Published March 7, 2011
African Lions In Danger
The King of the Jungle is in trouble, and the biggest threat to one of the world’s most fearsome predators is in the good ol’ U.S. of A. Last week, a coalition of organizations that includes Born Free, Defenders of Wildlife, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Humane Society called on the Obama Administration to ban the import of lion trophies and parts by listing African lions as an endangered species.
A report released by the coalition describes the African lion as a “species in crisis,” citing their reduction in numbers from approximately 200,000 a century ago to between 23,000 and 40,000 now. The lions have vanished from a whopping 80% of their former territory, and have become extinct in 26 countries. Now, only seven countries– Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe– are believed to contain more than 1,000 lions each.
There are numerous threats to the lions’ survival, from the shrinking of wilderness habitat due to the building of roads, to deadly conflicts with local farmers, to the thriving animal parts trade in various parts of the world. But, according to the coalition’s report, one of the biggest dangers these majestic creatures face comes from American hunters.
Nearly 65% of the 5,663 African lions hunted for sport in the past 10 years were brought to America (more than twice as many were taken in 2008 as there were in 1999), and the U.S. imported 63% of the 2,715 lion specimens that were put up for sale during that time. Also, the hunters’ desire for bagging large alpha males often risks wiping out entire prides, setting off battles for dominance that left even more adult males dead.
Noting that all of the other big cats– jaguars, leopards and tigers– are all protected, the organizations called upon the White House to protect African lions with a ban on the import of trophies and parts. There’s no way to stop the killing completely, but using existing international regulations against trafficking in endangered species would be one heck of a win for conservationists… and all of us who love seeing lions in their natural habitat. –Bret Love