U.S. wildlife agency gives legal protection to African lions

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A U.S. agency lists two lion subspecies under the Endangered Species Act, offering them legal protection that will make it harder for hunters to import trophies into the country. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).

U.S. wildlife agency gives legal protection to African lions

ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION)

STORY: The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on Monday (December 21) listed two lion subspecies under the Endangered Species Act, offering them legal protection that will make it harder for hunters to import trophies into the country.

The agency listed lions found mostly in West and Central Africa as “endangered” and lions in eastern and southern Africa as “threatened” and said it would withhold permits from violators.

“So it’s been an exhaustive scientific and public process. But today because this is a pivotal point for the lion and I think our decision today recognizes that we are at up inflection point for lion if there is going to be something called a lion in the wild in the future, we have to take action today and the United States has always been a leader in conservation worldwide,” said Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The measures, enacted under the world’s most powerful animal protection law, will take effect in January 2016. They follow the extension of protection to African elephants and cheetahs.

The two groups of lions covered by the listing once roamed the continent in the tens of thousands but populations have been decimated by loss of prey and habitat and killings by hunters, including many from local communities.

“So this is a fantastic decision. Lions are literally under the gun. They’re thrown by habitat loss, loss of prey and retaliatory killings where they come into conflict with humans and they’re threatened by trophy hunting being done unsustainably. That last threat is the one that we can address is one that Americans can change. Americans are responsible for over half of all lions kill in Africa every year for sport. If we can curb that number and bring it down well then that’s saving more individual lions,” said Jeffrey Flocken North American regional director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

IFAW was one of the authors of the Petition to list African lions under the Endangered Species Act.

Several African countries such as Zimbabwe and Burkina Faso still allow tourists to hunt their lions, saying it provides an important source of revenue and helps support conservation.

But many condemn trophy hunting and contest its benefits. American dentist Walter Palmer sparked intense global controversy in July when he killed a rare black-maned lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe. Hunters like Palmer regularly import salt-packed skulls and skins of lions into the United States.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service said at the time it was deeply concerned about the killing, which prompted a group of Democrats to press the agency for the listing, initially proposed by petition in 2011.

On Monday, a spokesperson for the agency denied that the new measures were linked to Cecil’s killing, which is being investigated separately.

Tags : lions, African, Protection, legal, Gives, agency, wildlife, us

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