The US Fish and Wildlife Service today granted imperiled lions the protective status of Threatened under the Endangered Species Act in East and Southern Africa, and the most critical designation of Endangered in Indian and West and Central Africa. That means that they will be better protected from human threats, particularly trophy hunting.
According to Dr. Luke Hunter, President and Chief Conservation Officer of Panthera, in today’s press release, ““Panthera applauds the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the landmark designation and protection of the African lion as ‘Endangered’ in India, West Africa and Central Africa and ‘Threatened’ in East and Southern Africa, under the Endangered Species Act,” said Dr. Hunter. “Today’s listing establishes important science-based standards for the international trade in African lion trophies. As a wild cat conservation organization, Panthera is committed to reversing the lion’s precipitous decline. In the face of the overwhelming pressures on African lions, we must raise the bar on legally allowed trophy hunting.We need an above and beyond standard that requires scientific evidence that lion populations are either being maintained at robust levels or increasing in the presence of trophy hunting. We are heartened that USFWS will now require proof that the presence of trophy hunting demonstrably enhances the conservation of lions. Simply being ‘sustainable’ is no longer enough.”
Some of this new awareness of the alarming decline in lion populations came as a result of the killing of the much beloved black-maned lion Cecil, who’s slaughter by trophy hunter and dentist Walter Palmer sparked worldwide outrage earlier this year.
The fight is far from over, however.There are a myriad of other grave threats ranging from the bush-meat trade to development to conflicts with livestock and the relentless, burgeoning human population, with all it’s endless demands. A much more comprehensive plan needs to be formulated quickly. Preserving habitat, plenty of open space and game, and preserving vital genetic and biological diversity in complete, fully-functional ecosystems, are paramount to the iconic big cat’s future, as well as the fate of the rest of our remaining vulnerable species.
Humans will have to learn to ‘allow’ and tolerate other beings as having an intrinsic right to share the planet with us, and to thrive without human molestation, if our magnificent large predators such as African lions, wolves, American Cougars and others, are to flourish into the next generations.
In the press release, Dr. Luke Hunter concluded, “Today’s listing of the lion is a wake-up call to the world that we are losing Africa’s top predator and one of the most marvelous species to ever grace our planet. This designation is just the beginning of the fight to save the lion. My hope is that the ESA listing catalyzes a new era, of deeper, richer and better resourced cooperation between African governments and the international conservation community to save Africa’s great cat.”