U.S. Provides Endangered Species Act Protections for African Lions — Seeks to Avoid Sequel to Cecil Killing

By on December 20, 2015 with 19 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

In a move sure to be jarring to the worldwide trophy hunting industry, and that could gut South Africa’s canned hunting industry, the United States signaled that it will classify the African lion as threatened or endangered across its entire range in Africa. This action comes four and a half years after several organizations, including The HSUS, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and Born Free, petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to list the African lion as endangered – long before Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer came to personify the threat that globe-trotting trophy hunters pose to the animals.

This listing decision – one of the most consequential to come out of the FWS in years – is likely to dramatically change the equation for American trophy hunters who have been killing animals by the hundreds each year for their parts. This decision puts the United States in a much stronger position to play a productive role in the conservation of lions, who have suffered a 60 percent population decline across much of Africa and now number fewer than 30,000 due to habitat loss and human-caused killing. American trophy hunters are directly responsible for slaughtering at least 5,647 lions in the last 10 years, according to import data we’ve mined from the FWS. And a robust domestic market in lion parts, such as hides sold as rugs, further threatens their continued existence. Listing all lions under the Endangered Species Act will prohibit the import of trophies and other parts except in very limited circumstances, and will send a signal to the world that this big cat is in need of comprehensive preservation efforts.

I applaud the FWS for taking this action, formally ending the free-for-all for Americans who wish to kill these animals and import them through our ports with no meaningful scrutiny or oversight. These new regulations will take away a primary motivation for American hunters to kill the lions, since they almost certainly will not be able to bring the lions’ heads and hides back into our country. By highlighting the plight of the animals, and restricting gratuitous killing, the listing decision should encourage photographic tourism and other forms of wildlife appreciation.

This is the latest in a series of beneficial developments for lions. In the wake of the killing of Cecil, The HSUS and other animal protection groups persuaded 45 airlines to stop shipping trophies of African lions and other members of the Africa Big Five (elephants, rhinos, leopards, and Cape buffalo) coveted by trophy hunters. Members of Congress also took up the call: Senator Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Representatives Raul Grijalva, D-AZ, and Sheila Jackson Lee, D-TX, introduced bills to ban all imports of trophies and parts from African lions and other at-risk species into the United States.

Following Australia’s similar import prohibition earlier this year, France recently banned the import of lion trophies and other European countries are also considering a similar measure. Businesses are also beginning to recognize that trophy hunting is not good business. The African Hunting Exposition in Canada recently had to cancel its events after some hotels, including the Saskatoon Inn and Holiday Inn Toronto International Airport, refused to host their gathering celebrating the senseless killing of wildlife.

We are particularly pleased that the listing will likely prevent Americans from importing lions killed on captive hunting ranches in South Africa, an appalling practice that was recently exposed in the Blood Lions documentary (broadcast on MSNBC), where lion cubs are bred for profit, first to be used in cub petting and interactive experiences, and then sold to unskilled hunters in search of an easy, guaranteed kill. The rule will similarly improve the plight of lions bred in the United States by roadside zoos that value adorable cubs but may dispose of these animals to meat producers; the animals finally end up as lion tacos on specialty menus. For symbolic and practical reasons, this is one of the most consequential American actions for African wildlife, along with the U.S. decision to crack down on the ivory and rhino horn trade and the listing of all chimpanzees as endangered.

The world must get past an era of a handful of people killing the most magnificent animals in the world to adorn their trophy rooms. These creatures have their own desires to live, and we shouldn’t snuff them out for bragging rights and a higher perch in the pantheon of the trophy-hunting world. As an economic matter, it’s the right decision for Africa. Lions are much more valuable to African nations as subjects of wildlife watching rather than wildlife killing. A hundred or a thousand people can watch a lion, and support all the businesses associated with that set of experiences. A trophy hunter provides a one-time use of the animal, and puts a low ceiling on the creature’s economic value.

Today’s announcement is, without question, a turning point for the future of the lions now roaming Africa.

Public Policy (Legal/Legislative), Wildlife/Marine Mammals

Subscribe to the Blog

Enter your email address below to receive updates each time we publish new content.


Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Sally Palmer says:

    Thank you so much for your work on endangered species to research, educate, and inform people on this issue so they gladly offer support to help change the world. It gives us hope that trophy hunting will soon become extinct, and offers the joy of watching ecological tourism and other related businesses rise. A beautiful photograph of an animal brings magnificence to a house; an animal’s head brings shame. Real animal parts on display or in use disgrace the owner with the graphic evidence of his or her cowardice, ignorance, cruelty, and savage destruction of our world. Faux animal patterns and other animal symbols on things celebrate the unique beauty of these our fellow beings of the earth and our efforts to save them.

  2. JHHikerDiva says:

    I am thrilled to hear this news and hope that it signals the end to trophy hunters and their “clubs.” Trophy hunting is not, and will never be, a form of true conservation as argued by these individuals.

  3. Denni A says:

    BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT I could hope for. I am no fan of FWS and the millions of animals they kill in this country every year but on this I have to say THANK YOU!!!

  4. Diane Lipsey says:

    I’m so thrilled the United States has come to this awesome decision!! Fantastic news! Now if ALL nations worldwide will follow this! RIP dear Cecil, your death was not in vain! Your descendants will be protected, thank God and the new laws!!

  5. Christine Sponchia says:

    I just have one question.. Mr Dan Ashe protected two lion species that are already extinct.
    The last Panthera leo leo was killed estimated 1922..http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/extinction-countdown/when-did-the-barbary-lion-really-go-extinct/

    The last Panthera leo melanochaita extinct 1858.. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_lion

    These are the two lion species that have been listed 21st of Dec 2015 by US Fish and wildlife Service, Dan Ashe.


    Mistake? I don’t think so, the canned lions have been excluded either… Mr Dan Ashe the Joke of the Jungle??


    • Marc Bedner says:

      The IUCN Cat Specialist group has proposed reclassifying lions, so that the name Panthera leo melanochaita, which used to refer to the extinct Cape lion, now refers to southern African lions. USFWS has adopted this terminology so as to promote trophy hunting in southern Africa, while protecting the more endangered central African subspecies (now designated P. leo leo).

  6. Renee DeKona says:

    I just read an article in the Boston Globe Dec.29, 2015 about the consumption
    of chimps, bonobos and other wildlife at fancy upscale restaurants in Africa.
    This is almost unimaginable. But this too is decimating African wildlife.

  7. eusebio manuel vestias pecurto says:

    Thank you Great news local cooperation is important to save wildlife

  8. Jsimmons says:

    It is heartbreaking when I read about beautiful animals like Cecil and others being destroyed for pleasure. Humans complain about bears, raccoon, coyotes invading their space and properties. Well what about the fact that these creatures are increasingly becoming displaced, killed and separated from their young and their homes due to behavior of I heartless humans? Humankind has proven to be the most vicious and Inhumane of all Earthly Creatures.
    Every animal lover must continue to do their part to protect and provide support to preserving one of earth’s most at risk and precious gifts ~our many many species of wild life.

  9. Anirban (Abner) Bhattacharya says:

    I agree with RushH Limbaugh & Patrick J. Buchanan on hunting-hunting for food is fine but hunting for sport is wrong. If you want to hunt deer, wild goats, ducks, pheasants, rabbits, hares & squirrels for food and eat that, then that’s OK as long as there’s no poaching & animal is quickly killed. I can tolerate hunting wild goats, deer, ducks, pheasants, hares, rabbits & squirrels for food as long as animal is quickly killed & eaten for food. But I can’t tolerate hunting animals just because it’s there. Hunting for food & eating your kills is 1 thing, but hunting for sports is wrong.

    More fun to see animals alive than dead. If I were to tour Africa, it would be more fun to see lions, hyenas, elephants, giraffes alive, running in the wild. It’s wrong to travel to Africa just to hunt an animal & hunting them though they are not food. The people who go to Africa to hunt can’t settle for wild goats, deer, ducks, pheasants, rabbits, hare and squirrels which they can hunt in North America for food. It’s just wrong to travel to another nation just so you can kill something.Going on a tour just so you can kill an animal which that dentist did from MN did is wrong.

  10. Anirban (aka Abner) Bhattacharya says:

    Animals are alot smarter than you think.

    -Elephants have been observed to mourn their dead. Elephants have adopted orphan or lost baby elephants. There’s a video I have on animals where a lost baby elephant (who got lost from herd) is in a river, stuck & screaming for help. A group of hyenas have heard the baby elephant’s screams & are going to eat the elephant. Another elephant herd not related to the baby elephant arrive, scare the hyenas away and rescue the baby elephant who they take into the herd.

    -Animals be they deer, , monkeys, antelope, zebras, meerkats, ground squirrels, etc. have got warning calls when predators arrive. Animals will defend their young such as a giraffe will protect their baby giraffes by kicking hyenas, lions, etc. who try to eat their baby giraffe. Adult (often male) buffalos, musk oxen, etc. form circles to protect their young from wolves, showing their horns.

    -Deer, antelope have been observed to eat umbilical cords after giving birth so that predators like lions, cougars, wolves etc. do not pick up the scent.

    -Lion is a stay @ home dad who will protect his kittens (while they call them cubs I call them kittens) from outside male lions because if an outside male lions finds the kittens who aren’t related to him, he will usually kill the kittens along with the male lion and then sire young with lioness whose kittens and mate he killed. Lionesses hunt the antelope, deer & zebra while lion protects young.

    -Crows and ravens (corvids) have their own language. Both mourn their dead, can recognize friends and enemies, how to hide their food, how to steal food from wolves, cougars & eagles. Ravens and crows are intelligent birds.

    -Humans are alot like animals when it comes to crimes like robbery & rape. Besides lions, silver back gorillas, baboons & langur monkeys have harems. If an outside male primate comes in, they will kill the female primates young, kill or drive out the primate’s mate & then father kids with female primate whose young they killed. With people will highlight what I wrote in another place on this.

    Wars are eg. of soldiers killing off a enemy soldier and his kids so he can start his family with the woman whose kids and husband he killed. Happened in Americas during Indian wars where American Indians would kill off neighboring tribes men and children and then father children with women whose husband and kids he killed. Happened during WW2 in Nanking, Singapore & Phillipines to lesser extent, where Samurais killed Chinese & Filipino men and then Samurais fathered kids with women whose husbands & kids were killed.

    -Singing has been observed among primates such as silverback gorillas. Whales have also been observed to sing.

    -Dogs, cats, etc. can be happy, sad, scared and yes, they are smarter than you think. I have had 2 dogs in my life-adopted them from the pound. Saw how dogs in the pound feel sad, acting cute to try to get adopted because these dogs usu. know that they were abandoned & feel lonely. It’s possible they understand that if they don’t get adopted, that they’ll be euthanised.

    When we went on vacations, we would take our dog to an animal shelter until we returned. Dog would feel sad as we were gone for a few days. When we return from trip to pickup dog, the dog’s happy.

    That gets to is it possible for a dog to commit suicide ? If a dog has seen war horrors, death, or other bad things in life, just as people get impacted by this, so can animals. Have there been cases where a dog has committed suicide by jumping off of a building Possibly, though I couldn’t find a case. Animals are alot smarter than what people think, as seen in eg. given.

  11. Raza says:

    We should find a solution to Stop over populating some domestic animals.
    I and my wife( she loves dogs & cats ) have adopted a female Tabby from a shelter in Dallas Tx at age of 9 years old,in the beginning Tabby ( choose as her name too ) looked like that she has been in an abusing home with bad irritated habits .Gradually I kept patting her ,baby talking to her ,till she relaxed and calm sitting on our laps. one day I left a can of tuna around the bathtub to lure her in for his full bath with shampoo and the trick worked well,often time my wife talked to her friends about my original idea of Tabby bathing. lol— although in the beginning she hatted the water, little by little she began to come around and till a time on sunday mornings I turned the bathroom faucet on,she immediately knew its her bath time 🙂 she hated !!! or she would go hide under the sofa. I would have patted her, baby talking her, complemented her over our neighbor cat .( I don’t know whether these talks would have effect on her curiosity or her smartness ,intuitions , cause anytime I mentioned the other cats she would turn her head around to look for ? )….She got used to our friends coming over to visit she would like to say hello and get patted ,then she would go away till them wanted to leave the house she would come around as though she wanted to be noticed too to say good bye ! at night she would sleep on our daughter bed as a guardian angel ,bless her little heart … time to time I made trips for my job out of state ,then on returning back home Tabby would have missed me so much that the entire day she liked to spend her precious time only with me and my wife sometimes would get jealous to why Tabby doesn’t treat her the same way ?.
    a lot of good precious memory and times with Tabby ,finally at age 17 Tabby had to say good bye for ever . we miss her greatly ! 🙁

Share a Comment

The HSUS encourages open discussion, and we invite you to share your opinion on our issues. By participating on this page, you are agreeing to our commenting policy.
Please enter your name and email address below before commenting. Your email address will not be published.