Wildlife charity calls for greater protection of lions

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NAIROBI, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) — International wildlife charity, Born Free Foundation, recently called for greater protection of lions in Africa, saying the number of this iconic species has declined by 60 percent in the continent.
In a statement received in Nairobi on the World Lion Day the charity said there are currently as few as 20,000 lions remaining across Africa, and unless decisive action is taken, scientists predict further catastrophic declines.
“Lions across West, Central, and East Africa have declined by 60 percent or more over the past 21 years,” Born Free said, reiterating its call for this iconic species to be given the highest level of protection from international trade.
It said more than a dozen African countries are already thought to have lost their lion populations, and the international demand for lion bones and body parts and unsustainable lion trophy hunting operations are further exacerbating this downward spiral.
The statement comes as representatives from the 182 Member Parties to the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will meet in Johannesburg, South Africa in September, to debate many issues including the future protection of lions.
Born Free Foundation Co-Founder, President and CEO, Will Travers OBE, said lions are under threat from habitat loss and conversion, persecution killings, and conflict with local people, but noted that international trade — commercial and non-commercial — doubtless has a negative impact.
“There is no time to lose. Action is needed now before lions go the way of the tiger,” Travers said in the statement.
He said the fact that almost 600 wild lions a year are still permitted to be shot as trophies is bewildering, as is South Africa’s decision to allow the legal exports of lion bones from ‘canned hunting’ facilities to South East Asia for use in traditional Asian medicine.
African lions are currently listed on Appendix II of CITES, which allows regulated international commercial trade.
However, in view of the dire situation for lions across Africa, a group of nine Western and Central African countries, led by Niger, has tabled a proposal for all African lion populations to be transferred to Appendix I.
This ‘uplisting’, supported by Born Free, would effectively ban all commercial international trade in lions and parts and products derived from them, and place far greater restrictions on the trophy hunting industry, which is regarded by CITES as a non-commercial activity.

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