Africa is thought to have once been home to hundreds of thousands of lions living everywhere but the Sahara Desert and the equatorial rainforests. Now there are no more than about 20,000. Over the past two decades alone the lion population has declined by some 43 per cent.
Only in some southern African states has there been a gain, but this is due mainly to the phenomenon of captive lion breeding which feeds a lucrative canned trophy hunting and an equally lucrative market for lion body parts in Southeast Asia.
Habitat loss and human wildlife conflict are certainly the leading causes for lion population declines but as Jeffrey Flocken reports for IFAW, unsustainable trophy hunting has been shown to be exacerbating the rapid decline of lion populations in some areas where hunting continues. Furthermore lions have been the number one most imported captive-bred animal trophy into the United States according to the IFAW report Killing for Trophies.
Trophy hunting’s toll
BY JEFFREY FLOCKEN | THE INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR ANIMAL WELFARE | 10 AUGUST 2016
World Lion Day provides the perfect opportunity for us to celebrate and raise awareness about these beautiful, regal animals and the dangers they are facing. With it being a little more than a year since Cecil the Lion’s tragic and untimely death, people are paying attention to the fact that lions need protection more than ever.
And while the loss of habitat and retaliatory killings are the leading causes for lion population declines, unsustainable trophy hunting has been shown to be exacerbating the rapid decline of lion populations in some areas where hunting continues.
Over the past three decades, lion populations have declined by 60 percent, with as few as 20,000 lions remaining in the wild.
In order to better understand the trophy hunting industry, International Fund for Animal Welfare conducted an analysis of existing trophy hunting import and export data that was compiled over a decade by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
READ: Killing for Trophies
Our research found that an average of 20,000 trophies per year, were traded between countries from 2004 and 2014. And that as many as 1.7 million hunting trophies total (this number includes non-imperiled species, but does not include purely domestic hunts) may have been traded between nations during that same period.
We also found that while demand for animal trophies is prevalent worldwide, the United States accounts for an astounding 71 percent of the import demand, or about 15 times more than the next highest nations on the list.
Lions are the third most imported imperiled taxa into the US (trailing only behind American black bears and Cape baboons) and the fifth most imported imperiled taxa worldwide.
Lions were also the number one most imported captive-bred animal trophy imported into the US during the period studied.
Late last year the US government awarded lions new protections under the ESA (Endangered Species Act), as the direct result of a technical petition filed by IFAW and like-minded organizations like Humane Society International and Born Free.
This decision means that trophy hunters will have to now show that their act of killing enhances the conservation of lions in the wild, and that the country where they took this lion from has a meaningful plan to conserve the species on the ground. With the US driving roughly half the global demand for lion trophies, this change is incredibly important.
It would align with the American public’s feelings on trophy hunting.
A 2011 poll found that 95 percent of Americans are opposed to hunting any species in danger of extinction.
(This poll was conducted four years before the Cecil incident, and we suspect the number would be even higher now given a new awareness of the issue.) This overwhelming opposition crosses geographic, economic, political and racial demographics. Even within those polled that self-identified as “avid hunters” a full 2/3 of those hunters did not support trophy hunting imperiled species either.
Celebrate World Lion Day by helping us protect this majestic animal from vanishing from the wild for good.
Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Photos are available at www.ifawimages.com