Maloney: Feds should classify African lions as threatened species, limit importation of hunting trophies

Jul 30, 2015
Press Release
Cecil the lion tragedy spotlights need to protect population, which has declined by 40 percent in two decades

WASHINGTON – In the wake of the tragic shooting of Cecil the lion by a Minnesota dentist, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) is calling for the federal government to do more to protect African lions. The Congresswoman today joined House Natural Resources Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Congressional Animal Protection Caucus Co-chair Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), and 47 other members of the House in asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list African lions as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. The agency proposed the listing more than a year ago and is now facing pressure to finalize its decision, which would limit the importation of African lion hunting trophies to the United States.

“It’s hard to imagine a world without lions, but that’s what we’ll get if we do nothing,” said Maloney. “The population has declined by more than 40 percent in the past two decades, yet the United States is the largest source of game hunters traveling abroad and paying top dollar to shoot these majestic animals. The outrageous killing of Cecil the lion is just the latest example for why Fish and Wildlife Service should act immediately to add African lions to the Endangered Species Act threatened species list.”

Maloney joined a bipartisan group of 44 lawmakers last year in a letter to Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in support of protecting the African lion under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Researchers have pointed out that Cecil’s death puts the lives of his estimated two dozen cubs at risk.

The text of the letter Maloney signed to the Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell follows:

July 30, 2015

The Honorable Sally Jewell
Secretary of the Interior
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Secretary Jewell,

We urge you to finalize the proposed rule listing the African lion as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Along with countless Americans, we are outraged to learn that a trophy hunter from the United States shot and killed an iconic African lion (“Cecil”) after using bait to lure him out of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. In the wake of this tragic event it is now more imperative than ever that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service immediately finalize its proposed rule to list African lions as threatened. As a conservation leader, the United States must send a clear message that we will not tolerate hunts in countries without a sustainable, science-based lion management plan, or in circumstances that do not benefit the conservation of the species.

Giving African lions the ESA protection they deserve will improve conservation of the species in several ways. First, it would outlaw the trade of African lions or lion parts by people subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, except under limited circumstances. Second, it would require the Fish and Wildlife Service to certify that sport-hunted lion trophies could only be imported into the United States from countries with sound conservation plans that enhance the survival of the species in the wild. Third, it would make the African lion eligible for funding for conservation and recovery efforts under the ESA.

Walter James Palmer, a Minnesota dentist who was previously sanctioned for false statements about the poaching of a black bear, shot Cecil with a crossbow after paying local guides $50,000 to lure the lion out of protected parkland by dragging a dead animal behind a car. The bow shot did not kill Cecil, and Mr. Palmer and his guides tracked the lion for 40 hours before ultimately killing him with a gun, beheading, and skinning him. Cecil was a well-known and beloved lion, and wore a GPS collar as part of an Oxford University study. His outrageous slaughter was therefore quickly noticed and widely reported.

The actions of Walter James Palmer are a good reminder of the perils the African lion faces. The number of African lions has declined by almost 50 percent in the past three decades, with fewer than 40,000 individuals existing today. Moreover, the African lion occupies only 22 percent of its historic range. The best available science supports a listing of threatened for the African lion as the species is facing extinction throughout a significant portion of its range. We urge the Service to expeditiously finalize the proposed rule to provide necessary protections to lions and save this iconic species from extinction.

CC:

Daniel M. Ashe, Director
Fish and Wildlife Service
U.S. Department of the Interior
1849 C Street NW, Room 3331
Washington, DC 20240-0001