Changing Planet

Roar of Support to Protect Remaining African Lions

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), along with a coalition of wildlife groups, has petitioned to list the African lion ((Panthera leo leo) under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). Listing the species as Endangered would prohibit lion trophy importation into the U.S., an essential step to reversing the current decline of the population, according to IFAW. The African lion is the only big cat not protected under the ESA.

By Jeff Flocken, North American Regional Director, International Fund for Animal Welfare

The population of African lions is severely imperiled, and Americans are contributing to the problem.

Stopping unsustainable trophy hunting is the single biggest influence that Americans can have on disappearing African lions.  The U.S. is responsible for importing over half of all lions brought home by trophy hunters each year—an issue that is exacerbating the already rapid decline of the species.

Now, as few as 32,000 African lions are estimated to be left in the wild. There has already been a more than a 50 percent decline in the population in the past 30 years. How many more dismal statistics do we have to see to recognize that the species is in dire straits? [Lion Numbers Plunge as African Wilderness Succumbs to Human Pressure.]

To combat further unnecessary bloodshed of an imperiled species, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), along with a coalition of wildlife groups, petitioned the U.S. government to list African lions under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). Listing the African lion as Endangered would generally prohibit lion trophy importation into the U.S., an important step to reversing the current decline of the population and the most direct way we as Americans can help protect them.

The African lion is the only big cat not protected under the ESA. The U.S. government determined further consideration of the listing is warranted and the majority of Americans believe this species deserves protection. A recent Synovate eNation poll found that 90 percent of Americans believe the U.S. government should take action to prevent trophy hunting of African lions endangered with extinction, and 83 percent think that the U.S. government should support international efforts to end the commercial trade of lion products.

With the help and support of the American public, we can ensure an Endangered listing under the ESA, which will provide a necessary protective measure for imperiled African lions. Understand that we all have an important role in determining the fate of the species. Answer the roar of the lion. Go to . Give this magnificent creature the opportunity to roam the African plains and remain a symbol of courage for years to come.

Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media. David Braun edits the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn
  • Jill Robinson

    Gun happy Americans are all for trophy hunting and killing of other human beings. Ban all guns in America. Change your Amendment. LEAVE African animals alone – stay on your own turf and kill off whatever is left. The world is sick and tired of Americans assuming they can take what is not theirs.

  • Carolyn Martin

    I heartily concur with Jill obinson…. the Americans have ruined everything in their own country including their native animals and the Native Indian …… ill treat animals…. and you are arrogant enough to think you can just say they are not endangered and serve up their meat as well. You are disgusting specimens and the world is sick of you all.

  • Kelly Savery

    While I agree with the fact that there are human beings that are sick, demented and cruel…and that WE have so damaged our planet with selfishness and greed that it just might be too late to recover…I beg you NOT to point fingers and give such blanket statements the “Americans” are all like this! I was born here…not by choice, and I do love this country for all it’s beautiful things…but I am also a conservationist, environmentalist and great lover and supporter of all living things! Dear “Jill Robinson” We are not all gun-happy…I’m not…and I have NEVER assumed anything…please don’t paint with such a broad brush…Canadians also own a LOT of guns and do a LOT of hunting…it’s EVERYONE’S fault, as human beings, not so much as where they are geographically located…I understand how you feel, but not everyone here is evil. Just reading your comment which was written with such passion, I’d bet we could actually be friends because I feel the way you do about the animals!

  • Don B

    Your plan to stop importation of lion trophies into the USA is misguided. I just returned from almost a month in Africa, including 2 weeks in Zimbabwe, spoke to dozens of persons involved including wildlife biologists and farm managers.

    The management, including the breeding and care, of the lion population is largely driven by American hunters. The expenses involved in a lion hunt range from US$8000 to upwards of $50000 per lion. This of course makes the lion a very valuable resource to everyone involved.

    Without this valuation, the wild lions will be mercilessly slaughtered as pests. There will be far less funding available to officials to curb poaching.

    In RSA, those currently being raised for release will either be killed immediately, tossed away as a needless expense with few prospects for return on a breeders investment (who aside from an occasional zoo would purchase a lion if not for breeding a huntable population), or released into the wild where they will be killed to protect humans and livestock from their predation. Any of you willing to invest $25,000 to save one if and when this occurs?

    The regulated hunting of lions, whether bred in captivity for release or in the wild, funds over 80% of the costs associated with preserving their numbers. Permits are very expensive and hard to come by. As an example consider Kenya’s ban on elephant hunting. In the early 1970’s, the estimated population was over 150,000 elephants. Today it is 20,000.

    Why would you want to do the same thing to lions?

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