Cecil’s revenge: A tragic killing puts lions on the endangered list
December 26, 2015 12:00 AM
A.J. Loveridge/Handout via Reuters
Cecil the lion is seen at Hwange National Parks in this undated handout picture received July 31, 2015.
By the Editorial Board
Cecil, the majestic lion shot and killed by a Minnesota dentist in Zimbabwe, was a senseless statistic in the war on Africa’s kings of the jungle. But good has come from the tragedy — amplified concern for these beautiful animals and the importance of added legal protection.
To that end, the Obama administration on Monday placed lions in central and western Africa on the endangered species list. Only about 1,400 of these lions remain in the wild, across more than a dozen countries, according to Scientific American. The designation bars hunters from bringing lion trophies from those nations into the United States.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also classified the 19,000 southern and eastern African lions as threatened, a lesser category but one that also imposes stricter rules for the importation of live lions and lion parts. The designation encourages countries where lions are threatened — among them Tanzania, Zimbabwe and South Africa — to regulate hunting in ways to promote conservation.
The rules fall short of imposing an all-out ban on mounted heads and other lion parts. They still could be imported from the nations where they are threatened as long as they were killed legally.
The tougher standards are significant, and they should be accompanied by other changes that close the gaps in U.S. law. Other countries should follow in Zimbabwe’s footsteps, which suspended all wildlife hunting after the deaths of Cecil and another lion whose killing is under investigation.
The sight of these powerful beasts is as awe-inspiring as their abuse is disgusting. Civilized nations must protect lions while they can, because wildlife experts warn that their numbers, already sharply reduced, could be cut in half in the next 20 years.
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