African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) is calling on African governments to place a moratorium on the trophy hunting of lions in Africa.
The call comes in the wake of the tragedy surrounding Cecil the lion, one of Zimbabwe’s most famous lions, who was reportedly lured out of Hwange National Park with bait, shot with a crossbow then tracked for some 40 hours before being killed with a firearm. The lion was then reportedly skinned and its head, removed, to provide a trophy for the hunter, an American.
“Given the dramatic decline of Africa’s lion population, we cannot support any human activities that contribute to lion mortalities, and that includes sport hunting,” said Dr. Philip Muruthi, vice president for species protection with the African Wildlife Foundation. “We have reached that point where every individual counts. What the situation with Cecil the lion tells us is that even when a hunter believes he or she is participating in a legal hunt, that might not always be the case. That hunter, in fact, may be unwittingly contributing to the extinction of the species.”
AWF also urges the U.S. government to make a decision on its proposal to list the African lion as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act and to further consider an “endangered” listing for the lion. A “threatened” listing under the Endangered Species Act would more strictly regulate the import of hunting trophies from abroad, while an “endangered” listing would ban the import of all hunting trophies.
The African lion is an iconic fixture on the African savanna and plays an important role in the functioning of the ecosystem. Its numbers, however, are declining rapidly across its range as a result of habitat loss, human–lion conflict, disease, unsustainable hunting and a decline in its prey base. At the turn of the 20th century, between 500,000 and 600,000 lions roamed the African continent. Now, that number is said to be no more than 30,000. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (or IUCN), the lion’s total population has declined by 42 percent in the past 21 years.
AWF works to conserve viable and ecologically functional populations of lions in their natural environments. This is done by working with wildlife authorities to strengthen protection and management of parks and reserves where lions live, and also by working with local communities beyond park boundaries to create safe wildlife corridors and dispersal areas for lions and other species. From Tanzania’s Ruaha and Tarangire–Manyara regions to Kenya’s Masai Mara and Samburu regions, we are supporting the protection of many of the continent’s critical lion populations through conflict mitigation, establishment of corridors, and raising awareness of the plight of the lion.