US Fish & Wildlife Service Say African Lions May be Extinct by 2050

The kings of the jungle may soon be just another part of history if no protection will be given to them, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Dan Ashe, director of the office, said that the Panthera leo, commonly known as African Lion, is in danger of facing extinction by 2050 if no urgent action is taken. "It is up to all of us, not just the people of Africa, to ensure that healthy, wild populations continue to roam the savannah for generations to come," he said

The service proposed to categorize the lions as "threatened" on the Endangered Species Act. The listing is a step below endangered.

With the listing,  the selling of products related to hunting of lions in the U.S without prior permit will be a criminal activity. All forms of trafficking, including import, export, interstate commerce, commercial activity, and foreign commerce, of the lion will be prohibited. And it will also allow the U.S. government to provide assistance and training for conservation efforts of the species.

According to the service, the total population of African lions has declined in the last three decades to just 34,000, from a recorded number 0f 76,000 in 1980. Of the present population, 70 per cent, or 24,000, are confined to just 10 stronghold regions of Africa. Among the prime threats to the lions' existence are human conflict, less prey availability, and habitat loss. 

The Endangered Species Act provides financial aid to conserve, and heightens the awareness of listed species. The proposal follows a petition filed by a coalition of organizations in 2011. .

According to Scientific American, the proposal to protect lions came in response to a 2011 petition from five conservation groups, who said that "hunting occurs in 16 of the 20 countries in which lions remain and that the number of lion trophies imported back into the U.S. by American hunters doubled between 1999 and 2008."

However, FWS said that sports hunting does not contribute to lions being endangered, especially when revenues from these hunts support lion conservation efforts.

Although Endangered Species Act protection would not block American hunters from traveling to Africa to hunt lions, the proposal will establish a new permitting process that would require any hunters importing lion trophies back to the U.S. to apply for and receive a permit first. According to Ashe, the permit will only be granted if "the lion were taken from a scientifically proven hunting program that actually helps lion populations and if the number of lions taken by hunters is sustainable."

The proposal to list lions as threatened will be published in the Federal Register on October 29.

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