Some interesting news on the African lion front.... On October 27, 2014, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed listing the lion as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act – a similar listing to the current International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listing of “vulnerable”. The curious thing is that, for the most part, both sides, the activists and the hunting community, are considering this to be a win. The activists get some regulation but the hunters don’t get so much that they're banned. It will be interesting to see how it will all play out in the long run.
Prior to this decision the lion wasn’t listed under the USFWS Endangered Species Act at all; meaning, there were no US government mandated regulations for the species. Interestingly enough, however, USFWS recognizes African lion sub-species, a designation debated by many scientists and policy makers (especially since the discovery that the distinguishable fluffy mane of the Cape lion, thought to be an extinct sub-species, is simply a morphological result of colder weather, i.e. any lion can become a fluffy Cape lion if it’s chilly). Over the years, scientists have given 23 different scientific names to the African lion. Currently the IUCN Red List recognizes only the African and Asiatic sub-species while the Catalog of Life recognizes eleven sub-species (listed below) and USFWS recognizes four. According to the USFWS website, the new “threatened” designation only applies to Panthera leo ssp. leo. Panthera leo persica, the Asiatic lion, has been “endangered” since 1970 but Panthera leo ssp. melanochaita and Panthera leo ssp senegalensis remain “not listed”. Panthera leo ssp. leo is considered to be all lions on the African continent by IUCN but is considered to be the extinct North African Barbary lion in other circles. In the case of USFWS, it could be that Panthera leo ssp. leo is simply a new distinction which will encompass all African lions, as it does for IUCN, and they just haven’t removed Panthera leo ssp. melanochaita and Panthera leo ssp senegalensis from their list yet. Either way, some kind of agreement across organizations needs to happen if we think any kind of international/interorganization regulation is going to happen.