Tag Archives: big game

Obama administration enacts protections for lions

The Obama administration’s decision to extend Endangered Species Act protections for two breeds of lions is a turning point for the lions now roaming Africa, advocacy groups say.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service signaled in a document obtained by the Associated Press that it would classify the lion as threatened or endangered across its entire range in Africa. The agency has scheduled a noon conference call to discuss its findings.

The Humane Society of the United States projects that American trophy hunters imported 5,647 lions in the past decade. The group’s president and CEO, Wayne Pacelle, said he expects that the regulations will make it much harder to bring lion hides back to the U.S, thus removing a key motivation for hunters.

“If a particular hunt is not associated with a broader conservation program, it can’t come in,” Pacelle said.

The listings are accompanied by a directive that appears to touch on circumstances surrounding the killing of a well-known lion named Cecil in Zimbabwe earlier this year. The order states that the Fish and Wildlife Service will deny a permit to import a sport-hunted lion to anyone who has been convicted or pleaded guilty to violating federal or state wildlife laws.

Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist who shot Cecil with a bow and arrow, had pleaded guilty in 2008 to making false statements to the Fish and Wildlife Service about a black bear fatally shot in western Wisconsin outside an authorized hunting zone.

The Fish and Wildlife Service cautioned against linking the order with Cecil’s death, describing the action instead as a redoubling of efforts to ensure that violators of wildlife laws don’t reap future benefits from importing wildlife and wildlife products.

The administration signaled it would protect lions in Africa long before Cecil’s case caught the public’s attention. The Fish and Wildlife Service proposed a rule in October 2014 to list the African lion as threatened. After getting feedback, the agency revised its findings.

It determined that two subspecies of lions live in Africa. One group, found primarily in western and central countries, is more genetically related to the Asiatic lion. Only about 1,400 remain in Africa and India. The agency is listing that subspecies as endangered, meaning it risks extinction.

A second subspecies, numbering between 17,000 and 19,000 and found across southern and eastern Africa, will be listed as threatened.

The Endangered Species Act requires the Fish and Wildlife Service to list species as endangered or threatened regardless of the country where they live.

“If we want to ensure that healthy lion populations continue to roam the Africa savannas and forests of India, it’s up to all of us _ not just the people of Africa and India _ to take action,” said Dan Ashe, the agency’s director.

The listings will bring extra protection for both subspecies: A permit would be required before importing any live or sport-hunted lions. The bar for an import permit would be highest with the endangered group, with permits granted if importing the animal would enhance the species’ survival.

The permitting process for the threatened group would require the import to come from nations that have sound conservation practices and use trophy hunting revenue to sustain lion populations and deter poaching. Currently, sport hunters don’t need a permit from the U.S. to bring in a trophy lion.

Ashe said trophy hunting can and does contribute to the survival of species in the wild as part of a well-managed conservation program. The new permitting requirements in the U.S. will encourage African countries to improve their lion management programs. The agency said hundreds of sport-hunted trophy lions are brought into the U.S. each year.

The agency already has authority to deny an import permit to individuals who have violated federal and state wildlife laws. Ashe’s order essentially turns that authority into a requirement.

“Importing sport-hunted trophies and other wildlife or animal parts into the United States is a privilege, not a right, a privilege that violators of wildlife laws have demonstrated they do not deserve,” Ashe said.

The agency said its investigation into the Cecil’s killing is ongoing and declined to comment directly on the case.

Cecil was a major tourist attraction in Hwange National Park and was being monitored as part of an Oxford University study. Palmer said he shot the big cat outside the park’s borders, but it didn’t die immediately and was tracked down the next day.

Palmer said he would not have shot the animal if anybody in the hunting party has known of the lion’s status. Zimbabwe officials cleared Palmer of wrongdoing in October, saying he didn’t break the country’s hunting laws.

42 airlines affirm bans on wildlife trophy shipments

The Humane Society of the United States reports that 42 airlines have announced or reaffirmed bans on wildlife trophy shipments on their carriers since the killing of Cecil the lion earlier this summer.

Cecil, one of Africa’s most famous lions and a protected animal, was killed in early July after being lured from Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe to be hunted. Minnesota dentist and trophy hunter Walter James Palmer killed the lion.

American Airlines, Delta, Hawaiian Airlines, Jet Blue, United and Virgin have banned shipments of lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and Cape buffalo trophies, according to the nonprofit advocacy group.

The Humane Society noted that shipping giants UPS and FedEx and South African Airways have yet to take such action.

In a statement on Aug. 26, Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, called “upon them to get in line with emerging industry standards for animal welfare and conservation and to stop shipping trophies from these rare animals gunned down in their native habitats.”

Pacelle added, “UPS and other shipping carriers and airlines have the opportunity to help us fight this enterprise of globe-trotting trophy hunting of the rarest, most remarkable animals in the world. We urge these entities to follow in the footsteps of Virgin, Delta, United and other airlines and freight carriers.”

Since the killing of the Cecil, which drew global attention to the issue of wildlife trophy hunts, several members of Congress have introduced bills to restrict wildlife trophy imports.

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, introduced a bill to ban imports of trophies and parts from African lions and other at-risk species.

U.S. Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee and Eddie Bernice Johnson, both Democrats from Texas, plan to sponsor a bill to amend the Endangered Species Act to ban “all acts of senseless and perilous trophy killings.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers in New York and New Jersey have introduced bills to restrict intrastate sales and transportation of animal trophies.

Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer sought in illegal slaughter of Cecil, a protected and beloved lion, in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean police said Tuesday they are searching for American tourist Water Palmer, a Minnesota dentist who allegedly shot a beloved, protected lion known as Cecil with a crossbow in a killing that has outraged conservationists and others.  A petition calling for justice for the lion has topped more than 332,000 signatures. (Sign petition demanding justice for Cecil.)

Authorities on Tuesday said two Zimbabwean men will appear in court for allegedly helping lure the lion outside of its protected area to kill it. The American faces poaching charges, according to police spokeswoman Charity Charamba.

The American allegedly paid $50,000 to hunt the lion, Zimbabwean conservationists said, though the hunter and is local partners maintain they didn’t know the lion they killed was protected.

Palmer, a Minnesota dentists, was identified on Tuesday by both the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force and the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe as the American hunter, a name that police then confirmed. 

This was not the first time that Palmer, an avid hunter, has run afoul of the law in his pursuit of big game. He pleaded guilty in 2008 to making false statements to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about a black bear he fatally shot in western Wisconsin outside of the authorized hunting zone, according to court documents.

“We arrested two people and now we are looking for Palmer in connection with the same case,” Charamba said.

Emmanuel Fundira, the president of the Safari Operators Association of Zimbabwe, said at a news conference that Palmer’ current whereabouts were unknown.

Palmer issued a statement saying he was unaware that the lion was so well known and part of a study.

“I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt,” he said, maintaining that to his knowledge, everything about the hunt had been legal.

Attempts to reach Palmer, 55, at his two listed home numbers and his office by phone and in person were unsuccessful. Palmer’s River Bluff dental practice in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, is shuttered.

This was not the first time Palmer has run afoul of the law in pursuit of his blood sport. The avid hunter pleaded guilty in 2008 to making false statements to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about a black bear he fatally shot in western Wisconsin outside of the authorized hunting zone, according to court documents.

The two arrested Zimbabwean men — a professional hunter and a farm owner — face poaching charges, the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Authority and the Safari Operators Association said in a joint statement. Killing the lion was illegal because the farm owner did not have a hunting permit, the joint statement said. The lion was skinned and beheaded. The hunters tried to destroy the lion’s collar, fitted with a tracking device, but failed, the statement said.

If convicted, the men face up to 15 years in prison.

The lion is believed to have been killed on July 1 in western Zimbabwe’s wildlife-rich Hwange region, its carcass discovered days later by trackers, the statement said.

The Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force said in a statement that an American paid the $50,000 for the hunt. During a nighttime hunt, the men tied a dead animal to their car to lure the lion out of a national park, said Johnny Rodrigues, chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force. The American is believed to have shot it with a crossbow, injuring the animal. The wounded, suffering lion was found 40 hours later, and shot dead with a gun, Rodrigues said in the statement. 

Cecil was then skinned and decapitated, presumably so Palmer would have the head — or “trophy” — preserved and mounted on a wall.

“The saddest part of all is that now that Cecil is dead, the next lion in the hierarchy, Jericho will most likely kill all Cecil’s cubs,” said Rodrigues.

The Zimbabwean hunter accused in the case claimed that Cecil was not specifically targeted, and the group only learning after the fact that they had killed a well-known lion, according to the Safari Operators Association.

Cecil, recognizable by his black mane, was being studied by an Oxford University research program, the conservation group said.

Tourists regularly spotted his characteristic mane in the park over the last 13 years, said Lion Aid, also a conservation group.

Associated Press reporters Amy Forliti in Bloomington, Minnesota, and Brian Bakst in St. Paul, Minnesota, contributed to this report.

Facebook deletes cheerleader’s photos of ‘big game’ hunt, she reposts them from Fox News montage

Facebook has deleted some big game trophy photos posted by a Texas Tech cheerleader, saying they violated its standards.

However, 19-year-old Kendall Jones later shared a Fox News Channel montage of the deleted photos of rhinos, elephants, lions and leopards killed or tranquilized.

Jones has received criticism and support online after posting the pictures of herself in Africa. Jones says on her public Facebook page that the hunts are legal.

A statement issued by Facebook says it removes “reported content that promotes poaching of endangered species, the sale of animals for organized fight or content that includes extreme acts of animal abuse.”

Jones subsequently shared the “Fox & Friends” collection and then posted photographs from the Fox program.

A Facebook spokesman declined to comment why the montage is permitted.

“We are glad that Facebook acted to remove some of Ms. Jones’ photos promoting the killing of rare and endangered species. Killing in the name of conservation is simply unacceptable,” said Nicole Paquette, vice president for wildlife protection at The Humane Society of the United States. “It does not benefit the species, it only provides profit to hunting safari companies and a thrill kill for the shooter. In a time where elephants and rhinos are being killed for their tusks and horns on a daily basis, Ms. Jones’ trophy kill of an elephant and other rare animals only adds to the threat to the survival of these iconic species.”