African Lions cc Mathias Appel

The Obama administration implemented new measures to protect African lions, placing them on the Endangered Species List in order to curtail the loss of animals from American sport hunters traveling to the continent.

The lion’s new designation gives American officials the go-ahead to ban the importation of any hunting trophies, such as lion skins, that would be brought back into the country. The importation of live lions also can be regulated under the new legal status.


“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.” Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in announcing the designations.

The service declared the breed Panthera leo leo to be endangered. Only about 1,400 of the big cats still exist in the wild — 900 in Africa and 500 in India.

A second breed in AfricaPanthera leo melanochaita, which numbers somewhere between 17,000 and 19,000,  has been placed on the threatened species list. Both designations take effect January 22, 2016.

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Lion populations in Africa have declined by more than 60% since the 1940s, to around 20,000. U.S. hunting trophies in the last ten years have accounted for the deaths of 5,600 of the big cats, but that fact received little attention until the recent death of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe.

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Cecil was a popular tourist attraction at a game reserve, but the big cat was killed in a licensed hunt by an American dentist when the lion wandered out of the reservation. Zimbabwe has since temporarily banned all trophy hunting nationwide, until further notice.

(Photos: Kevin Pluck, CC; Mathias Appel, CC)

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