits would also be required for scientific purposes, activities that enhance the propagation or survival of the subspecies in the wild, zoological exhibitions, educational purposes or other purposes consistent with the ESA.
The USFWS is also working to increase the fees it charges for these permit applications.
“The lion is one of the planet’s most beloved species and an irreplaceable part of our shared global heritage,” said Ashe. “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.” Xinhua
Follow us on Twitter on @FingazLive and on Facebook – The Financial Gazette