Nearly wiped out from loss of habitat, food, inadequate management and indiscriminate hunting, the United States has announced historic measures to help protect lions. The African and Asia lions are now covered under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday.
“The lion is one of the planet’s most beloved species and an irreplaceable part of our shared global heritage. 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,” Service Director Dan Ashe said in a statement.
Animal welfare groups were quick to applaud the move, which comes months after the controversial death of Cecil the lion by an American trophy hunter on safari in Zimbabwe.
“This is significant,” writes Azzedine Downes, president and CEO of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, “because approximately 600 lions are killed every year on trophy hunts and the US is responsible for importing more than half of these.”
Jane Goodall called the announcement a win for Africa’s lions.
“Months ago millions of people were enraged by the killing of Cecil the lion, and 6 months later, Africa’s lions now have more protection than ever before under the Endangered Species Act,” she wrote on Facebook.
The new regulations, which will go into effect on Jan. 22, 2016, are aimed at protecting lions from poaching and will severely limit the ability of sport hunters to import trophies from their excursions abroad. Live lions will also be banned from import in most circumstances. The government is also listing some species of lions as a threatened species.
“The service found that not all trophy hunting programs are scientifically based or managed in a sustainable way,” the government notes.
Ashe also said there are still more measures to come to protect the iconic animals.
Photos Bryan Orford/YouTube