On October 20, Director of US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) Dan Ashe announced the decision regulating the import of sport-hunted lion trophies under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) from South Africa. The United States will not allow the import of lion trophies taken from captive lion populations in South Africa. However, wild and wild-managed lions from South Africa will receive import permits.
Safari Club International and the hunting community has been waiting for a decision on which range nations would be approved to import lion hunting trophies to the United States since USFWS listed the African lion under the ESA in December 2015.
As for other lion-range countries, Ashe says USFWS is still reviewing permit applications for those areas. The four African nations, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, will only receive permits to import sport hunted lion trophies if USFWS receives sufficient evidence of the long term benefits to their wild lion populations.
USFWS along with CITES has recognized the importance hunting plays in conservation. Ashe stated USFWS determined, “that sport hunting of wild and wild-managed lions does contribute to the long-term conservation of the species in South Africa,” and continued to explain that, “lions are not in trouble because of responsible sport hunting.” This conclusion is a blow to the anti-hunting rhetoric put forward by organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States and International Fund for Animal Welfare. The USFWS's conclusion contradicts the assertions made by these anti-hunting organizations. The on the ground facts and the science simply did not support their position.
Not only does hunting enhance the survival of many species but also enhances the communities that support hunting on their land. Communities benefit from trophy hunting through hunting concession payments or other hunter investments, which typically support improved community services like water infrastructure, schools and health clinics; gaining jobs as guides, game guards, wildlife managers and other hunting-related employment; and gaining access to meat.
SCI will continue to work with wildlife authority agencies, in conjunction with professional hunting associations, to provide a clear link between the hunting of lions and the enhancement of the species. Scientific principles, not the emotionalism of anti-hunters, should provide the foundation for the management of wildlife and habitat.
Read Dan Ashe’s announcement on the Huffington Post here.