The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently announced that it is proposing to list the African lion (Pantera leo leo) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposed listing is the result of a 2011 petition to list the species as endangered. In the Service’s 12-month finding on that petition, the Service determined that listing the African lion as threatened throughout its range under the ESA is warranted.
The African lion has a large range and its population has ten strongholds totaling approximately 24,000 lions, which is 70 percent of the current population. The species is impacted by a number of factors contributing to population decline. According to the Service, the three main factors are habitat loss, loss of prey-base, and human-lion conflict. In the proposed rule, the Service explains that the expanding human population will continue to contribute to the decline of the African lion population because expanding settlements contribute to habitat loss, human consumption is decreasing the species’ prey-base, and pre-emptive and retaliatory killing of lions are increasing due to increased human-lion interaction.
In addition to the Service’s proposed listing of the African lion as threatened, the Service is also proposing a rule under section 4(d) of the ESA that will establish a permitting mechanism for the importation of sport-hunted lion trophies. Importation would be allowed provided the lions originate from countries with a scientifically sound management plan for African lions. The Service is not allowing hunting of the species through its proposed rule because the African lion’s native countries are not subject to the jurisdiction of the ESA. These countries allow sport hunters to participate in African lion hunts regardless of U.S. import regulation. Rather, the Service intends that, by requiring import permits, it can ensure that imported African lion trophies enhance the conservation of the species in the range countries by supporting well-managed, scientifically based conservation programs that include trophy hunting of lions. The Service has found that sport-hunting of African lions is not a threat to the species at this time.