Photo credit: darrenlewis1984/Creative Commons
The African lion, "king of the jungle," has declined by over 90 percent in the past 50 years. Still, though the population has dropped from 450,000 lions to between 20,000 and 40,000 in that time span, the species is still only classified as "vulnerable" by the IUCN.
Threatened by habitat loss, prey depletion, and human-wildlife conflict, the status of lions in Africa is tenuous even if they are not technically considered endangered. Now, a movement is growing in the United States to add them to the national Endangered Species List—a move that would ban the importation of lion parts and, advocates say, discourage American citizens from trophy hunting in Africa.Jeff Flocken, office director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, explained:
The king of the jungle is heading toward extinction, and yet Americans continue to kill lions for sport...our nation is responsible for importing over half of all lions brought home by trophy hunters each year. The African lion is in real trouble and it is time for this senseless killing and unsustainable practice to stop.
Between 1998 and 2008, 4,000 lion trophies were imported into the United States—and this number is on the rise. The real issue with trophy hunting, however, is the impact it has on lion cohorts.
When a dominant male is removed from a pride, other male lions move in. When they do, they kill the pride's cubs and even some adult females. Research has shown that the loss of one male lion leads, on average, to the deaths of 24 other lions.
"The US government must recognize that African lions are in danger of extinction throughout a significant portion of their range," said Bob Irvin, senior vice president for conservation programs at the Defenders of Wildlife, and also "acknowledge our nation's significant role in the lion's fate."
Adding a name to the Endangered Species List, however, is not a simple proposition. The process can take as long as two years—if no major obstacles block the way.
Read more about the Endangered Species List:
Life on the Endangered Species Waiting List
Endangered Species List is Itself Endangered
Obama Protecting Fewer Endangered Species than Bush
Read more about lions:
Restaurant Offers Lion Burgers. They're Grrrrross!
Zoo Sells Lions to African Trophy Hunting Park
Swimming with a Lion in South Africa