Target: Sally Jewell, United States Secretary of the Interior
Goal: Urge the United States to declare West African lions critically endangered
Three of the four remaining wild West African lion populations could become extinct within five years if drastic action is not taken. Unlike their East African cousins, these lions have rarely been the subject of research and conservation efforts, in part because tourism in the region is minimal and nations there struggle to pay for park rangers and other safeguards.
A study published in the journal PLOS ONE details an intensive study of the creatures and their decline in West Africa. It is estimated that less than 250 adult lions remain in the region. Loss of habitat and prey have taken their toll, and too often the lions themselves become the hunted. According to the Humane Society, the United States is the leading importer of lions and lion parts. Americans’ hunger for skulls, skins, and other exotic trophies is literally driving the lions to extinction.
New evidence suggests that the lions that remain in West Africa are genetically unique compared to others on the continent. These last few West African lions must be protected, and the United States is in a unique position to help. Listing the animals as endangered would in general make the import of lions and lion parts illegal, and create momentum for international conservation efforts. Urge the United States to declare West African lions endangered, before it is too late.
Dear Sally Jewell, United States Secretary of the Interior,
Nearly two years ago, wildlife conservation groups petitioned the Department of the Interior to declare African lions endangered. In those two years, wild populations have continued to plummet. And yet the United States accounts for more than half the world’s commercial importation of lions. Between 1998-2008 more than 3,600 African lions were brought to the U.S. to be hunted for sport.
While lions throughout Africa are threatened, West African lions stand at the brink of extinction. New research shows these lions to be genetically distinct from those elsewhere on the continent, and yet their conservation has received far less attention. It is estimated that perhaps just 250 of their adults remain in the wild. Protecting these creatures under the Endangered Species Act would make most of this importation illegal, and as such a prominent importer, the U.S. is in a unique position to help save those few wild West African lions that remain.
I urge you to list the West African lion as a critically endangered subspecies, as suggested by Phillip Henschel, co-author of an intensive six year study on the animals. According to Henschel, these lions have ”faced a silent demise in West Africa over the past decades.” Please, don’t let these incredible creatures disappear from the world forever.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Lip Kee via Flickr