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March 1, 2011

Seeking Protection for the African Lion

The king of the jungle is in danger of extinction

Humane Society International

  • They could go extinct sooner than we think. David Youldon/istock

  • In danger from many threats. Andreas Doppelmayr/istock

The African lion is in danger. On March 1, 2011, Humane Society International and The Humane Society of the United States, along with Born Free USA, Born Free Foundation, Defenders of Wildlife, The Fund for Animals, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, petitioned to have the African lion listed as "endangered" under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The African lion is disappearing

There are fewer than 40,000 African lions in the wild—some scientists estimate as few as 23,000. Over the past 30 years, their population has dropped by at least 48.5 percent. The survivors have lost most of their homelands; African lions occupy less than one quarter of their historic range.

Ignoring the problem has made it worse

Until recently, there's been no international concern about African lion conservation. Their steady decline in numbers was ignored, and the popular opinion was that lions were abundant, healthy, and wide-ranging. Therefore, no nation or agency addressed the primary threats—retaliatory killings resulting from human-lion conflict, habitat and prey loss, disease, and unsustainable international trade in lions and lion parts.

You can help by supporting our petition to list the African lion as endangered.

The U.S. is the largest consumer of lions

If the African lion is listed as endangered under the ESA, the largest importer of African lion parts will become the species' protector. The U.S. has played an enormous role in the disappearance of the African lion: As African lion populations and range have declined, the number of sport-hunted lion trophies imported to the U.S. has increased dramatically.

Between 1999 and 2008, 7,090 lion trophies were traded internationally at the behest of recreational hunters. Most of these trophies (4,139) were imported to the U.S. In the same decade, 2,715 wild-caught lion specimens (that is, lions and their body parts) were also traded internationally for commercial purposes. The U.S. imported 1,700 of these specimens (63 percent). The specimens most often traded commercially were claws, trophies, skins, live animals, skulls, and bodies.

What ESA protection can do

Listing the African lion as endangered under the ESA will:

  • Prohibit the import into the U.S. of African lions and their parts, unless for conservation purposes
  • Be an essential step in reversing the current decline of the African lion
  • Heighten awareness of the importance of African lion conservation among foreign governments, conservation organizations, and the general public

Learn more

To learn more about the status of lions in the wild:

Take action and support our petition to list the African lion as endagered.