Panthera leo leo are the western and central populations of African lion and the Asiatic lion. These populations have approx. 1,400 lions with about 900 in 14 African populations and 523 in India. These populations have seen the most dramatic declines. USFWS claims newly available scientific information make these populations more genetically related and due to the severity of the threats to these populations, have decided to list them all as one subspecies which meet the definition of endangered under the ESA.
Panthera leo melanchaita, which consists of the rest of the populations in East and Southern Africa, however, is not listed as endangered. They claim this population consists of 17,000-19,000 lions (but this estimation comes from a study that acknowledges that their estimates are “intrinsically imprecise” and previous estimations range from 23,000-39,000 so the exact number is still a bit hazy). USFWS says “this subspecies is less vulnerable and is not currently in danger of extinction.”
Panthera leo melanchaita was previously considered to be the now extinct Cape Lion, which has also been proven not to be a genetically distinct subspecies but rather a difference in weather induced morphology.
This ruling seems fair but their use of previously and currently used subspecies names may get a little convoluted in the overall scheme of things. It seems as though USFWS is showing a genuine concern in looking after the best interest of the African lion but I think more research is still needed (and not just because I’m one of the ones doing it) to make decisions that will be beneficial for both the lions and the countries they live in.