“Last fall, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it is considering a petition to list the African lion as ‘endangered’ under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) after a petition was filed by animal rights and anti-hunting organizations.” Wait. What? As far as I know there aren’t any African lions roaming around the U.S.. So why would the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service get involved in Africa’s, uh, anything? You’re not alone in asking that question (or having me ask it for you). The service’s website has an FAQ on that very point . . .
What activities does the ESA prohibit?
Except by regulation or permit issued for specific purposes consistent with the ESA, it is unlawful for any person subject to the jurisdiction of the U.S. to:
- Import into and export from the U.S. listed species.
- Take—which includes harassing, harming, pursuing, hunting, shooting, wounding, killing, trapping, capturing, collecting, or to attempting any of these—of listed species within the U.S., its territorial waters, or on the high seas.
- Possess, sell, deliver, carry, transport, or ship listed species taken in violation of the ESA.
- Sell or offer for sale in interstate or foreign commerce; or deliver, receive carry, transport, or ship listed species in interstate or foreign commerce in the course of commercial activity.
Seems clear. Don’t do it here, mate. But the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation (whose quote started this post) is anti-lion listing. They insist that putting Africa “would be significantly and negatively impacted by the loss of revenue generated by Americans.” What’s more . . .
“American hunters play the key role in the conservation of African lions, said Evan Heusinkveld, USSAF Director of Government Affairs. “A sustainable use strategy is a model that has worked well for many species across Africa – and continues to work well today.”
Many African countries and local communities do not have the financial resources for lion conservation efforts. American hunters, through sustainable use hunting programs, provide much needed conservation dollars for lion populations. These dollars are vital to preserve lion habits from agricultural expansion and other development and vital to prevent illegal poaching, which are both major threats to African lion populations.
Listing the African lion under the ESA would severely undercut lion conservation efforts.
“This is nothing more than your typical anti-hunting organizations pushing to have the African lion granted unwarranted protections,” said Heusinkveld. “Hunting provides the economic incentive for local communities to protect lion habitats, to refrain from retaliatory killings to protect livestock, and to enforce laws against illegal poaching. This petition is simply a blanket approach that would only serve to hurt thriving lion populations.”
Ranged against the USSAF (so to speak) by supporting the petition to put African lions on the ESA: the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International, the Born Free Foundation/Born Free USA, the Defenders of Wildlife, and the Fund for Animals.
Here’s the thing: listing the African lion on the ESA would not affect African lion hunting per se. The Service’s FAQ tells all.
Does that mean that a U. S. citizen or resident may hunt an endangered species or a threatened species in another country?
The ESA does not prohibit hunting listed species outside of the U.S. In fact, the ESA does not have the authority to do so. While foreign countries determine whether hunting an endangered or threatened species within their boundaries is lawful, the ESA does regulate the importation of such species.
To import a trophy of a listed species, a person is required to obtain an import permit from the Service’s Division of Management Authority. Since the purpose of importing a sport-hunted trophy is for the hunter’s personal use, an import permit may only be issued if the import is for purposes that enhance the propagation or survival of the species. While the Service does not regulate take (i.e., hunting) in foreign countries, the import of listed trophy species may only be shown to enhance the species if it is taken from a well managed and supported conservation hunting program. It should be noted that the Service has only authorized the importation of endangered trophy species under very limited circumstances. In addition, some threatened species may be imported without an import permit if there is a special rule under the ESA that allows such an activity.
In other words, the USSAF figures that its members’ inability to display a lion in their trophy room will curtail their desire to take on The King of Beasts and, thus, negatively impact the cash flowing to Africans. True?