Lion trophies will be more difficult to import into the U.S. now.
Two lion subspecies from India and west-central Africa are being added to the endangered species list, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is set to announce.
The Washington Post reports the news comes five years after petitioners that include the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Humane Society requested it. The news comes about half a year after Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer famously shot a lion known as Cecil outside Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.
Palmer was subjected to world-wide hatred and went into hiding for months before finally returning to work. He’s been in and out of the headlines ever since as two alleged hunting violations have popped up.
Officials are stopping short of saying the Cecil incident had any bearing on the ruling. But Animal Welfare Fund regional director Jeff Flocken told the post: “It would be impossible to ignore the public outcry.”
The Post reports the decision is likely the result of population studies released by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which indicated lion populations have declined 60 percent in the last 20 years and that there may be fewer than 20,000 left in Africa. The ruling means eastern and southern populations of lions in Africa will be listed as threatened. But populations in north, west and central Africa will now be listed as endangered.
So what does this mean for hunters? Well, one can still go on a lion hunt. The designation doesn’t prevent hunting of lions in countries that allow it, and it won’t be illegal to bring back a lion trophy, but the new designation will make that part more difficult. An import permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will now be required to bring a lion into the U.S.
Acquiring the permit to begin with will be more difficult according to the Post. The Humane Society’s director of wildlife, Teresa Telecky said hunters will have “to demonstrate that the hunting and the trophy enhance survival of the species.”
While trophy hunting was a big factor in determining the decline of lions in Africa, it apparently wasn’t the only one. Telecky cited other contributing factors including habitat loss and the lion bone trade in Asia.