The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Monday that it would grant their protection to two subspecies of the African lion.
The decision, backed by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), has been in the works for an estimated four years now. Since the death of Cecil the lion the attention to the issue became notably higher.
Because of the significant rise in interest, a subspecies of lion in western and central Africa and parts of India will receive ‘endangered’ status under the ESA. The second subspecies, found in eastern and southern Africa, will be appointed ‘threatened’.
“That’s why we, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, are extending the protections of the Endangered Species Act to lions,” said Fish and Wildlife director Dan Ashe in a public announcement. “We’re doing everything possible under this law to help range countries protect their lion populations and to improve the effectiveness and sustainability of their conservation programs.”
The new protections will be powerful enough to hurt the sport hunting industry. Until hunters can prove that killing a lion is a good thing for lion conservation, the Fish and Wildlife Service will prohibit the importing of trophies.
The trophy hunting industry has always been a controversial matter, but it wasn’t until Cecil’s death that the subject gained momentum. Still, the industry defends itself by stating that the sums of money accounted for the hunts are used to conserve and protect vast amounts of land that could later be transformed for agricultural matters.
In addition, there are other contributing factors that lessen the amount of wild lions that should be taken into notice. Farmers killing lions to protect their livestock, poaching, loss of habitat and the decrease in prey are major contributors to the population’s decline.
By considering these issues and elevating healthy conservation rituals, anti-poaching strategies and other forms of outreach conservationists could help keep lions around for much longer than anticipated.