Great news for the animal activists and anti-hunting campaigners
The U.S Fish and Wildlife service announced on the 21st December that two lion subspecies would listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This means it just became illegal to bring lions into the country as a result of trophy hunting. Sort of.
The lion is one of the largest cat species in the world, only exceeded by some subspecies of tiger. However, conserving the king of cats has been troublesome. Lion populations around the world have steadily declined, as much as 43% in the last 20 years, mainly due to habitat loss, a reduction of prey, and human-wildlife conflict.
The move to place lions under protection comes just five months after Cecil was shot and killed by a U.S dentist in Zimbabwe. The recent story of Cecil has brought the issue of trophy hunting to the fore. Cecil was lured out of a protected area in Zimbabwe, wounded, pursued and ultimately shot. Poorly managed, under-enforced regulations mean that trophy hunting, while sometimes considered a management tool or source of conservation funding, can be threatening some populations.
Although the listing of lions as endangered is nothing new – the FWS listing will go some way to controlling the import of live lions, heads, pelt, paws, and other parts of lions dead or alive.
Trophies imported from countries where lions are endangered will be outright banned. However trophies imported from places where lions are only listed as threatened will be allowed – but only under certain circumstances. Hunters must prove they sourced their trophy from an adequately managed conservancy, where the finances gained were being contributed to long-term conservation goals.
It is hoped the move by the FWS will encourage those who insist on trophy hunting to think more about the types of organisations they go through, and they places they visit before engaging in a trophy hunt.