As part of its program intended to protect creatures that have never naturally set foot, fin, paw or hoof inside the United States of America, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has given notice that it might extend endangered species designation to African lions.
In the Nov. 27 edition of the Federal Register, the FWS gave notice that it would consider a petition calling for the listing of the African lion (Panthera leo) as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
In its Federal Register notice, the FWS noted that the petition, filed jointly by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International, the Born Free Foundation/Born Free USA, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Fund for Animals, contained data indicating that the listing of the African lion "may be warranted."
Not that African lions don't need some protection. According to data presented in the petition, the current estimated population of African lions has fallen from 75,000 individuals in 1980, to between 23,000 and 39,000 lions today.
But the Lions Live in Africa: So how can the United States government protect the wildlife and plants of other nations? The Endangered Species Act (ESA) requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Administration to list species as endangered or threatened no matter where the species live, including foreign nations.
Persons under the jurisdiction of the U.S. are prohibited by law from importing, exporting, taking or otherwise transporting foreign species of wildlife or plants that are listed on the U.S. endangered species list.
This restriction at least helps prevent people under U.S. jurisdiction from contributing to the decline of the endangered species. In addition, listing on the endangered species list helps increase awareness of the species' decline in both the United States and the species' native country.
The ESA also provides limited funding for creating and managing programs in foreign nations to conserve listed species.
There are currently over 600 foreign species of animals and plants listed under the ESA as endangered or threatened.
What About Hunting? The ESA lacks the authority to prohibit hunting endangered species in foreign nations. Foreign nations have jurisdiction over the hunting of endangered species within their borders.
However, the ESA does regulate the importation of endangered species trophies. To bring a trophy of an endangered species back into the U.S., hunters must get an import permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.