Lions are now protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. But what does the listing really mean for lion conservation? (Nat Geo Voices blog)
How can you get involved in lion conservation in the U.S.? Join the Big Cats Initiative Sister School Program.
Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.
- Late last year, lions were added to the U.S. Endangered Species Act. What is the Endangered Species Act? Use this short article for some help.
- The ESA is a 1973 law that “provides a program for the conservation of threatened and endangered plants and animals and the habitats in which they are found. Through laws and regulations, federal agencies such as the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) protect species through such activities as regulated hunting, restoring habitats, and preventing international trade in threatened wildlife. Groups also create ‘species recovery plans’ for plants, animals, or other threatened or endangered organisms.”
- According to the Nat Geo Voices blog, lions are listed as both “threatened” and “endangered.” What is the difference?
- According to NOAA, a species is “endangered if it is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range, and threatened if it is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future.”
- Lions can be both threatened and endangered because there are two subspecies of lions. Learn more about lion populations and ESA protections here.
- Endangered: The western and central populations of African lion, Panthera leo leo, are more genetically related to the Asiatic lion. There are only about 1,400 of these lions remaining; 900 in 14 African populations and 523 in India. Considering the size and distribution of the populations, population trends and the severity of the threats, the Fish and Wildlife Service has found that this subspecies meets the definition of endangered under the ESA. Learn more about Asiatic lions here.
- Threatened: The subspecies of P. l. melanochaita likely numbers between 17,000-19,000 and is found across southern and eastern Africa. The Fish and Wildlife Service determined that this subspecies is less vulnerable and is not currently in danger of extinction. However, although lion numbers in southern Africa are increasing overall, there are populations that are declining due to ongoing threats. As a result, the Service finds the subspecies meets the definition of a threatened species under the ESA.
- The IUCN lists lions in yet another category, “vulnerable.” What does this mean? Download our handy “Endangered Species: Categories and Criteria” guide for some help.
- The ESA is American, while the IUCN listing is global in scope.
- Vulnerable species have seen a 30%-50% population decline; their population size is fewer than 10,000; they have a 10% chance of extinction within 100 years; and face serious limits in geographic range.
- So, what does the ESA listing for lions actually mean? Read through the easy-to-understand list in the Nat Geo Voices blog for some help.
- U.S. hunters will only be allowed to import trophies from countries with sound species-management plans. (A trophy is the carcass of the animal or part of the animal—usually its head—kept for display.) This helps ensure U.S. hunters seek animals from stable populations, and provides financial incentives for African countries to maintain population management standards.
- Trade in lion products will be more strictly controlled.
- Lions conservation programs may be eligible for more financial and logistical support.
- The listing is a huge symbolic victory for lion conservation efforts, as the U.S. is the world’s political and economic superpower and the world’s largest lion-trophy importer.
Nat Geo: What does the Endangered Species Listing Mean for Lions?
Nat Geo: Big Cats Initiative Sister School Toolkit
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Lions Are Now Protected Under the Endangered Species Act
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