Is it possible that we're finally getting the traction we need to save lions?
Last week, I found out that our friends at Panthera reported a lion sighting in Gabon: an African country where lions were previously thought to be locally extinct. Footage from two camera trap videos captured a male lion roaming alone through the savannah.
According to Panthera's press release on the exciting find, by the end of the 1900s, poaching, habitat loss and fragmentation, and illegal hunting of the lion's prey species resulted in the disappearance of lions from the Gabonese landscape. These are the same conditions that currently threaten lion populations across their remaining, fragmented, and reduced range.
This sighting suggests that lions can still survive - and possibly thrive - in Gabon and the surrounding region. Now, experts hope to determine whether this lion is solitary or if he is part of a reproducing group. From there, Panthera and its partners will strategically plan a conservation strategy for this potentially burgeoning population.
At a time when lion populations are dwindling, it's encouraging to hear a bit of good news.
Meanwhile, across the globe, Australia has taken steps to strengthen protections for lions. In response to public concern about the ethics of "canned hunting" (the hunting of captive animals - in this case, lions), the Australian government has introduced a measure to severely limit the trade in African lion specimens and prevent the import and export of African lion hunting trophies to and from Australia.
Though African lions are listed internationally on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), this measure treats the lion as though it's listed on Appendix I, which allows for stricter requirements to move lions or their parts internationally. But, more than that, even Appendix I species can be traded as trophies; the Australia decision goes further and shuts down the lion trophy trade unless the trophy was taken before 1977. BRAVO!
Born Free previously weighed in in support of this regulatory change by the Australian government and I applaud Australia's new ban on lion trophies. Such decisive action is just what we need to protect lions for generations to come.
Progress in Gabon. Progress in Australia. But, what about the US?
Here in the states, we await the final decision about whether the African lion will be listed as "threatened." The US Fish and Wildlife Service has already proposed this listing and now needs to finalize the rule.
This is certainly a momentous step forward ... but the lion doesn't have time for steps. It needs leaps forward.
Keep Wildlife in the Wild,