US plans to extend endangered species status to lions in Africa

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US Fish and Wildlife Service new regulations will make importing lion trophies more difficult, five months after US dentist killed famous Zimbabwean lion, Cecil

The US plans to extend its endangered species protection to lions in Africa, five months after an American dentist caused an international furore by killing Cecil, a famed lion which lived in Zimbabwe.

US Fish and Wildlife Service( FWS) will categorize lions in southern and eastern Africa as threatened, with those in the central and western regions covered by full imperiled status. The move will place tighter restrictions on the import of lion trophies, such as paws or heads.

While the US cannot regulate hunting in other countries, the move is significant because around half of all lion hunting in Africa is conducted by Americans. According to FWS data, more than 5,600 lions have been killed and imported by American hunters over the past decade.

Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, provoked outrage in July where reference is shoot Cecil, a well-known lion with a distinctive dark mane. Cecil was enticed outside the boundaries of Zimbabwes Hwange national park where Palmer, who had paid thousands of dollars to kill a lion, shot Cecil with a bow and arrow.

Palmer said he would not have shot Cecil if he knew the lion had a name. His dental practise closed temporarily due to vociferous protests, with the opprobrium prompting regulators to look at new ways to curb trophy hunting.

Under the new FWS regulations, bringing lion components to the US will be banned in most circumstances if the animal is from a country where lions are imperiled. Hunters will have to show the trophies were legally obtained from countries that have a a scientifically sound management program that benefits the subspecies in the wild.

This regulation is expected to place a far greater burden of proof upon hunters who claim that the money from lion hunting has been used to help communities in Africa and the overall conservation of lions. The persistent downward tendency in lion numbers, due to habitat loss and hunting by locals and foreign tourists, suggests there has been little preservation benefit from organised hunts.

An international survey, published in September, found African lion numbers have decreased by half since 1993, with a further 50% decline expected over the next 20 years for populations in west, central and east Africa.

Lion populations are only increasing in southern Africa, such studies found, adding: Many lion populations are either now run or expected to disappear within the next few decades to the extent that the intensively managed populations in southern Africa may soon supplant the iconic savannah sceneries in east Africa as the most successful sites for lion conservation.

Despite this alarming slide in numbers, lions are only listed as vulnerable, rather than imperiled, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The organisations red listing estimations there are around 20,000 left in Africa. A separate population of Asiatic lions, numbering around 520, live in the Indian nation of Gujarat.

The lion is one of the planets most beloved species and an irreplaceable part of our shared global heritage, told Dan Ashe, director of the FWS. If we want to ensure that healthy lion populations continue to roam the African savannas and woods of India, its up to all of us not just the people of Africa and India to take action.

Sustainable trophy hunting as part of a well-managed preservation program is possible and does contribute to the survival of the species in the wild, real incentives to resist poaching and conserve lion populations.

Conservation groups welcomed the new regulations but said they would monitor how they will be applied in practice.

These new regulations will take away a primary motivating for American hunters to kill the lions, since they almost certainly will not be able to bringing the lions heads and hides back into our country, told Wayne Pacelle, chief executive of the Humane Society of the United States.

By highlighting the plight of the animals, and restricting gratuitous killing, the listing decision should encourage photographic tourism and other forms of wildlife appreciation.

The world must get past an age 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 shouldnt snuff them out for bragging the same rights and a higher perch in the pantheon of the trophy-hunting world.

In November, France banned the importof lion trophy components, while the UK announced it will bring in a similar forbidding by 2017 unless there is a significant improvement in the performance of the hunting industry. Australia outlawed the import of lion trophies in March.

Cecil the lions lineage looks set to continue, with his son having been observed mating. Scientists expect the birth of Cecils grandcubs in March. They are sure that Xanda is Cecils offspring because Cecil was the only pride male around at the time of his birth in 2011.

His motions have been tracked by Oxford Universitys Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, which as researched lions in Hwange since 1999.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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