U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Protection for African Lion
Specialists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have proposed to list the African lion (Panthera leo leo) – a symbol of majesty, courage and strength since earliest times – as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, due to habitat loss, loss of prey and increased human-lion conflicts.
African lions are still found across a large range in Africa, but about 70 percent of the current African lion population exists in only 10 major strongholds containing approximately 24,000 lions.
Most populations in protected areas of eastern and southern Africa have been essentially stable over the last three decades.
However, because the majority of the human population's livelihoods within the lion's range depend on agriculture and livestock, loss and degradation of lion habitat is expected to accompany rapid human population growth.
Given the predicted rapid increase in human population in Africa by 2050, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) experts expect habitat loss, prey availability and human-lion conflict to continue and likely worsen.
Currently, the African lion is not listed as either endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), although the Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica) has been listed as endangered since 1970 under the ESA and its precursor, the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969.
"After reviewing the best available scientific and commercial information, the USFWS is proposing to list the African lion as threatened under the ESA," the experts said in a statement.
In addition to proposing ESA protections, the experts are also proposing a rule under section 4(d) of the ESA.
The rule, if finalized, will establish a permitting mechanism for the importation of sport-hunted lion trophies, provided that the lions originate from countries with a scientifically sound management plan for African lions.
"By providing incentives through the permitting process to countries and individuals who are actively contributing to lion conservation, the USFWS will be able to leverage a greater level of conservation than may otherwise be available," said Dan Ashe, the director of the USFWS.
The ESA provides numerous benefits to foreign species, primarily by prohibiting certain activities including import, export, commercial activity, interstate commerce and foreign commerce.
"By regulating these activities, the United States ensures that people under the jurisdiction of the United States do not contribute to the further decline of listed species."
"The ESA can also generate conservation benefits such as increased awareness of listed species, research efforts to address conservation needs, or funding for in-situ conservation of the species in its range countries."
"In addition, the ESA provides for limited financial assistance to develop and manage programs to conserve listed species in foreign countries, encourages conservation programs for such species, and allows for assistance for programs, such as personnel and training."