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Five months after Cecil’s death: US wants to improve protection of lions

FOUR PAWS welcomes stricter rules for trophy imports


BOSTON, MA / DECEMBER 21 2015 - FOUR PAWS, the international animal welfare organization, welcomes the current decision of the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to tighten the regulations for the import of African lion trophies. The agency made an official announce Monday that would highlight a move pushing lions in South and East Africa up to the threatened classification under the US Endangered Species Act thus offering the species more legal protections.


After public outcry in regards to the killing of Zimbabwe’s famous lion, Cecil, the USFWS has come under increased pressure from conservation groups. Finally, years of working towards stronger regulations to protecting lions could prove fruitful with the addition of Africa lions to the list of protected species. This move would make it considerably more difficult to import hunting trophies (mounted heads, skins, bones, etc) to the US.


The lion populations in Central and West Africa will be listed as endangered by the US; the import of hunting trophies should be possible only in individual cases. The populations in East- and Southern Africa, in countries like Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa – popular with US hunters – are listed as threatened. For these countries, trophies should be allowed for import only with prior approval of the US authorities. In addition, those countries are asked to organize trophy hunting so that it contributes to the protection of species. The new regulations will come into effect on January 22, 2016.


“Especially from a species protection perspective, the initiative of the United States is very welcome, as the highly endangered lion populations in West and Central Africa will benefit particularly”, says Claire LaFrance, Head of Communications from FOUR PAWS. “However, the benefit to other populations – especially in those countries favored by US hunters – is not yet clear. US authorities should apply particularly strict criteria to import licenses for trophies, as hunting lions for sport is a blood-stained hobby for the privileged, and contributes nothing to the protection of species”, clarifies Ms. LaFrance.


The IUCN estimated that lion populations in Africa fell by over 60% between 1993 and 2014, and that lions must now live on a mere 8% of their historic dispersal area. Alongside the loss of habitat and prey, and conflict with humans, trophy hunting represents a significant threat to lions. But the trade in lion products from animals both in the wild and bred in captivity is increasing rapidly. As the country with more trophy hunters than any other, the USA must send a clear signal.

Like Australia, France has recently placed a blanket ban on the import of lion trophies, and the UK has threatened to do so in 2017 if the countries of origin in Africa do not do enough to maintain and protect their lion populations. And now the USA is tightening the reins. “It’s time for European countries like Germany, France and Spain to finally aim for import bans on all lion trophies, and to push for this at the EU level,” Ms. LaFrance explained. She continued, “These restrictions should not only cover wild lions, but also those bred in captivity, which in South Africa are gunned down in their thousands for so-called ‘canned hunting’. In view of the upcoming CITES conference in Johannesburg – where the status of lions may well be a theme – a clear position on the protection of lions is long overdue.”


FOUR PAWS has been involved in protecting captive lions for decades. Most recently, the #RealTrophy campaign has mobilized the public to post thousands of their own photos of what they consider trophies (as oppose to lions). The campaign intends to present the photos and a petition to the South African government 2016 demanding an end to the legal breeding of lions on lion farms for the purpose of hunting.


 In South Africa, there are more than 6,000 lions in 200 breeding farms awaiting the gruesome fate of a canned hunt – a 50 percent increase compared to the number of captive lions in 2010. The hunters mainly come from the United States and European countries. Anyone can go and hunt lions in South Africa – a hunting license or proven hunting experience isn’t usually necessary. This means that many lions aren’t killed by the first shot, which results in them experiencing a slow and agonizing death. Many hunting associations across the globe condemn Canned Lion Hunting as unethical. 


You can find the USFWS official announcement here

For more on FOUR PAWS work with lions, visit the website here.

For more information on the #RealTrophy campaign, visit the website