The lion sleeps tonight–and so should you. List the lion!

It’s a safe bet that when President Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act in 1973, African lions weren’t anywhere on his radar. “Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed,” he wrote in his signing statement on December 28th. “It is a many-faceted treasure…”

Thirty-seven years later in 2011, a coalition led by the International Fund for Animal Welfare petitioned the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to list Panthera leo leo under our nation’s ESA (find the petition here). It lists the usual culprits–loss of habitat and loss of prey due to human activity–as serious threats to lion survival. Throw in human population growth, the bushmeat trade, civil unrest, and desertification, and the King of the Jungle is hurting. Lions have disappeared from 78% of their historic range–which was most of Africa with a few exceptions–very dry deserts and very wet forests.

But why should a foreign species be listed under America’s Endangered Species Act? Because the U.S. is the largest importer of lions and their parts, and “American hunters pose a major threat to a species that is already in serious decline”:

Trophy hunting is an abhorrent pursuit, depriving an individual of his or her life merely for an ego-massaging taxidermy mount and bragging rights. But here’s the added rub–a trophy hunter doesn’t selfishly snuff out just one life:

Hunting is “good” for African lions

The Great White Hunter, 1909 (Wikimedia Commons)

Would it surprise you to learn that Safari Club International (SCI) claims that hunting is good for Africa’s lions? Didn’t think so. Click here for a lion “preview” page from SCI’s online record book. Be sure to scroll down for the photos of the gloating Great White Hunters with their conquests–one guy is even giving the “thumbs up” over his dead beast.

SCI 2011 convention – Wikimedia Commons

Matthew Scully, in his excellent 2002 book, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy, devotes an entire chapter (“The Shooting Field”) to SCI. An international organization with 50,000 members and 180 local chapters (according to Wikipedia), SCI maintains record books and award levels. “By the time you have attained all…awards in all categories…you will have extinguished the minimum-required 322 animals,” (Dominion 57). Scully goes on to debunk SCI’s claims that trophy hunting is an altruistic pursuit, supposedly benefiting African villagers and local economies.

Your call to action: January 28, 2013 deadline

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has issued a preliminary finding that endangered species listing may be warranted for the African lion. Public comments to be included in the status review are being accepted until the end of Monday, January 28, 2013. If you haven’t weighed in yet (I personally was asleep at the switch; many of you reading probably commented weeks ago), time is running out.

Click here if you want to review the documents related to the African lion proposal.
Click here to submit your comment.

Don’t overthink this–the message need not be a lengthy, researched tome. The Scientific American article is a good information source; advocacy facts are available from most animal conservation groups–here are some from Born Free USA. Five-ten minutes of our time for the survival of the African lion and you–and I–will sleep better tonight. That’s only fitting, knowing that–at least while he (and she) still roams the earth—The Lion Sleeps Tonight.

Comment on this post at animal law blog Animal Blawg.

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