Today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services published in the Federal Register it’s Endangered Species Act listing for two lion subspecies—Panthera leo leo, located in India and western and central Africa, will be listed as endangered, and Panthera leo melanochaita, located in eastern and southern Africa, will be listed as threatened. (The rule will go into effect Jan. 22, 2016.)
While this is good news for Panthera leo leo, because you can’t trophy hunt an endangered animal, overall the listing continues to promote trophy hunting of threatened lion species and others, which Friends of Animals finds disturbing. Dan Ashe may have been trying to spin this as an uplifting feel-good story before the holidays at his press conference, but trophy hunting is a barbaric practice that society has to move past.
“Any rule that allows the killing of these animals isn’t a protective rule at all, and it will continue to lead to their demise,” said Michael Harris, director of Friends of Animals’ Wildlife Law Program. “This type of mentality is what led to these animals needing to be protected in the first place. It’s the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service giving in to a small number of trophy hunters who are living in the barbaric past, putting their self-interests above that of the world’s and these animals.”
Friends of Animals opposes any rule that allows sport hunting and where possible, we plan to legally challenge such rules. On the cusp of a new year, one of the Wildlife Law Program’s four main goals is ending the importation into the U.S. of trophy-hunted animals by 2020.
There is no evidence at all that trophy hunting can lead to the protection of these animals and Ashe made a ridiculous assumption in his statement to the press: “Sustainable trophy hunting as part of a well-managed conservation program can and does contribute to the survival of the species in the wild, providing real incentives to oppose poaching and conserve lion populations,” said Ashe. “Implementing a permit requirement will give us the authority we need to work with African countries to help them improve their lion management programs.”
According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services own data, in the last 20 years, lion populations have declined by 43 percent due to habitat loss, loss of prey base, and retaliatory killing of lions by a growing human population. Coupled with inadequate financial and other resources for countries to effectively manage protected areas, the impact on lions in the wild has been substantial.
Regarding the endangered Panthera leo leo, there are only about 1,400 of these lions remaining; 900 in 14 African populations and 523 in India. The subspecies of P. l. melanochaita likely numbers between 17,000-19,000 and is found across southern and eastern Africa.