CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, is an international treaty that regulates trade in wildlife. Two weeks ago, we started a “CITES Issues” blog series that will provide insight into specific issues that will be addressed at the upcoming CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP) and are of importance to Safari Club International and SCI Foundation. This week’s article focuses on what will be one of the more divisive topics at the CoP: African lions.
Several West African countries have proposed to transfer all African lion populations from CITES Appendix II to Appendix I, which would impose additional requirements for the importation of all African lions, including hunting trophies. (For a refresher on the differences between Appendix I and Appendix II, read this Q&A list.) While it technically would be possible to export/import hunting trophies of African lions listed on Appendix I, many countries will implement national regulations or policies that prohibit their importation or exportation if the proposal is adopted.
This issue is neither new nor a surprise. In 2011, Namibia and Kenya volunteered to review the status of the lion within an existing CITES process. After three years of consultations with range states and review of information, Namibia and Kenya completed the review and recommended that CITES retain the lion on Appendix II. However, at the same time, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced it would publish a renewed Red List assessment of African lion in late 2015. Kenya and Namibia were asked to review and incorporate the new IUCN information into the status review and revise their recommendation, if necessary. So far, they have not been able to finalize a report or come to an agreement on a recommendation. Namibia and Kenya’s inability to reach an agreement illustrates how contentious this issue will be at the CoP.
Why Hunters Should Care
Hunters should care for three main reasons. First, if lions are listed in Appendix I, importation of lion hunting trophies would be significantly harder, if not impossible, for hunters across the world. For many, it would effectively end lion importation. Second, and more importantly, sustainable-use programs that benefit from lion hunting will suffer. Without the ability to import, many hunters will not hunt lions and the value of the species will decline. If lions are listed in Appendix I, critical conservation funding will be reduced in much of southern and eastern Africa. Third, lands currently used for hunting areas will likely be converted to other land uses, such as agriculture, because hunting will no longer be a viable form of land use in many areas.
SCI and SCI Foundation’s Position
SCI and SCI Foundation believe that lions should remain on Appendix II and will advocate against the proposal. An Appendix I listing for lions is not warranted because none of the three basic listing criteria for Appendix I are met (see Resolution Conf. 9.24, Annex I): (1) the wild population is not small; (2) the species does not have a restricted area of distribution; and (3) the species has not experienced a marked decline of 50% or more in the last three generations.
Adoption of an Appendix I listing for lions will not address threats to lion populations. The only practical effect of an Appendix I listing will be to end the shipment of lion hunting trophies, but it will not help alleviate the primary threats to lion conservation, habitat loss and retaliatory killings.
For more information about a possible Appendix I listing for lions, read SCI and SCI Foundation’s Q&A list, published in April 2016. For more information about SCI’s historic involvement in CITES, read an article written by John R. Monson, co-chair of SCI’s CITES Committee, that will be published in the upcoming July 2016 edition of Safari Times. And, as always, stay tuned to the First for Hunters blog and Crosshairs for future CITES-related articles, including the next edition of our CITES Issues series.