What does the Endangered Species Listing Mean for Lions?

Lioness on alert at dawn (Panthera leo), Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

At the end of 2015, the African lion received a very special gift from the U.S. government: the gift of protection. After years of pushing from the national and international public, non-profit groups, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service itself, the king of cats got its place on the Endangered Species Act. But what does that listing actually mean? In this blog we explore what happens when an African species is listed under an American protection act.

By Deirdre Leowinata

A lioness on alert at dawn in the Masai Mara National Reserve. In late 2015, the US government committed to the protection of the African Lion under its Endandered Species Act. But what does that actually mean for these big cats? (Photo courtesy of James Warwick)

In the Chinese zodiac, 2015 was the year of the sheep. However, the illegal hunting of Cecil the lion, the Kenyan Marsh pride poisonings, and other highly publicized lion poaching incidents of 2015 made last year the year of the lion in the media. And as if by magic, a present came at the end of the year in the form of a “Threatened” listing for the African lion on the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The Endangered Species Act of 1973, under the leadership of Richard Nixon, was a defining point in U.S. and global environmental protection. It made incredible leaps over the Endangered Species Conservation Act of 1969 and the original Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966. It not only recognized the value of species for education, research, and recreation, but also included species’ habitats under its umbrella of protection. In the original act, hunting and trading were not regulated at all. In less than 50 years, we have come a very long way in our policies for protecting wildlife. But we —> Read More