African Lions Near Protection

Petition to list lions as an endangered species, prohibiting the import of lion trophies into the United States, is now open to comments from the public.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will consider protecting the African lion under the Endangered Species Act. The groups Born Free USA, Born Free Foundation, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, The Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International, Defenders of Wildlife and the Fund for Animals filed the petition for protective status in a joint effort, and thanked the USFWS for its preliminary positive 90-day finding.

According to the groups, the African lion population has declined by more than 50% in 30 years, with fewer than 35,000 lions estimated in the wild today. Converse to the big cat’s population decline, the number of lion trophies imported to the United States has risen. Giving African lions endangered status would generally ban lion trophy imports into the United States, taking a step to reverse the current population decline.

“We are acting with precaution,” says Adam Roberts, executive vice president of Born Free USA. “In 1900, 100,000 wild tigers existed; now there are about 4,000. The same sort of thing could happen with lions.”

“Are we going to wait before it’s too late or are we going to act before the situation is untenable?” Roberts says. “We decided to go forward.”

The next step is for the USFWS to review information from scientists and the public to determine whether an endangered listing would be appropriate for the African lion. To comment on the proposed status change, visit the Born Free USA site here, which has instructions and sample letters to submit comments.

“At the end of the year, we hope the USFW decides that African lions indeed deserve protection under the act,” Roberts says. He adds that this has significance to his organization. “We stem from the ‘Born Free’ story of African lions. We have a real connection with the species.”

Born Free USA leads campaigns against animal mistreatment or the international wildlife trade by working through litigation, legislation and education. The group brings to the United States the mission of the U.K.-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the film “Born Free.”

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