Last week, Director of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Dan Ashe, announced new regulations for the importation of lion trophies into the United States under the Endangered Species Act. The new regulations allow for the importation of wild or wild-managed lion trophies from South Africa – home to many wild lion populations. The regulations do not allow for import permits for trophies taken from captive lion populations in South Africa.
In December 2015, the USFWS listed the African lion under the Endangered Species Act, effectively banning the importation of lion trophies into the U.S. Last week’s decision to allow lion trophy importation from South Africa is a reversal from the hardline decision that was certain to undermine conservation efforts for lions by defunding the model of conservation.
“In the past, the USFWS has gone against its own proven conservation polices and succumbed to pressures from anti-hunting groups,” said DSC Executive Director Ben Carter. “Hunting is an integral cog in the machine of conservation. While small, DSC feels this decision is a step in the right direction. We hope this is not just rhetorical and that the USFWS follows through and actually issues import permits.”
The USFWS will allow lion trophy importation if, “exporting nations like South Africa must provide clear evidence showing a demonstrable conservation benefit to the long-term survival of the species in the wild.” Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe are being considered by the USFWS for issuance of import permits once management plans have been approved and implemented.
Hunting has proven time and time again to benefit species as a whole. Africa’s conservation efforts are partially funded through revenues generated from hunters. Sustainable use is a proven conservation model that also benefits local economies and societies. Although demonized by anti-hunting groups, hunting that adheres to proven management decisions provides subsidies for conservation and gives local communities an incentive to protect animals instead of eradicating them.
In last week’s announcement, Ashe notes that, “Under certain conditions, scientifically sound conservation programs that include sport hunting of wild lions can significantly contribute to the long-term survival of lions. U.S. hunters – the vast majority of whom strongly support ethical, sustainable game management – make up a disproportionately large share of foreign hunters who book trophy hunts in Africa. Their participation in well-managed hunting programs can help advance the conservation benefits provided by such programs.”
Ashe also points out the fact that well-managed hunting does not pose a risk to sustaining lion populations, “…it’s important to understand that lions are not in trouble because of responsible sport hunting,” Ashe said.