Wherever you stand on hunting, it’s hard to disagree that killing animals that aren’t even given a fair chance of escape is a pretty scummy thing to do. So conservationists – and, in fact, all reasonable humans – will no doubt be pleased to hear that the US Fish and Wildlife Service has just banned the import of trophies obtained from so-called canned lion hunts in South Africa.
The term canned lions refers to those that are bred in captivity for the sole purpose of being hunted by tourists in enclosed reserves, where walls and fences make it impossible for the cats to get away from their cowardly assassins. Aside from the barbaric cruelty of this practice, it also serves no conservation purpose, as lions reared this way can never be released into the wild.
According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, global lion populations have fallen by 43 percent in the past two decades, with hunting being one of many reasons for this. As a result, the agency placed two species of African and Asian lions on the Endangered Species Act list in late 2015. Under the terms of this act, hunters wishing to import trophy lions can only do so if these animals have been killed in countries where hunting is managed in such a way that it contributes to conservation efforts.
Given that several hunting reserves in South Africa have been found to responsibly manage their resources and use hunting revenue to boost lion conservation, any lions killed in the country – including those from canned hunts – can legally be imported into the US.
In a Huffington Post blog, US Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe explained that “it’s important to understand that lions are not in trouble because of responsible sport hunting.”
However, given that South Africa’s canned hunts do not aid conservation efforts, the agency has finally decided to outlaw the import of all lions killed on such hunts – and not a moment too soon.
Hopefully, this will dramatically reduce the overall number of lion skins, heads, teeth and claws being brought into the US, as Ashe explains that “the vast majority of lion trophies imported into the United States in recent years have been from these captive populations in South Africa, so our decision will likely substantially reduce the total number of lion trophy imports.”