U.S. Will List African Lion and Will Require Permits for Trophy Importation

lionsonroadblogOn December 21, 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced a final rule to list African lions under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The rule, which was published in the Federal Register on December 23, 2015 lists African lions as two separate subspecies –Panthera leo leo, found in western and central Africa, and Panthera leo melanochaita, found in southern and eastern Africa.  Lions in western and central Africa will be listed as endangered, while southern and eastern Africa lions will be listed as threatened. The rule goes into effect on January 22, 2016.

 Together with the listing rule, the FWS issued a special “4(d) rule” that will require ESA permits for the importation of threatened lions harvested from eastern and southern Africa. These permits will be required for all lions hunted on or after January 22, 2016. The FWS will need to make enhancement findings before they will issue any such permits. It is not yet clear when or how the FWS will issue these permits or make the required determination that hunting and subsequent importation enhances the survival of the species.

 According to the FWS, lions hunted before January 22, 2016 will not need an ESA permit for importation. Hunters should ensure that they document the date when their lion was hunted.  This can be with a hunting license, notarized letter, or similar official documentation that proves the lion was harvested before January 22, 2016.

 Safari Club International is still in the process of reviewing the 230-page listing rule and will provide further information when our analysis is complete.  The final rule and additional information can be found here.

 In conjunction with the listing, the Director of the FWS, Dan Ashe, has issued Director’s Order 212, which instructs all FWS employees to deny permits to an individual who previously “has been assessed a civil penalty or convicted of any criminal provision of any statute or regulation relating to the activity for which the application is filed.”  This provision has not been objectively defined and the administration could construe it as widely as possible as grounds for permit denial.

SCI President Larry Higgins today expressed his displeasure with the Obama Administration’s final listing rule and rule requiring permits to import lions. “Clearly, the White House is attempting to prevent U.S. hunters from engaging in lion hunting,” said Higgins.  “We will look to challenge parts of the rule as appropriate, but this battle will not be resolved quickly.  The Administration is imposing restrictions and obstacles that will not help lions, but will block U.S. hunters from participating in sustainable use conservation.  Sadly, the rural communities of Africa that embrace hunting as part of their local economies will also suffer with the loss of U.S. hunters. As a result, local communities could lose their incentives to participate in lion conservation and as a result more lions will potentially die from poaching, animal control and retaliatory killings than hunters could ever take.” 



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