Disturbing Duke University report shows African lions need our help now more than ever

African lion at home in his natural habitatThe king of the jungle is fighting for his life.

The African lion which once proudly roamed through the continent’s thriving savannahs has now fallen victim to numerous threats: habitat destruction and fragmentation, loss of traditional prey species, disease, conflict with humans, and unsustainable trophy hunting and trade in lion parts.

Faced with these mounting threats, populations of the majestic species have been dwindling for years. And now, a new report released today in the journal “Biodiversity and Conservation” provides us with the most comprehensive assessment of lion numbers to date.

Researchers at the Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment found that the number of African lions has dropped to as low as 32,000, down from nearly 100,000 just 50 years ago.  

These numbers are shockingly disturbing. And they only reinforce the fact that we need to give the species’ population a chance to recover.

Protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) would afford them the opportunity to bounce back from one threat: unsustainable trophy hunting.

A listing would put strict controls on the import of lion "trophies" by Americans, and would ban the commercial trade of lion parts in the U.S. African lions are currently the only big cat not protected under the ESA.

Just last week, the U.S. government responded to a petition filed by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and a coalition of wildlife groups in March of 2011, seeking to list the African lion as endangered under the ESA. The government indicated that a listing may be warranted.

Before making a final decision however, the U.S. government wants to hear from you. We are now in the thick of a short 60-day public comment period, where individuals and organizations are allowed to show their support for listing the lion as endangered.

As the world’s largest importer of African lion trophies and parts, the U.S. is a big part of the trade problem.

Now it’s time for us to be a big part of the solution. Listing the African lion as endangered would be a significant step in ensuring this iconic and magnificent species has a fighting chance for survival.

To read more about the new report on African lion populations, which was partially funded by the National Geographic Big Cat Initiative, click here..

The king of the jungle deserves a fighting chance.

--JF

Take action now, submit a public comment by clicking here.

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