Born Free USA: Victory at Last for The King of the Jungle: African Lion Protected Under Endangered Species Act (ESA)

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“It has been a very long four years waiting for this decision.” – Adam M. Roberts, Born Free USA CEO

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Credit: Born Free USA

“It has been a very long four years waiting for this decision.” – Adam M. Roberts, Born Free USA CEO

In March of 2011, Born Free USA, along with partner organizations, filed a petition with the Department of Interior to list African lions as Endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). More than four years later, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is expected to announce their final decision today, listing the African lion as endangered in west and central Africa and threatened in east and south Africa, with a special rule pending that would require certain conditions to be met for importation of any lion trophies from countries with a threatened population.

According to Adam M. Roberts, CEO of Born Free USA and the Born Free Foundation, “It has been a very long four years waiting for this decision, with each year seeing more lions slaughtered by hunters for trophies. This is a victory and we applaud USFWS for agreeing that these animals deserve significant international protection under the ESA, popularly considered one of the world’s most important conservation laws. There is now hope for future generations to be able to witness the beauty of the lion in the wild.”

While the USFWS was delaying action, a minimum of 2,232 African lions were killed and imported into the United States over the past four years, including Cecil, who made headlines this year when he was killed in Zimbabwe by an American trophy hunter. Born Free USA is hopeful that the ruling will spare other lions such a cruel, barbaric fate.

Over the past three decades, the number of African lions has declined by more than 50% as a result of retaliatory killings; loss of habitat and prey species; over-exploitation by recreational trophy hunters and commercial trade; disease; and other human-caused and natural factors.

Today experts believe there are fewer than 20,000 lions remaining, living in a fragmented 8% of their historic natural range. Due to the dire situation the African lion is facing, both Australia and France banned the import of lion trophies this year.

Despite the significant and continued declines in population and range, the number of lion trophies imported to the United States is increasing. In 2014 trophy imports to the United States were greater than any other year in the preceding decade and more than twice the number in 2005.

“We are hopeful the USFWS will be rigorous when investigating any management plans in lion range states and proposed trophy imports, and that the U.S. government will set the bar incredibly high before allowing any trophies to come in,” Roberts adds.

Born Free USA ESA Timeline for African Lions:

Born Free USA is a global leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation, and public education, Born Free USA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic "pets," trapping and fur, and the destructive international wildlife trade. Born Free USA brings to America the message of "compassionate conservation," the vision of the U.K.-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film Born Free, along with their son Will Travers. Born Free's mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally. More at,, and

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Rodi Rosensweig
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