South African hunters say new US restrictions on lion trophies will come at a cost

Image: Reuters/Peter Andrews
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New rules to restrict lion trophy imports into the United States may cut South Africa’s revenue from hunting lions in captivity in half, according to the country’s Professional Hunters Association (PHASA).

The US Fish and Wildlife Service announced earlier this month plans to protect lions in Africa under the Endangered Species Act. Lions in central and West Africa will be listed as endangered species, while lions in southern and East Africa will be classified as threatened.

The endangered designation will prevent hunters from importing endangered lions or parts of lions (such as their heads or paws) under most circumstances. Hunters will now need to apply for a permit to import trophies of threatened lions, which will be granted only if they can prove that the hunt will help improve the conservation of the animal in the wild.

The new protections will hit South Africa the hardest. The country attracts a significant number of American hunters who pay thousands of dollars to hunt lions as a sport. In 2014, 620 of the 719 of lion trophies imported into the US were South African in origin, Humane Society International told the Associated Press. The activity generated over $11 million in revenue for the country last year.

The activity most affected by the new US rules is what’s known as “canned hunting,” in which lions are bred in captivity for the specific purpose of hunting. This practice is now effectively prohibited for US hunters.

Despite the potential economic impact of the new restrictions, PHASA says that it supports US authorities’ decision. They believe the rules will protect wildlife. The group announced earlier this month that it would expel any members engaged in canned hunting, preferring instead to encourage hunting that it says helps the conservation of the species.

“I don’t think South Africa will have any problems proving” that hunting benefits lion populations, PHASA president Stan Burger told Bloomberg.