In a groundbreaking move for wildlife, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed listing African lions as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act on Monday morning. The move comes after several conservation organizations created a petition calling for the listing.
The announcement includes one other proposed measure: a rule requiring permits for the import of sport-hunted lions. In addition, these permits would only be issued for countries that employ scientifically-sound management plans for lions.
"Lion numbers have declined by more than half in the last three decades. To allow trophy hunting to continue unabated is kicking an animal while it's already down," said Jeff Flocken, North American Regional Director, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). "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."
There are fewer than 32,000 African lions remaining today, due to pressures from trophy hunting, bone trade, meat and organ consumption, disease and agricultural expansion, according to Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA.
Teresa Telecky, Director of Humane Society International's wildlife department, said that the proposition was a step in the right direction - but not perfect.
"While we are disappointed that the U.S. government appears poised to continue allowing the import of some lion trophies, it's vital that protective trophy import standards be put in place and that there will be transparency in that process. American hunters import about 400 trophies of wild lions each year, so we hope that the ESA protection will significantly curtail this destructive activity."
The push for the listing was made by IFAW, Born Free, Humane Society International and others.
The proposed ruling will be subject to a 90-day public comment period, which begins on October 29.