In response to the dramatic decline of lion populations in the wild, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced it will list two lion subspecies under the Endangered Species Act.
The subspecies Panthera leo leo, located in India and western and central Africa, will be listed as endangered. Another subspecies Panthera leo melanochaita, located in eastern and southern Africa, will be listed as threatened.
To protect lions and other foreign and domestic wildlife from criminal activity, Service Director Dan Ashe also issued a Director’s Order to strengthen enforcement of wildlife permitting requirements. The order will ensure that violators of wildlife laws are not subsequently granted permits for future wildlife-related activities, including the import of sport-hunted trophies.
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.
Through the Director’s Order, the Fish and Wildlife Service is redoubling its efforts to ensure that the world’s rarest species are protected from those who violate wildlife laws.
“Importing sport-hunted trophies and other wildlife or animal parts into the United States is a privilege, not a right; a privilege that violators of wildlife laws have demonstrated they do not deserve,” said Ashe. “We are going to strengthen our efforts to ensure those individuals – people who have acted illegally to deprive our children of their wildlife heritage – are not rewarded by receipt of wildlife permits in the future.”
The Service is also working to increase the fees it charges for these permit applications.
“The lion is one of the planet’s most beloved species and an irreplaceable part of our shared global heritage,” said Ashe. “If we want to ensure that healthy lion populations continue to roam the African savannas and forests of India, it’s up to all of us – not just the people of Africa and India – to take action.”