Lions have been added to the endangered species list by the U.S. The country has finally enacted a law that will make it impossible for hunters to bring back lion trophies from some parts of Africa. The revised Endangered Species Act will also include big cats from India.
Wildlife conservation groups applauded the decision by the American government to extend Endangered Species Act protections for two breeds of lions and added that it was definitely a turning point for African lions.
According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, lions in central and West Africa will be listed as endangered. Although this decision may increase instances of poaching in other countries where lions are found today, Obama’s administration added that lions in southern and East Africa will be classified as “threatened.” While this addendum certainly doesn’t prohibit Americans from heading to these countries to bring back lion trophies, United States has inserted a special notation asking countries where lions still exist to regulate sport hunting of lions in ways that promote conservation, reported Yahoo New.
Though the rules appear to vary for African lions and those found elsewhere, the agency categorically noted that both designations will result in stricter criteria for the import of live lions and lion parts, such heads, paws, or skins, into the United States.
What’s concerning is that while trophies from countries where lions are endangered will be “generally prohibited,” there are a few “limited circumstances” where lion parts may be permitted. The order states the Fish and Wildlife Service will deny a permit to import a sport-hunted lion to anyone who has been convicted or pleaded guilty to violating federal or state wildlife laws, reported the Daily Mail.
Trophies could still be imported from nations where lions are listed as “threatened.” Countries like Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, are very popular with American hunters who visit only to hunt wildlife. There have been many instances where hunters have killed innocent animals and posed alongside the carcass. Needless to say, such photos have been condemned by animal lovers, but since the practice is legal, there is nothing they can do to prevent the killing. The exemption to bring back lion trophies from these countries is valid only if the hunter has met the standards set under the special rule and can prove that the animals were killed legally, reported MSN.
Wildlife conservationists have expressed their reservations against such loopholes since other countries have known to exploit similar “exemptions” to legally hunt endangered species. Recently, Japanese vessels boldly marked “Research” headed out to the Antarctic Ocean to hunt minke whales, even though there was a global outrage against hunting the mammals.
The decision to add lions to the endangered species list was due to the drastic reduction in the population of these big cats, confirmed Daniel M. Ashe, the director of the wildlife service. However, conservation groups have been persistently petitioning to have the African lion listed as endangered for more than five years. Although the decision to include lions in the list includes certain legal loopholes that allow hunting the creatures, it is still better than a proposal tabled in 2014 that merely suggested revising the status to “threatened,” which wouldn’t have had any major impact.
Had the rule come a little earlier, it would most certainly have saved Cecil the lion. Cecil was killed by Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota. The dentist, who was globally loathed for his act, had earlier pleaded guilty to making false statements to the Fish and Wildlife Service about a black bear fatally shot in western Wisconsin outside an authorized hunting zone. Under the new rules, Palmer would have never received permit to travel to Africa and kill Cecil.
[Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images]