U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services Director Dan Ashe announced the agency’s decision on the importation of South African lion trophies.
Dan Ashe, Director for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, announced that the agency has come to a decision on importing lion trophies from South Africa. The USFWS will not allow the importation of trophies that have been harvested from captive lion populations. They will, however, allow wild lions or wild managed lions.
Safari Club International and U.S. big game hunters who travel abroad have been waiting on this decision for almost a year—since December of 2015, to be exact, when the USFWS listed African lions under the Endangered Species Act.
The inclusion of lions on the ESA list gave special mention to captive-bred lions raised primarily for hunting. At the time of the ESA listing, they indicated:
We do not believe that the captive-lion industry currently … reduces, or removes threats to the species. While it is argued that South Africa’s captive-bred lion industry may reduce pressures of trophy hunting on wild South African populations, there is no substantial or peer-reviewed science to support such a claim. Likewise, there is no record or evidence to support claims that the captive-bred lion industry is supporting reintroduction into the wild in any significant way.
Thus, import permits for captive-bred lion trophies were largely unavailable. That is a condition which the USFWS has made plans to maintain, until such time that research can adequately show the efficacy of captive-bred lions as a contributing force for the conservation of wild lion populations.
However, the real boon to hunters and to South African countries that allow wild lion hunting is that the import of wild lion trophies will be allowed. The USFWS recognizes, along with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), that trophy hunting of wild lions does indeed have a positive impact on the sustainability and conservation of wild lion populations.
“Scientifically sound conservation programs that include sport hunting of wild lions can significantly contribute to the long-term survival of lions.”
Four African nations (Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) have applied for permits to export lion trophies, as they feel that their conservation programs meet the USFWS criteria.
“This conclusion is a blow to the anti-hunting rhetoric put forward by organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States and International Fund for Animal Welfare. The USFWS’s conclusion contradicts the assertions made by these anti-hunting organizations. The on-the-ground facts and the science simply did not support their position.”
Ashe reiterated the USFWS stance on the issue: “Let me be clear : We cannot and will not allow trophies into the United States from any nation whose lion conservation program fails to meet key criteria for transparency, scientific management and effectiveness.”
“But it’s important to understand that lions are not in trouble because of responsible sport hunting,” he said.
This is, of course, something that hunters have known and have been saying all along. Sport hunting helps not only wildlife, but also the communities that live in concert with wild game. The economies of those countries, alongside individuals who rely on the hunting industry, benefit, as does wildlife.
That is truly the only way that wildlife conservation can work: by benefiting both people and animals together. USFWS appears to recognize this and rejects the myopic claims of the anti-hunting community.
“We [USFWS] have determined that sport hunting of wild and wild-managed lions does contribute to the long-term conservation of the species in South Africa, thanks to the effective management program overseen by South Africa’s Ministry of Environmental Affairs,” Ashe declared.
“As a result, we will allow the import of lion trophies taken with the authorization of the South African government from wild or wild-managed populations.”
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