Lions Have a New Guardian: The U.S. Government

Photo Courtesy of Luke Dollar

“The lion is one of the planet’s most beloved species and an irreplaceable part of our shared global heritage. If we want to ensure that healthy lion populations continue to roam the African savannas and forests of India, it’s up to all of us – not just the people of Africa and India – to take action,”- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced this week that it will be placing the lion on the list of species protected by the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). Lions, which now occur only in two dozen African countries, as well as in India, exist in less than ten percent of their historic range. A 2012 scientific paper by Duke University researchers and funded by National Geographic notes that lion population numbers had shrunk by seventy five percent in the preceding half century. Recently, another paper asserts that lions may decline by an additional fifty percent over the next two decades. Threats to lions’ survival in the wild include habitat conversion, conflict with humans over livestock, use of lion parts in traditional Asian medicine, insensitive infrastructure projects, and unsustainable trophy hunting. With these and additional data in mind, the U.S. government has taken a strong stand for lion conservation by listing them under the ESA, which will likely have both practical and symbolic ramifications.

Protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act and subsequent regulation by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is among the most powerful actions the U.S. government can take toward species conservation. The ESA, first signed in to law in 1973 by President Nixon, is designed “to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend,” whether or not those species occur —> Read More