Posted On : Jun 18, 2016

Posted By : DAH

A big lion on the savannah


On May 2, 2016 the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES) submitted documents proposing new measures on international trade concerning lion and elephant.  CITIES is composed of 182 countries who regulate international trade in over 35,000 species of animals and plants.  By controlling the issuing permits on endangered animals such as lion and elephant, CITIES tries to control international trade and guarantee that it is legal, traceable, and most important, sustainable.

At the September 2016 CITIES meeting in Johannesburg, the African lion will probably be listed on Appendix I.  Currently the lion is on Appendix II.  Appendix I includes species that are near extinction.  Trade in Appendix I animals, or animal parts, is permitted only under controlled circumstances.  Usually commercial trade is not allowed, but some trade for personal use may be permitted.  Hunting trophies fall under this restriction as they are for personal use.

CITIES Appendix II animals are less rigidly controlled than Appendix I species.  Appendix II animals are not normally threatened with extinction, but even so, trade in them must be controlled to stop over use, and to keep them from becoming endangered.  So long as trade in these animals is regulated with an eye towards preservation, trade in Appendix II animals is allowed for both commercial and private utilization.  As of today, lions are listed in Appendix II.

Animals are listed in Appendix I or Appendix II by the Conference of the Parties (CoP) who make the decisions on listings.  It is composed of delegates from all the member countries.  Both biological and trade criteria are used in assigning animals to Appendix I or Appendix II.  Proposals are brought forth at each regular meeting of the CoP to amend the two Appendices depending on the most recent information from each country.  Then, after discussion, the amendments are submitted to a vote.

Some African countries have joined to issue a proposal to uplist all lions to Appendix I.  Other lion-sustaining countries are reviewing the proposal and will provide their own ideas at the Johannesburg meeting when the proposal will be presented to CITIES.

What this proposal means to hunters if it is implemented, is that they will still be able to hunt lions, however to export lion trophies they would need both a CITIES import permit from their resident country, and a similar CITIES permit to export the lion parts from the country where the lion was hunted.  Where this could be a problem is if some of the exporting countries establish stricter regulations that those that are put in place by CITIES.  Also, if the importing country decides not to allow any Appendix I animals to be brought in, lion hunting would drop appreciatively, and the revenue stream generated by their hunting would be drastically reduced.

Commercial importation of any lion parts would be prohibited.  Captive bred lions could be exempt from the CITIES resolution, but this might depend on the hunted lions be taken from a CITIES approved farm. Even if allowed under Appendix II, getting approval to import captive bred lions would be difficult.

Moving the lion up to Appendix I status would affect hunters from all countries.  Countries who have restrictions in place like in the U.S.A and European nations would be very resistant to change.

It is theoretically possible for lions to be listed in Appendix I in some countries, and Appendix II in others.  For instance, the African elephant is split-listed.  However, this can create problems when establishing in which country the animal was taken.

All proposals to move lions from Appendix I to Appendix II were submitted by the April 27, 2016 deadline.  The final proposals will be reviewed and debated by the member countries.  The final decision will go into effect 90 days after the CoP meeting.  The decision must be finalized no later than Oct 5, 2016.  If the lion remains in Appendix II, it will stay there until the next CoP meeting in two or three years.

If the lion is moved up to Appendix I, there will be numerous changes, not all good.  First, the move would effectively end lion trophies being imported into the U.S.A. and other countries.  Second, Any and all lion importation will become much more difficult.  Third, any sustainable use program that effect lions would loose funding; the value of lions would drop significantly.  Fourth, areas that are now leased for lion hunting would either lay unused, or be converted to other uses, including agriculture. Funding that goes to southern and southeastern Africa for conservation would dry up.  Fifth, in what is known as the law of unintended consequences, other species will suffer from the loss of lion hunting.

An impressive Lion TrophyA big trophy elephant meandering in the bushveld

Wild animal hunting takes place in areas that are neither conducive to farming, nor suitable for tourism.  There are few roads and fewer amenities out in the wild African bush.  The water situation during the dry years is so precarious that hunting outfitters regularly dig wells, and pump water into ponds, or pans, to give the wildlife somewhere to drink.  Without the income provided by lion or other dangerous game hunting, there is no money available, nor inclination to keep these wells in operating condition.  Some hunting concessions require 10-14 hours driving over roads that are little more than two-track.  Hauling diesel fuel out to a generator in the bush is an expensive proposition.  Maintaining the roads to allow the trucks to get through is also time-consuming and expensive.  No high-end animals to hunt means that all the animals will suffer.

Ok, so what can you as a hunter do?  You need to spread the word.  The average non-hunter has little, or no, knowledge of the interrelationship between sustainable hunting and species conservation.   In today’s world, the animals must pay their way.  The main instruments in lion depopulation are habitat loss and poaching.  Habitat loss means loss of prey also, which means all species decline, not just lions.  Poaching hurts everyone.  Sustainable hunting by licensed hunters helps the lion population.  Lion populations in countries that have sustainable hunting are either stable or increasing. 

Lions from South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe cannot be imported without getting a U.S. import permit.  This is in addition to the CITIES permit also required. This U.S. Fish and Wildlife ruling went into effect on January 22, 2016.  Captive-bred lions are also included in this rule.  Expect the permit process to take anywhere from 45 to 60 days.

The U.S. F&WS determined that the lions controlled by the Endangered Species Act suffer from:

  • Habitat loss
  • Prey loss
  • Human-lion conflict
  • Inadequate regulatory controls
  • Poor management of protected areas

You’ll notice that “Controlled legal hunting” isn’t mentioned.  U.S.F&WS did say that sport hunting, if well regulated, could provide a benefit to the species.  Well-managed conservation programs can use trophy hunting income to aid lion conservation, research and anti-poaching.

Elephant Reclassification

On March 16, 2016, the U.S.F&WS announced that it had established a 90-day finding on elephant reclassification. All African elephant are reclassified from Threatened to Endangered under the Endangered Species Act. They had initiated a comment period where anyone could submit information about the elephant’s status that would challenge or support the upcoming relisting, but the 60-day period closed May 26, 2016.  You can still make comments after the official closing if you think the reclassification is unwarranted.  Or, you can file your own alternative to the reclassification.