The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced it is opening a 60-day public comment period and initiating a review of the African lion’s status in order to determine whether the lion (Panthera leo leo) requires protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service is initiating this review after receiving a petition requesting ESA protection for the African lion. The Asiatic lion was listed as an endangered species in 1970, but the African lion is not currently protected under the ESA.
In March 2011, the Service received a petition from the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society International, Born Free Foundation/Born Free USA, Defenders of Wildlife and Fund for Animals, requesting the African lion be added to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. Species may be considered for protection under the ESA regardless of whether they are native to the United States.
The Service’s initial petition finding does not mean that the species will be listed, or that the Service believes it should be listed. It merely triggers a status review that will be based on the best available scientific and commercial information. To ensure this status review is comprehensive, the Service is soliciting scientific and commercial data and other information regarding the African lion from the public, range country governmental agencies, the scientific community, industry, and any other interested parties.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is also conducting a review of the African lion. CITES is a multinational agreement through which countries work together to ensure that international trade in CITES-listed species is legal and not detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild. The United States is one of the 176 countries that are signatories to the Convention. The status review conducted under the ESA will include the results of the CITES review to ensure the most current scientific information is considered.
The African lion is listed in Appendix II of CITES, which includes species that are currently not threatened with extinction, but may become so without trade controls. A species may be listed under CITES or the ESA or both.
If ESA protection is found to be warranted, the Service will develop a listing proposal that will be subject to additional review and comment by scientific peer reviewers and the public before a final listing determination is made. Addition of a foreign species to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife is designed to ensure that United States citizens and others under the jurisdiction of the United States do not contribute to the further decline of that species in its native habitat. Federal regulations require anyone seeking to import or conduct interstate or international trade or transport of a listed species or its parts to obtain a permit from the Service.
Although the ESA’s protections for listed species apply only to people subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, ESA listing can generate additional conservation benefits in the species’ native countries, such as increased awareness of listed species, research efforts to address conservation needs, or funding for conservation of the species in its range countries. The ESA also provides for limited financial assistance to develop and manage programs to conserve listed species in foreign countries, encourages conservation programs for such species, and allows for assistance for programs, such as personnel and training.