US needs to follow Australia’s lead on banning African lion trophy imports

Recently, Australia’s Environment Minister announced a ban on the import of all African lion parts, spurred in part by the especially inhumane practice of “canned” hunting.Recently, Australia’s Environment Minister announced a ban on the import of all African lion parts, spurred in part by the especially inhumane practice of “canned” hunting, whereby lions are reared in captivity and either hunted in enclosures or shot down soon after being released into the wild.

The global community has a responsibility to protect animal life, especially imperiled species such as the African lion. With their initiative, Australia has demonstrated its commitment to protecting these majestic creatures.

The United States, and other countries around the world, should do the same.

African lions are in peril due to a number of threats: habitat loss, conflict with human populations, loss of prey species, and an unsustainable level of trophy hunting. With less than 40,000 African lions left in the wild – half the population from 25 years ago – lions are in serious danger of becoming extinct.

Wealthy American trophy hunters, who kill more than half all African lions hunted for sport globally each year, pay exorbitant amounts of money for the right to kill these big cats and bring back their mounted trophies.

While the recent proposal by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list African lions as ‘threatened’ under the Endangered Species Act would not ban imports, it would remove some incentive by monitoring the import of trophies back into the United States based on being taken in a sustainably managed operation. 

This new scrutiny on African lion trophies coming in to the US—coupled with the recent measure in Australia and newly proposed restrictions on lion trophy imports in the EU—will hopefully dramatically reduce the demand for lion trophies and parts worldwide.

But will it be enough?

If the current trend continues, lions will see their numbers dwindle steadily in years to come, bringing the species ever closer to extinction.

The US must ensure it is part of the effort to thwart the senseless killing of lions before it is too late, and we should look to the strong actions of Australia for where we should be heading.

--JF

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