The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director Dan Ashe warned Monday that the African lion faces the threat of extinction by 2050. Ashe proposed that the African lion, called Panthera leo leo, should be given protection under the Endangered Species Act. He called for listing the big cat as “threatened,” one level below endangered.
Why is the population of African lion dwindling?
The listing will allow the U.S. government to provide assistance and training for conservation efforts. It will also bar trafficking of the species. The total population of African lions has declined over 50% in the last three decades to just 34,000. The actual story is even more alarming because about 70% of them, or 24,000, are confined to just 10 stronghold regions of Africa. The species in other parts such as West Africa has been almost wiped out.
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Their population is dwindling due to three main reasons: human-lion conflict, loss of habitat and loss of their prey base. The human population is growing at an explosive rate in sub-Saharan Africa, and is expected to double by 2050. As a result, human settlements and farming activities have expanded to the African lion’s habitat. In the process, more livestock are put near the big cats. As hunters kill the animals the lions feed upon, the hungry lions attack livestock. In retaliation, hunters kill the lions.
What the Endangered Species Act means for the African lion
Listing them under the Endangered Species Act will “strengthen enforcement and monitoring of imports and international trade. The Fish and Wildlife Service has also proposed a rule that will set up permits for import of sport-hunted lion trophies. Ashe said sport-hunting isn’t a threat to the African lion.
The Endangered Species Act provides financial aid to conserve, and heightens the awareness of listed species. It also prohibits the export, import, interstate commerce, and commercial activity. The proposal follows a petition filed by a coalition of organizations in 2011. The Fish and Wildlife Service will seek public opinion on its proposal for 90 days.