Ten African nations have determined that the African lion needs the strongest protection possible under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and have submitted a proposal to transfer all populations of the African lion from CITES Appendix II to Appendix I. Parties to CITES will vote on the proposal this September, at CoP17 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The African lion (Panthera leo) has been listed in CITES Appendix II since 1977. However, this mechanism for regulating trade has been poorly implemented for nearly four decades. Appendix II has proven insufficient to halt the precipitous decline of lion populations and the Appendix I listing is long overdue.
Threats to the African lion are numerous: unsustainable trophy hunting, international trade in lion parts, retaliatory killing and/or “pre-emptive” killing to protect livestock, loss of prey, and habitat loss/fragmentation due to conversion for livestock and/or crops.
Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Togo are behind the proposal, noting that while “international trade in lion specimens has increased markedly in recent years”, African lion populations have declined. The proponents cite a total of 29,214 lion “items” in trade during the period of 2005 – 2014, with 11,164 of those items declared as derived from wild lions. Of 12,315 lion items declared as hunting trophies (source code H), approximately 36% were reported as “wild” (source code W).
Meanwhile, the trade in African lion bones has increased at an alarming rate – from 16 skeletal items derived from wild lions in 2005 to 1,339 in 2014.
Transferring the African lion to CITES Appendix I would:
- Reduce the impacts of international trade;
- Strengthen domestic protection by permitting stronger penalties for illegal trade;
- Encourage further international efforts to protect the species;
- Offer opportunities to increase public awareness of the threats;
- Provide greater impetus for the implementation of national and regional conservation strategies.
West and Central African Parties attending the regional CITES CoP17 Coordination Workshop held in March 2016 agreed to support the Appendix I proposal. Besides the proponents listed above, these include Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic. Kenya and Rwanda are also in agreement with the proposal.
An additional 15 lion range states were consulted regarding the proposal, but at the time of submission to CITES, there had been no response. These range states include: Angola, Botswana, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
Even though the Appendix I listing will not completely eradicate trophy hunting of African lions, we can expect significant pushback by African range states that favor trophy hunting – and of course, we must be prepared for any number of shenanigans by the pro-trade/pro-hunting lobbyists – at CoP17 in South Africa.
Annamiticus fully supports the proposal to transfer all African lion populations from Appendix II to Appendix I. We look forward to providing technical support to our NGO colleagues in order to secure the maximum protection for African lions under CITES.
Help fight against wildlife trafficking: Support our work to advocate for the protection of endangered species at the upcoming CITES CoP17 in South Africa.