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Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Lions in crisis: UK and US told they must act.

AT RISK: Lion numbers have nearly halved in the past 30 years.

The US and UK governments are being asked to take urgent action to help save the African lion, now seriously under threat.

The Foundation believes that unless current trends are reversed, it is possible that the continent's population of wild lions, already down to less than 40,000 animals from nearly 76,000 in 1980, will collapse. Ten years ago, lions inhabited 30 African countries. That number is now down to 27 and it is likely that they will disappear from more countries in the years ahead unless immediate action is taken.

The Born Free Foundation and Born Free USA, together with representatives of the International Fund for Animal Welfare(IFAW), The Humane Society of The United States/Humane Society International and Defenders of Wildlife, have submitted a petition to the US Secretary to the Interior calling on him to designate the African lion as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The US is the single biggest importer of wild lion body parts and trophies and may be responsible for more than half of the lions that are killed for trophies each year.

Listing under the ESA would prohibit the general import of lion trophies into the US unless it could be shown that the importation enhanced the species' survival or was for scientific purposes. This single measure could dramatically cut the number of lions shot for ‘sport' by US citizens.

Will Travers, CEO of the Born Free Foundations explains: ‘The pressure on lions comes from all sides. Loss of habitat due to the impact of a sub-Saharan human population that is predicted to grow from 518 million in 1990 to 1.75 billion in 2050; loss of the wild animals that lions naturally prey on, due to the ravages of the commercial bushmeat trade; the impact of deadly diseases often transmitted from livestock or companion animals; retaliatory killings - the spearing or poisoning of lions after they have attacked livestock; and high levels of unsustainable trophy-hunting and body part trade.'

‘Trophy' lion parts also coming into Spain, France and Germany Although the US is the largest importer of trophies, Europe is not far behind. Between 1998 and 2008 lion trophies were imported into Spain (958), France (565) and Germany (525) amongst others. During the same period, the UK imported 87 lion trophies. The impact of an ESA listing and strong lion-protection measures in the USA could be undermined if trophies continue to be imported into the European Union.

Will Travers concluded: ‘Today, the Born Free Foundation has written to the UK Government's Minister for Biodiversity, Richard Benyon, asking him, on behalf of the British Government, to intercede with our European Community colleagues to take urgent action to end the import of lion trophies sourced from wild animals into Europe.'

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