FWS throws regulatory roadblock in front of lion trophy imports
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that, within a month, it will list two lion subspecies under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), effectively making it next to impossible for sportsmen conducting otherwise legal hunts in Africa and India to bring their trophies home.
“Importing sport-hunted trophies and other wildlife or animal parts into the United States is a privilege, not a right; a privilege that violators of wildlife laws have demonstrated they do not deserve,” said USFWS Director Dan Ashe in a press release. “We are going to strengthen our efforts to ensure those individuals – people who have acted illegally to deprive our children of their wildlife heritage – are not rewarded by receipt of wildlife permits in the future.”
Under Ashe's order, Panthera leo leo, whose population of 1,400 cats (900 in 14 African populations and 523 in India), will be listed as endangered; and Panthera leo melanochaita, which numbers between 17,000-19,000 and is located in eastern and southern Africa, will be listed as threatened.
The updated regulation stems from President Obama's “National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking” issued on February 11, 2014.
While Panthera leo leo trophies will be restricted in general, a new permitting process will be established for those seeking to bring back Panthera leo melanochaita items from legal hunts. According to USFWS, the application will be processed on the legacy Form 3-200-27 and will take 30 to 60 days to complete. However, Ashe cautions they will not automatically be granted.
“Sustainable trophy hunting as part of a well-managed conservation program can and does contribute to the survival of the species in the wild, providing real incentives to oppose poaching and conserve lion populations,” said Ashe. “Implementing a permit requirement will give us the authority we need to work with African countries to help them improve their lion management programs.”
Further, a permit now will be required if selling a lion or their parts or products across state lines or to a resident of another state.
Those bringing back trophies in violation of the Endangered Species Act can incur violations that carry a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. They may also run the risk of a conviction under the Lacey Act that is punishable by a prison term of up to five years and a $250,000 fine.
“The lion is one of the planet’s most beloved species and an irreplaceable part of our shared global heritage,” said Ashe. “If we want to ensure that healthy lion populations continue to roam the African savannas and forests of India, it’s up to all of us – not just the people of Africa and India – to take action.”
The final lion rule will publish in the Federal Register on December 23, 2015, and will go into effect 30 days after publication on January 22, 2016. Lions hunted in Africa before the effective date of January 22, 2016, would be considered to be “pre-Act” and exempt from the permitting requirements.