U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Washington, D.C. 20240
Open and Sent Letter to Director Mr Dan Ashe US Fish and Wildlife Service.
From Dr Josa C. Depre; Director International Animal Rescue Foundation Africa.
To Daniel Ashe; Director of US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Re: Suspend importations of Lion trophies hunted in Africa into the United States or via other countries from Africa into the USA.
Dear Dan Ashe;
A century ago there were some 200,000 Lions roaming all over the African continent. Now there are no fewer than a mere 30,000 if that with the lowest estimated figure pointing to a possible 15,000. Within the Lions existing ranges there are no more than 1,000 Lions within each of its African habituated countries of which there are more Lions within canned hunting farms and ranches than in some wild populated areas. Those Lions within canned hunting farms and ranches pose a disease and genetic risk to other species of fauna and wild Lion populations that live around these facilities.
Over the last ten years a staggering two thirds of all Lions hunted for sport were imported from Africa into your country – United States of America. Americans are the largest hunting force within the world standing at a sky-rocketing 16.6 million over the age of 16 and growing yearly.
African Lions have vanished from a whopping 80% of their range of which hunting, habitat fragmentation, human species conflict and unsustainable agriculture are primary causes for Lion depletions. It is now time these destructive forces must end with hunting the top of ours and many others agendas with regards to the Lion.
Lions have become extinct in 26 countries. Only seven countries – Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe – are believed to contain more than 1,000 lions each.
Although the single biggest threat by far to the animals survival is humans, though not necessarily western hunters. It is just the very, very widespread killing of Lions, mostly in a conflict situation, by anyone who is trying to farm livestock in Africa and finds it very difficult to co-exist with Lions. Hunting of Lions though is still playing a great role of which is seeing many Lions wild and captured depleted. Furthermore the black market trade in Lion bone wine threatens our Lion species greatly.
Between 1999 and 2008, 64% of the 5,663 Lions that were killed in the African wild for sport ended up being shipped to America, it must also be noted numbers had risen sharply in those 10 years, with more than twice as many Lions taken as trophies by US hunters in 2008 than in 1999. In addition to personal trophies, Americans are also the world’s biggest buyers of Lion carcasses and body parts, including claws, skulls, bones and penises. In the same years, the US imported 63% of the 2,715 Lion specimens put up for sale.
I must also bring to ones immediate attention although you may have already noticed that American hunting organisations and individual hunters are purchasing Lion bones legally then shipping these out to Asia for the trade in pseudo Lion bone wine. While the trade continues of such Lion carcases so does the demand and while the demand continues so does unfortunately the ruthless and indiscriminate legal and illegal killings.
For some countries, including Tanzania, Zambia, Namibia and Mozambique, hunting for sport was the main threat to the Lions’ existence. But even in countries which did not attract large numbers of tourists on hunting trips, the practice was taking a growing toll.
I bring to your attention not only the killing of male Lions but the fact killing such Male Lions is now becoming an all to common sight within my continent. By wiping out major male pride leaders we are also killing and decreasing large wild prides that will later on in life lead to localised then regional extinctions. This I nor will my organisations supporters ranging into hundreds of thousands tolerate any more. Enough is enough.
Hunters such as Mr Aaron Neilson, Mrs Melissa Bachman, Mrs Adele Jensen Van Rensberg, Mrs Olivia Nalos Opre, Mrs Mindy Arthurs, Miss Kendal Jones and the US and British Mr Rupert Ellis being high profile Lion hunters are setting a very bad example to our younger generations as too overseas tourists that flock to Africa just to sport hunt the King of the Jungle. Mr Aaron Neilson has yet again taken his fourteenth Lion for this year within Africa. Whilst Mr Rupert Ellis that owns Big Game Hunting Ltd Business” within the United Kingdom is organising large scale Lion hunting trips from the United Kingdom into Africa.
Lion and other big game hunters are continuously bragging about their kills on-line, creating awareness of such a nauseating sport but most concerning being part and parcel to species decline under the guise of pseudo conservation. Surely if hunters such as the named above were actually contributing to our Mama Africa’s conservation efforts then why is the Panthera leo still listed as vulnerable of which its species populations are declining astronomically? We cannot place all the blame here Mr Ashe down to human species conflict or habitat destruction. Hunting is out of control. Please view Mr Aaron Neilson’s Facebook profile here and see just how many Lions this man has slaughtered https://www.facebook.com/aaronneilson.globalhunter?fref=ts
From 1996 – 2008 species populations of Panthera leo has not increased but decreased furthermore seeing few localised extinctions. The African Lion is still listed as vulnerable on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species yet the US Fish and Wildlife Service continue to allow importations of Lion trophies into America.
While it is evident that hunting is not primarily the major number one destructive force reducing Lion populations it must be noted as still playing a significantly high role in (reducing) wild species. So I put it to you Mr Ashe that while we are not seeing an increase in Lion populations but more a decrease and “hunting” being named as one factor killing species off then why have you as yet not banned African Lion trophy imports into the United States?
The main threats to Lions are indiscriminate killing (primarily as a result of retaliatory or pre-emptive killing to protect life and livestock) and prey base depletion. Habitat loss and conversion has led to a number of populations becoming small and isolated.
Trophy hunting is carried out in a number of sub-Saharan African countries and is “considered” an important management tool for providing financial resource for Lion conservation for both governments and local communities. However, there is concern that current management regimes can lead to unsustainable off-takes.
These off-takes are being seen with many US hunters of which must come to an immediate end whilst other environmental threats remain at large and somewhat uncontrollable. Disease has also been a threat to Lion populations subsequently reducing species furthermore. Americans are responsible for a staggering 60% of all hunted Lion trophies being exported from Africa back home. Whilst European Hunters are almost topping this trend.
Demand from the Far East is also driving profits for Lions breeders. In 2001, two Lions were exported as “trophies” to China, Laos and Vietnam; in 2011, 70 Lion trophies were exported to those nations. While the trade in Tiger parts is now illegal, demand for Lion parts for traditional Asian medicine is soaring. In 2009, five Lion skeletons were exported from South Africa to Laos; in 2011, it was 496. The legal export of Lion bones and whole carcasses has also soared.
Mr Ashe while you are still conducting your twelve month survey I must also bring to ones attention Environment Minister Greg Hunt’s ban implemented this month against Australian Rhino hunters of which he is now considering banning Lion trophy exports from Africa to Australia which I and my environmental company fully support.
I call on you Mr Ashe to now implement an immediate ban against all US hunters exporting Lion trophies from Africa or “any imported-exported” country with immediate effect. Failing this we will most certainly lose our entire Lion species within Africa.
Dr Josa C. Depre
Environmentalist and Botanist