Lions under growing threat from U.S. hunters

By Ruth Hendry - 03 Mar 2011 10:35:1 GMT
Lions under growing threat from U.S. hunters

International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Born Free Foundation, in conjunction with several other organisations, have petitioned the U.S. government to list African lions as Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Adam Roberts, from Born Free Foundation says that ''There is a real possibility that more African countries will lose their wild lions altogether if the current situation is not reversed...we need to take urgent measures to conserve the African lion before it's too late.''

Over the past twenty years the number of African lions has declined by nearly fifty per cent. Reasons for this include habitat loss, retaliatory killings and disease. There are fewer than 40,000 lions left in Africa and many of them are in unprotected populations.

U.S. trophy hunting: a cause for concern

The coalition of wildlife charities demonstrated that trophy hunting by U.S. hunters is a serious and growing threat to African lions. They state that between 1998 and 2008, 64 per cent of wild lions traded international for trophy hunting were imported to the U.S. The number of lion trophies imported to the U.S. is increasing, despite already significant declines in African lion populations. Listing the African lion as Endangered on ESA would generally prohibit the import of lion trophies into the United States, a vital step in reversing the current decline of the lion populations.

''The king of the jungle is heading toward extinction, and yet Americans continue to kill for sport'', says Jeff Flocken from IFAW. ''The African lion is in real trouble and it is time for this senseless killing and unsustainable practice to stop.''

However, other wildlife experts suggest that a total hunting ban would drive cash-strapped African governments to look for money from other areas, such as farming, which would wipe out habitats and decimate lion populations further.

It's a complex issue, but one thing is clear: African lions are in serious trouble and they need our help.