USFWS proposes listing African lion as threatened

Following a review of the best available scientific information, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing the African lion as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The agency rejected the claim that the African lion merited listing as an endangered species under the ESA. After a long and comprehensive review of the species status, which included information from the foremost lion researchers in the world, the FWS concluded that the African lion simply is not on the brink of extinction, but does face long-term threats to its survival.

In addition to proposing ESA protections, the Service is also proposing a rule under section 4(d) of the ESA. The rule, if finalized, will establish a permitting mechanism for the importation of sport-hunted lion trophies, provided that the lions originate from countries with a scientifically sound management plan for African lions. Sport-hunting was not found to be a threat to the species at this time.

According to Ben Carter, executive director of Dallas Safari Club, hunters play a major role in lion conservation, and he is waiting for the final decision from USFWS.

“It is good to have continuing hunting for lions,” Carter said. “If lion hunting goes away, so do lions. The USFWS said hunting does play a valuable role in lion management.”

When asked about the final wording of the rule after the comment period is over, Carter said, “it depends on any other attachments they add regarding huntable numbers. If there are a bunch of little attachments (like with the recent elephant ruling), we won’t know what those will be until they publish the final rule.”

This conclusion is a blow to the anti-hunting rhetoric put forward by organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States and International Fund for Animal Welfare, according to Safari Club International.

“By rejecting an endangered listing, the FWS has officially recognized the reality that the African lions are not actually on the brink of extinction. More important, today’s decision will likely help further the cooperative efforts of the African nations, and the many organizations and individuals who are working to study and ensure lion populations are sustainable today and into the future.” said Safari Club International Foundation Joe Hosmer. “Given the outstanding efforts of African governments in creating and maintaining protected strongholds for a large majority of the lion population, it is doubtful that the Service will be able to defend its conclusion that the lion is threatened with extinction in the foreseeable future.”

The U.S. FWS will now collect comments from the public in response to their proposed new regulations. Conservationists around the world should be encouraged to participate in the public comment period.

The Service is seeking comments from the public for 90 days regarding information pertaining to the African lion. Go to Docket No. FWS-R9-ES-2012-0025 for additional information. The proposed rule will publish in the Federal Register today, October 29, 2014, and comments must be received by January 27, 2015.

Photo by Lili Sams, LSON.