After Cecil’s killing came to light in July, there’s been a well-justified backlash against the trophy hunting of some of the rarest and most majestic animals in the world. In the wake of the incident, 45 airlines have taken action against trophy hunting — banning shipments of any of the Africa Big Five (African lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards, and Cape buffalo) or, in some cases, any and all wildlife trophies, in the cargo holds.
Last week, France became the first European Union country to ban the import of African lion trophies. In a letter addressed to the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, Ségolène Royal announced import permits will no longer be issued for lion trophies. The French minister of ecology also vowed to advocate for stricter regulations on the import of other hunting trophies to the European Union. Considering that between 2005 and 2014, France imported 351 lions for trophy hunting and personal purposes, this announcement is a welcome reprieve for lions whose population has declined 43 percent over the past 21 years, according to a new 2015 assessment.
In the wake of France’s announcement, it is critical that other EU countries also institute a ban. The former Netherlands’ Minister for Agriculture, Sharon Dijksma, has already initiated an investigation into ways of instituting a global ban on trophy hunting. Australia banned lion imports earlier this year.
In early October, I wrote about the U.S. premiere of the documentary Blood Lions, which exposes the shockingly large, unregulated, and appalling South African captive lion hunting industry. Just a little over a month after the film was shown in cities throughout the world, Europe’s largest hunting fair, Jagd & Hund Dortmund, announced last week that it will end any and all advertising and sale of canned hunts during its annual convention. Also, the Professional Hunters‘ Association of South Africa (PHASA) announced it will “distance the association from captive-bred lion-hunting” until lion breeders “prove the conservation value of this practice.”
This kind of movement through corporate, public policy, and even hunting industry actors has the potential to bring lasting change on the issue.
But our work isn’t done. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is soon expected to announce its final decision on listing the African lion under the Endangered Species Act, and offering this species the strongest protections possible. U.S. hunters import the majority of African lion trophies, and such a listing would help enormously in stopping more killing. That effort received a boost when Washington voters approved a ballot initiative on November 3rd to ban any intrastate trade in lion parts and the parts of nine other rare types of animals.
Several members of the U.S. Congress are also calling for legislation to stop trophy hunting of lions and other imperiled animals. Senator Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-N.M., have introduced companion bills to ban all imports of trophies and parts from African lions and other at-risk species into the United States. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-TX, has likewise introduced a bill to amend the Endangered Species Act to ban “all acts of senseless and perilous trophy killings.”
We also need African nations rich in wildlife to take voluntary measures and shift away from trophy hunting. Botswana, Kenya, and Rwanda serve as shining examples of African countries that are prioritizing ecotourism over hunting of their precious wildlife. An ad in the October 2015 issue of National Geographic called upon future visitors to Botswana to “experience true ecotourism in a visionary country that outlaws hunting and believes that only a camera should ever be aimed at a lion.” Other nations must get on board, since it’s not only the right moral decision, but also the right economic one, as the pool of trophy hunters shrinks and the wildlife-watching crowd swells.