Anti-hunting activists have petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the African lion as a threatened or endangered species and a decision is expected any day.
Dallas Safari Club officials are hoping for a ruling that favors science, not petitions.
“Political pandering in Washington D.C. won’t help lions,” said Ben Carter, executive director of DSC. “Lions need science-based, practical strategies that fit on-the-ground realities in Africa.”
Any listing under the Endangered Species Act could restrict or ban importations of African lion taxidermy, essentially stopping American hunters — and their money.
Carter says hunting gives game species real, monetary value in third-world countries. If lions are no longer valuable, then landowners, villagers and cattlemen will simply kill them off. Hunting also funds law enforcement needed to check poachers and black-market traffickers.
Carter said, “The precedent is clear: In Africa, when hunting goes away, so does the wildlife.”
Science shows that overharvest of young male lions could reduce long-term populations. In response, DSC in early 2013 began advising lion hunters to self-impose harvest restrictions. DSC defined the ideal huntable male lion as “at least six years of age and not known to head a pride or be part of a coalition heading a pride with dependent cubs.”
Science shows that hunting older male lions has no negative, long-term effect on populations.
More than 70 major safari operators, hunting industry leaders and top conservationists pledged support, and the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation in April 2013 adopted a position modeled after the DSC policy.
Over time, Carter says, more-selective harvest will help conserve lion populations while keeping the overall conservation and economic benefits of hunting.